No-code development: A simple guide to the no-code movement

Discover how no-code development platforms are changing the way designers, developers, and creators are building websites and software — without writing code.

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What is no-code development?

No-code development is a type of web development that allows non-programmers and programmers to create software using a graphical user interface, instead of writing code. The no-code movement rests upon the fundamental belief that technology should enable and facilitate creation, not be a barrier to entry.

So much that we do in our day to day lives is powered by code. Whether we’re checking our bank accounts, liking friends’ photos on social media, or are searching for new outfits on our favorite ecommerce sites, programming is what makes all of these actions possible.

For the majority of us who lack the know-how in writing code, the idea of crafting a web app, or building a website seems forever out of reach. But what was once a space that only developers and those well-skilled in coding could navigate, is now open to everyone. The no-code movement has removed the obstacle of having to know programming languages, letting anyone bring their ideas to light.

Where app development and launching web applications was once only possible by skilled programmers, no-code development platforms, along with the wealth of tutorials out there can get anyone on their way to getting their ideas out there. Being a non-programmer no longer matters.

No-code is simply an abstraction layer over code. Meaning, it takes the fundamentals of code and translates them into simple drag and drop solutions — allowing creators to build modern apps and websites visually. Webflow may be a no-code development platform, delivering all of the functionality that HTML5, CSS, and Javascript, but you don't have to know any of these programming languages to jump in and start building.  

”You no longer need to become a programmer to build things on the internet, empowering a new wave of makers from different backgrounds and perspectives.”

Ryan Hoover
Founder of Product Hunt in "The Rise of No Code"
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Why no-code?

No-code gives those who wouldn’t otherwise get to be creators, the chance to see their ideas become reality. Whatever someone’s level of expertise, no-code lets people get more accomplished, faster.

No-code web development platforms have come a long way from the WYSIWYG editors of the past. Where these generated passable designs for the time, these websites were simple, offering a one-way experience to a user. A then came more dynamic website builders that the original no-code platforms could not do, and that's to build websites full of interactions, dynamic animations, and other sophisticated visual elements.

There are plenty of use cases for no-code. It isn't limited to just building websites. It can be used to build mobile apps, web apps, voice apps, internal tooling, integrations, and for task automation. Without knowing a single line of code it's possible to build chatbots with Voiceflow, connect multiple applications and build automated workflows with Zapier, and utilize Shopify to run ecommerce stores. Low code platforms like Airtable make it possible to build customized tools for teams in improving their business processes. The scope of what no-code can do is growing more and more.

Developers, and others with deeper technical backgrounds, are freed from the burden of writing huge amounts of code from scratch — allowing them to dedicate their time towards more sophisticated projects. No-code doesn’t eliminate the need for them. There will always be a demand for their expertise in creating and fine-tuning technology solutions.

Developers have already created so much value for the world. No-code tools and platforms finally allow those with no coding expertise to join in with our own ideas. Whether it’s allowing designers to take charge of a site, helping someone launch a business, or just freeing up developers to spend more time on technically complex problems — no-code empowers everyone.

No-code simplifies prototyping

No-code platforms offer an abstraction layer over code. Meaning, they take the fundamentals of code and translate them into a simple drag and drop solution — allowing creators to build modern apps and websites visually.

Initial prototypes of a digital product often don’t need anywhere near the engineering investment as they do at the launch stage.

Early on, something as simple as a series of well-designed images (like an InVision prototype) might be enough to communicate the core idea to potential investors, early adopters, and future team members. As the concept evolves, more and more fidelity will be required — but even then, tools like Webflow, Bubble, Glide, and Voiceflow can provide incredibly robust experiences that could be more than enough to pique interest and validate hypotheses. And once you’re ready to start pushing your ideas to the public, Webflow, Bubble, and Carrd make for beautiful, highly efficient tools for the landing pages you’ll need to communicate your core value proposition and other benefits.

Fewer dependencies

The value of no-code tools comes from the fact that they can excuse or limit the citizen developer from many project workflows. With the right tools in hand, the marketing teams can model their content in a usable database, not just a diagram or spreadsheet.

Everyone who’s ever managed a project, regardless of discipline, knows that the more people you need work from, the more difficult the logistics of on-time and on-budget delivery get. The traditional digital delivery process relies on at least:

— Content
— Design
— Development

And for more complex deliverables, engineers may be needed as well. Plus, each of the three disciplines above may well involve multiple practitioners, so the above list could well look more like:

— Content (strategist, copywriter, SEO, information architect)
— Design (UX designer, UI designer, interaction designer, animator)
— Development (front-end dev, content dev, etc.)

And we’re not even addressing research, which should really precede content. We’re also leaving out all the stakeholders and subject matter experts you might need to involve to ensure that content and design are delivering the right messaging, visuals, and overall experience!

No-code tools' value lies in the fact that developers and engineers don't have to have their hand in every step of the development process.

Writers and content strategists, using a no-code platform like Webflow, can use its CMS to put together real content instead of being limited by entering it into a spreadsheet. CMS templates allow any stakeholder to go in and add content, with a better idea of how it will be structured and look in the actual design.

Designers using Webflow are building an actual functioning website as they prototype with all of the HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript in place. Eliminating the disconnect between prototyping and building makes for more rapid application development.

