You’ve probably heard the phrase “no-code” bandied around developer’s blogs and business publications over the past few years. So many times that it’s not just a trend, it’s a movement. Others are convinced that, like AI, it will end the careers of thousands of developers as no-code or low-code automates the tasks they were once paid to do.
With all of these predictions and fears circulating I feel like now is a good time to do an assessment of no-code. What is it exactly? How does it apply to our world, and the world of ecommerce in particular? And by embracing no-code, are you putting the first nail in your own coffin, or will no-code actually make the tools you rely on today more efficient (and you more valuable by extension)?
Let’s start with the scary part first: Is no-code coming for your job? In a word, no. Recent data from the Knowledge Academy and Glassdoor suggests that software developers will continue to be in high demand, and that some 250,000 jobs will be added to the economy by 2026. Moreover, “America will see major growth for tech-related roles in non-tech industries, including finance, consulting, and retail.” So you’re safe.
What is No-Code?
No-code is short-hand for a suite of easy to use tools that allow you to connect services together and to build complicated functionalities and workflows through a web browser. These tools are highly visual, relying on things like drag and drop to merge data, create interfaces between different systems and generally make things work. Because no-code automates all that foundational coding, everyday people can do things like build ecommerce sites, even if they don’t know the first thing about HTML or CSS.
Today, thanks to no-code tools, there’s a range of things we simply don’t need to write code for anymore, and that’s game changing. As we’ll talk about later, no-code allows a lot more people and a lot more companies to build and use ecommerce sites.
Examples of No-Code Tools
One no-code tool that’s been around since 2011 is called Zapier, and it’s part of a suite of software known as integrated platforms as a service (IPAS).
Zapier doesn’t provide any functionality on its own, it only exists to link together other services (e.g. when new email comes in, automatically copy the attachment to Dropbox and notify you about the new file via Slack).
It’s easy to see the power of Zapier in ecommerce. Let’s say you have a Magento site and you want to use MailChimp to send customer emails, such as order confirmations or shipping updates. In a non no-code world, you would integrate those two platforms by going to the Magento App and downloading an app that would reside in your Magento code. And since nothing really works as promised, you’d spend a fair amount of time working out a bunch of kinks to get those systems to communicate and fixing all the little things that app inevitably broke.
But with Zapier you simply login to your MailChimp and Magento accounts via the Zapier tool, and choose actions that trigger Zapier to send data from one place to another (data from an order placed on the Magento platform sends the appropriate data to MailChimp automatically).
That’s a simple example, but no-code can do super complex workflows. For instance, Parabola is a tool that can handle really advanced workflows and schedule-based tasks, which in turn, allow you to do some really interesting data transfer and format work.
Let’s say you have an Excel spreadsheet with several thousand emails that you want to use for a newsletter. In a world without no-code, you’d need to upload that list to some kind of tool that will scrub out the broken emails and test the remainder. This task is inherently manual. What’s worse, you’d need to repeat the process every time you wanted to send out an email. But with Parabola you can automate the entire process.
You can also create very advanced branching logic and transform the data from one system to another. For instance, Parabola can capture an order placed in Magento, send the necessary data to create and send an email to your Klaviyo engine, as well as to your ERP system. All of this occurs seamlessly.
Now let’s say an order, for whatever reason, trips an anti-fraud rule. Parabola can flag the order exception in your ERP and send an escalation email to the right person to ensure that order is processed according to the rules you’ve set out.
All of these steps once required you to write a lot of code or install a specialized module for them in your ecommerce platform. Now you can just sign into Parabola, select from a selection of recipes, and drag and drop visual designer workflow tools.
Breaking New Ground
I absolutely see no-code as an opportunity to break new ground in many levels. For the developer, no-code drives significant efficiency — you’ll spend way less time troubleshooting, and a lot less starting new projects from scratch. No-code tools provide for a more rapid development workflow because you can create your own templates, and copy and paste them from project to project.
The big no-code breakthrough isn’t replacing developers by enabling people with no HTML or CSS skills to make their own sites; it’s enabling developers and designers to work faster and be more productive than ever before.
And it’s allowing ecommerce capabilities to branch out into more places that need it. For instance, Brian Lange and I interviewed Nilla Ali, the SVP of Commerce at BuzzFeed, about the ways in which commerce has become a big part of BuzzFeed’s business and has seen success in helping people with shopping and making shopping decisions. We don’t normally think of media properties as ecommerce sites, but ecommerce is an important revenue source for them.
The upshot is that as commerce becomes more prevalent, no-code tools will enable that proliferation into more places than were previously possible. It shortens the path between concept and the consumer, and anything that does that is beneficial and doesn’t stand to risk anyone’s job.
Where Things Are Going
Every year the tech stack in ecommerce gets bigger and more complex. We’ve talked about progressive web apps (PWA) on this blog in the past, and the inevitability of it dominating ecommerce. As a new developer starting out, there’s a lot to learn. One needs to understand all of the workflows, tools and various coding technologies, services and systems that are required to deploy a PWA. It can be pretty daunting. But no-code tools make PWA development much more accessible by shortcutting a bunch of those requirements. Developers no longer need a foundational understanding of HTML and CSS, just an understanding of how design on the web works, and the role of a web design language.
This is the way of the tech world. Legacy technology is replaced by new ways of doing things, and the overall effect is that advances in tech democratize information and tech jobs. I see no-code as a tremendous opportunity for many people.
What are your thoughts on the no-code movement? Reach out and let us know!