I spent the last 20 years immersed in the Salesforce ecosystem. I helped start a Salesforce practice at a consulting firm during the early days of Salesforce (2002-2004). At this time, Salesforce was definitely “No Code” as they hadn’t even launched custom objects yet! I went off on my own to form Arrowpointe and performed Salesforce implementations for many clients of all sizes (2005-2010). I was early on AppExchange and fell in love with the idea of providing SaaS solutions and created 5 different apps to supplement consulting. Salesforce was becoming a true platform for building native apps and in 2010 I built & launched Geopointe and I spent the following 10 years building Geopointe to serve 1000s of happy customers to bring location technology to the Salesforce platform.
Toward the end of 2020, I became acquainted with a new generation of No Code apps. These technologies really excite me and can bring much value to organizations at a fraction of the cost of a Salesforce. I still love the Salesforce platform, but I am really excited about the prospect of some of these new platforms and want to write about them here. Wikipedia defines No Code apps as…
No-code development platform (NCDPs) allow programmers and non-programmers to create application software through graphical user interfaces and configuration instead of traditional computer programming. No-code development platforms are closely related to low-code development platforms as both are designed to expedite the application development process.Wikipedia
For the purposes of this site, I am considering No Code and Low Code apps to be of the same category. I do not think one needs to get hung up on whether a platform allows code, but the focus should be whether a platform is focused on allowing non-programmers to create software solutions from start to finish.
I have been spending time recently trying to learn about these platforms, understand what they are capable of and their product direction, whether they target large/medium/small organizations / teams / individuals , and whether I feel these apps provide (or have the potential to provide) a market for apps and services in much the same way Salesforce has.
By no means have I settled on the platforms, but there are a handful that stand out that I am particularly excited about.
I am super excited about Airtable’s potential. Airtable is a low-code platform for building collaborative apps. It has great database capabilities (and more) with the usability of a spreadsheet. Airtable has been adding apps and automations to their platform, turning it into a platform for truly building production-ready apps for good sized teams. I am personally using it today as a personal CRM to my business contacts, interactions, and sales opportunities, as well as using small single-purpose bases for a multitude of other things such as charitable contributions, tracking medical expenses, and project management. Airtable provides Templates, an App Marketplace, and their community provides a Universe of examples.
Notion bills itself as an all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases. Notion is a document-centric platform that can have databases within it. I’d compare it more to Evernote, but its database capabilities help give it more breadth. I really like Notion as a documentation hub and a place to “get my arms around a topic”. I am using Notion in my personal life and am starting to use it for my personal business, including the content calendar for this blog. Notion provides a robust template gallery with great examples to get you started.
Zapier connects apps and automates workflows. Zapier acts as an integration layer moving information between apps to stitch them together into more complete solutions. An event in one system (e.g. form submission) can have a response in another (lead created in Airtable, thank you email to submitter, log an event in MixPanel, etc) thanks to Zapier. In the world of No Code, Zapier is the tissue connecting apps together. Until these No Code platforms become more robust in and of themselves, Zapier will be crucial. Zapier competitors Integromat and Automate.io are both worth a look as well.
There are a ton of wonderful apps for building web and mobile interfaces while still storing the data in a system like Airtable or Google Sheets. Softr, Pory, and Adalo all help build web and mobile web solutions while using Airtable as a back-end for the data. In all 3 cases, I was able to make a functional mobile app within an hour. Of course, I’d want to spend mode time to make a system production-ready, but the capabilities to get going quickly is incredible with all 3 of these tools. Adalo stands a bit apart from the other two solutions in that you can use other databases than just Airtable, including right on Adalo.
Glide is incredible. It uses Google Sheets as the main database. As you build the app, it will build out the Sheet. If you are just getting started with No Code and want to see what you can doo quickly with much of a learning curve, start with Glide.
I would give AppSheet an honorable mention here. AppSheet was purchased by Google last year. Typically, you’d think this would be a good thing, but Google does have a history of sunsetting projects, so I’d really only use AppSheet if I had contractual assurances from Google that they will not sunset the product. If Google incorporates AppSheet into their Workplace offering, then we can count on AppSheet sticking around and, if so, it certainly deserves to be on this list and might even be a preferred solution for those focused on the Google platform.
I must admit that I have not gotten too far on either of these tools. I did start accounts and quickly became a bit overwhelmed. Both Bubble and Webflow allow you to build a full stack web or mobile web solution. These tools are a bit more involved than the others mentioned above. I know they will become part of my stack as I learn more, but I need to take that time. However, purely on reputation and the community behind these tools, Bubble and Webflow deserve a mention here.