Finding out what users love and what they like less, before you have built the actual product, is the key challenge for every design team. And fast please, because time is money.

Imagine you could build a fully functional digital prototype in days, test it with users, improve it and re-test it. Within a week. 

Then imagine that you wouldn't need a development team.

This is possible now. With the emergence of no-code development platforms such as Google AppSheet, Honeycode and Microsoft Powerapp, you can build databases and functional logic in a spreadsheet and turn it into a fully functional app for mobile and browser. Without writing code. But what does this mean for the designers and business developers among us?

Find out what works, fast

One of the key challenges of digital product development is aligning your vision with the needs and wants of your audience. Every start-up owner knows that success is determined by your ability to quickly find out if your product is desirable and usable. This means testing. A lot. The quicker you iterate and improve, the quicker you’ll have something that people would spend money on.

In the past we used to just start with building a Minimal Viable Product with a development team. And maybe a month later we could start testing it with users. Perhaps you would do some visual prototyping up front. On paper, with Sketch or Adobe XD. All good practice. 

But... Nothing beats using actual working software, for finding out what the true value of your idea is.

From websites to digital products 

My first brush with no-code started about half a year ago. I started using Webflow to quickly build landing pages and small sites without having to bother programmers. After a reluctant start I was impressed with what I could create in a relatively short time. 

I really dived into the phenomenon, after I started doing work as a strategist for no-code accelerator Appalot. This prompted me to start using AppSheet to build prototypes for product design projects. Since then I’m really starting to see the value of this approach.

Real data, real feedback

With no-code you could go from an idea to a working, usable version of your product in less than a week. Test it out, and gather valuable feedback from true usage. Track real user data. Even with larger groups. You could even throw in some A/B testing as well. With a small team, or even on your own.

It may not look as pretty as you want to, but it would already be serving its purpose. And instead of showing a mock-up and asking “What do you think of this product idea?” You can ask: “After using it for a week, do you want to keep using it?” 

I know which question I would like to have answered.

You might find out the no-code product is good enough as it is and you start publishing it. For an internal solution that could well be the case. If not, you have a solid base to start working on with your dev-team.

Find out for yourself!

Here’s a list of no-code platforms that I’ve come across:

appsheet.com
Probably the most mature application builder out there. Loads of connectivity and integration options. Recently acquired by Google Cloud.

honeycode.aws
By Amazon Web Services. More drag and drop. But less integration possibilities compared to  AppSheet.

powerapps.microsoft.com
By Microsoft. Application builder still in, or just out of beta. I haven't worked with it personally.

webflow.com
Design, build and publish websites in one web application. Loads of templates and tools available.

Probably there’s more out there. Feel free to share any you know of! 

Anyhow, you can see who’s behind some of these. The big boys are investing heavily in no-code and it will become a force to be reckoned with. My short experience with these new capabilities convinced me that no-code should be part of a product designers toolkit. Even if you're aiming for a custom built product.

No matter if you’re creating an internal solution or the next consumer hit. No-code can radically speed up the design and development cycle, improve the quality of your testing and subsequently save a lot of money. Whether it’s a big success, or if you find out it wasn't such a great idea after all.


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Written by: Jaap Gerretsen

Design strategist that uses insights from behavioural science to create products and services for the digital age.