What is No Code Software Development?

Since starting and sharing the news that I've started StructLabs.io, many have asked me about StructLabs: What is StructLabs? What does are we doing?  What is "no code"? Why start this company? and a slew of related questions.

One such question is, "What is No Code software?" There are a host of other articles that give more formal or technical explanations, like here, here, here and many others. So in this article, I'll do my best to explain things in a more relatable way and simpler to understand.

Software development has come a long way over the last few decades, with programming languages, tools, and platforms evolving to be more productive tools and platforms for software developers and coders. However, even with all the advancements, it has still been a very niche industry. No matter how simple your idea is, you will need to learn programming and coding if you want to create your own app.

This was the case until no code platforms came onto the scene. No-code platforms like Airtable, Make.com, and others allow everyday people to build their own apps very easily and quickly. All this is done using web-based graphical interfaces we are familiar with.  You do not need to possess any complex technical knowledge or programming skills. You can do a lot: build custom apps, custom workflows, and automations without writing a single line of code or with very little code (using low-code tools).

Here is an analogy to help you understand.

Imagine that, as a small business owner, you needed to produce financial statements for your business. And let's say, for whatever reason, you don't have an accountant to help you with this. The only tool you have is a simple pocket calculator. Helpful, but this has a host of limitations and problems. Even though number calculations have been passed to the calculator, there is still a lot of manual labor involved in repeatedly punching in numbers over and over again. And if the accounts don't balance, you will need to recalculate the numbers again until you do. This could mean many more rounds of punching numbers on the calculator.

On top of that, you cannot build formulas that you use frequently. This means that you will be using a calculator repeatedly to calculate values like your taxable income and the income tax rate. Additionally, it is impossible to create complex mathematical models that are intricate but simple to alter when you need to (like an income statement, balance sheet, etc.).

What you need is accounting software that handles all your business' bookkeeping and accounting. You can perform all accounting tasks, such as data entry and calculations, build complex formulas, create financial models, etc., all within the app.

So does that mean you should hire a software development team to build a complex accounting app that will do everything for you? That will be very expensive, and you will be overdoing it for sure. Plus, if, down the road, you need something changed, that will be another lump sum of cost poured into the app.

Sure, you may buy or subscribe to enterprise accounting software. But if you are a small or medium-sized business owner, this is another form of overdoing it. You do not need to record every minute nuance like big enterprises do. You and your team will also have to learn how to use the app and follow its rigid workflow and structure. On top of that, there will be a bunch of features you do not need because, while they are applicable to large enterprises, they are not relevant to your business.

So what approach or tool would have the right balance for you? What would give you the control you desire over your workflow and process?

The incredibly simple answer is: use a spreadsheet. Yes, something like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets or Numbers may be more than enough to start out with.

Compared to a calculator, a spreadsheet is a big leap forward because now when you key in numbers, they remain in the spreadsheet. You can build formulas that calculate all the line items and roll them up to higher level numbers. You can build rules and build rather complex financial models all within a spreadsheet. On top of that, fixing a very minute error somewhere in one of the ledger entries, positively cascading to the financial accounts and statements. No need to repetitie rounds of punching numbers over and over again like you do with a calculator.

It will also not have all the complexity you do not need, but have all the flexibility you need. The complexity of enterprise-level accounting packages won't be found in a spreadsheet, unless you build it in. On the other hand, you can build you own accounting workflows or processes, or some custom calculation that's required by your business.

Now I am sure you can relate to the example above, and today, in 2023, it's obvious. Accountants rarely do corporate accounting with papers, handwriting tools and a calculator. They use computers, spreadsheets and accounting software.

A small caveat before I move on to my next point: I am very aware that there are dedicated accounting software for SMBs. I am also aware that you cannot build everything into an Excel spreadsheet. But I am trying to explain the thinking behind no code tools in general, not recommend the best software for a specific usecase.

The thinking behind using a no code platform is very similar. Much like using Excel for accounting and bookkeping, you can choose what data you want to keep and how those pieces of information interact together. You can build your own apps that suit your workflows and processes based on your needs. Keeping it simple or building the complexity you need is totally within your control so you can achieve the balance that's just right for you.

There are a lot of other benefits compared to using something like Excel versus a calculator.

The vast majority of no code platforms out there are online. This means you can easily build an app and access it simply through a browser. You may also invite team members and share your app with collaborators to work together. The software is continuously maintained and updated by a team of highly skilled software developers. This means you always have the most up-to-date version that's secure and reliable.

One feature that's very prevalent in no code tools is the ability to link data together and create relationships between them. This eliminates multiple copies of the same data like what some might be forced to do in Excel.

With additional no code tools like make.com and zapier, you can easily connect multiple apps together. These tools help you pass information automatically between existing online apps.

For example, you may use airtable to track employee timesheets and Xero for your commpany accounting. Using a integration tool like make.com, you can roll up the timesheet numbers into Xero so you have an accurate view of your employees' hours and how they affect your bottom line in real time.

So I hope you get the rationale behind what a no code platform is and a little of why you would want to do so. In future post I will continue explaining the no code phenomenon and how it can be beneficial to your business.

If you cannot wait and wish to have a discussion about how no code tools can help you, please drop us a not on our Contact Us page and we will get back to you within 1-2 business days.

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StructLabs is a no code and low code software development firm.

Our goal is to build software for business to help them structure, automate and optimize their processes and workflows.

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