This isn’t to say that projects work better without developer or engineer help. Or that they’re in any way better without those professionals. But by freeing them from having to work on marketing assets like new landing pages, blog builds, etc., you give them more time to work on other, more complex projects. Projects where their value is truly realized.

A faster path to launch

With no-code platforms, marketing and design teams can implement and hook up any required forms, instead of pulling an engineer to create and connect a database to your dynamic content pages.

By liberating your marketing team from having to depend on others to help them get things done, you also make the path to launch faster and easier. Instead of pulling a dev from product work, your designer can implement and hook up any required forms.

Instead of pulling an engineer to create and connect a database to your dynamic content pages, your content strategist can handle the modeling and structure. And your paid marketing team can launch new ad campaigns backed by custom landing pages they built themselves.

The fact that smaller teams can move faster than larger ones isn’t a wonder — it’s an intrinsic truth. To be clear, this isn’t to say that you can skip important steps like research, subject matter expert interviews, or stakeholder reviews. These steps may slow down the process, but they’re indispensable, and they can often be done in parallel with other work.

Lowered production costs

Developers and engineers are typically — by dint of their extensive training, hold key roles in product development, and for the most part — more expensive than your average marketing team member. So any time you can remove a developer or engineer’s time from the project equation, you’re not only saving time, you’re saving precious funds.

More autonomy

With lowered costs and dependencies comes greater freedom to take risks. To try things that might not ultimately work — or scale.

At Webflow, we use our own platform to try out different hypotheses on everything from landing pages to user onboarding.

An approach that embraces no-code allows teams to act on quantitative user data,  qualitative user interview findings, or on ideas from a team brainstorm as immediately as they want.

Startup and launch your next web design project the easy way

Webflow's visual canvas provides a simple gateway to creating and maintaining any type of website.

Add in elements like flexboxes and CSS grids, div blocks, and buttons. Pop in headings, text blocks, and text links. Create and update CMS collections. Place images, embed video, and integrate visuals. It all happens through Webflow’s visual web development platform.

Webflow lets you go even further than standard website design elements. Through Webflow’s designer, you also can build rich animations, microinteractions, and eye-catching transitions. Create parallax scrolling, put into place scroll-triggered effects that morph and change elements, roll out sophisticated multi-step animations, and craft a variety of hover effects that will bring your designs to life. You can keep your design as minimal or filled with action as you want. Webflow gives you complete creative control.

Webflow also offers in its no-code solutions a visually driven CMS. Through the dashboard, you can create, update, and link together CMS collections. For those more technically inclined Webflow also offers a JSON-based API for building and updating CMS collections and entries. Creating complex CMS collections is no longer the domain of developers. Whether you’re a content writer, web designer, marketer, or anyone else, you can take advantage of Webflow’s CMS and its intuitive user interface.

While you’re crafting your design, Webflow automates the generation of code, outputting all of the HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript that can be directly published, or sent off to developers.

Webflow allows for custom code

Though much happens through a visual user interface, Webflow also allows for custom code.

You can use use third-party extensions like Bodymovin from Adobe that lets you integrate Lottie animations, Mailchimp for embedding forms, or even popping in an Instagram feed through a widget from Elfsight.

You're never boxed in by limitations, but rather have an expanse of options to choose from in creating a custom website.

Choose a template or start from scratch

Whether you want to start with a blank screen or choose from the many fully responsive HTML5 templates available, Webflow gives a simple starting point.

If you want to launch an ecommerce store, a company website, or want to whip up some specialized landing pages, there’s a variety of types and styles of templates for any sort of website you need to build.

No-code may be the first step in learning how to code

No-code is the first step to writing code. Webflow never obscures what's running beneath its designs, even with a drag-and-drop interface. You have the option to see all of the HTML and CSS that's the framework holding everything together.

Any change you make to the layout is reflected in the code that's generated in real time. If you're interested in how code works, Webflow gives you a peek behind the curtain in gaining understanding.

Webflow is more than just a no-code development platform, but a greater community

Being a part of the no-code movement means more than just developing products. It’s about bringing together people in the spirit of DIY and creating spaces where people can help each other out and exchange ideas. At Webflow we don’t only want people to grant people with a simpler way to create, but to be a part of something bigger.

From those who are Webflow newbies, or expert-level users, our forum is active with people asking questions and providing answers. We’re happy to have created an inclusive and open community of members helping each other out.

Made in Webflow is dedicated to showcasing what people are creating with Webflow. This is a great forum to post your work and get important feedback. Made in Webflow is also a fantastic place to gain inspiration, as well as to inspire others.

We’ve also put together Webflow University, as well as a wealth of supporting materials to help you learn more about using Webflow as well as to enrich your design knowledge.

Learn more

The no-code revolution

Learn what the no-code movement means for the future of makers and businesses.

No-code revolution ebookNo-code revolution ebook

No-code empowers more people

Alexandra Renée Poelstra

When we give people choice, we give people freedom – and that’s what the no-code movement is about.

Sam Zaid
CEO, Getaround

With Webflow, our design and marketing teams now own web publishing — giving us the freedom to experiment, build, launch and test, all without consuming scarce engineering time.

Dani Mancini
Founder & CEO @ Scribly.io

I had zero experience building with no-code, and even less experience running a business. But fast forward two years and I’m now running a successful business that’s powered entirely by no-code.

Ben Tossell
Founder, Makerpad

Not being able to write code should not be the barrier for you to be able to build something that your unique creativity can dream up.

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