Three lessons on NoCode

Published on
October 7, 2020
in
Perspectives
Andy Bell
Having interviewed three charities on their use of NoCode, we look at the themes that emerge.
Keyboard and mouse

In our last article, we wrote about three civil society organisations, and their perspectives on NoCode as a tool to improve their digital services.

NoCode refers to a collection of apps which allow you to develop digital services without having to write code. Instead, you assemble it from building blocks. NoCode may lack some flexibility compared to writing code yourself, but it requires less knowledge. It's the Ikea flat pack way of building digital tools - simple, functional, easy, and often good enough.

This week I want to look at the themes that emerged from my conversations with digital leads.

NoCode turns software into a superpower

Switching to NoCode means an organisation goes from feeling constrained by software to feeling empowered by it. 

For what it is worth, that fits with my recent experience. 

I help run Digital Candle, a site that matches digital experts with charities for a one-hour call. The back-end was creaking at the seams. In about half a day, my lovely colleague Joseph Dudley rebuilt the backend system in Airtable. That’s been a huge leap forward, and surprisingly quick.

At SIDE Labs, I help Refugee Action. They wanted to create regional directories of asylum services. After a few failed efforts with Google Maps, I tried Glide. Within a day, we had a slick mobile app: Liverpool Guides. It has all the features they wanted: favourites and images and the ability to switch between list view and map view. Even better, it is updated via a Google Sheet. It just worked out of the box! Extraordinary. 

NoCode means something has fundamentally changed for the better. Software is becoming much easier. It allows us to iterate more and thus create solutions that are closer to users’ needs. 

People are key

NoCode might be easier than code, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. When implementing NoCode, you are still doing the hard task of mapping the fuzziness of the real world to the logic of software.  

The people interviewed weren’t software experts but they all struck me as very bright. Sara and Sonja both have multiple degrees and fabulously pragmatic attitudes. Joey says he isn’t a coder, but he had started and sold two startups - he’s clearly got something about him.

There isn’t (yet?) a job called ‘NoCoder’. In all three stories, luck played a part: someone fell into the roles. 

If NoCode plays a big part in the future of social impact - as I’m sure I will -  perhaps more formal job roles will develop. Until then, I hope you get lucky and find someone perfect for your challenge. 

Picking the right tool is a challenge

A recurring theme is that it is hard to know which NoCode tool to use. New tools are emerging all the time. When you start using a tool, you are following the tool-creator’s vision of how to tackle the problem. That vision often only becomes apparent once you are knee deep in the details.

With that in mind, here’s an offer. If you’re at a non-profit with a problem that might be amenable to a NoCode solution, email me: andy@digitalcandle.org. I’ll get some friends together to brainstorm solutions and see if we can demonstrate what NoCode could do for you. Let me know if you might be interested: we’d love to showcase some NoCode solutions in the open.

Further reading

To find out more about the NoCode systems mentioned in this article:


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