Debugger

The Future of Coding Is ‘No Code’

Drag-and-drop tools make anyone a maker

Owen Williams
OneZero
Published in
4 min readFeb 18, 2020

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A photo of kids on a laptop in class.
Students of a fifth grade of a grammar school use a laptop in class. Photo: Daniel Reinhardt/picture alliance/Getty Images

TTwenty years ago, learning how a website worked was as simple as clicking “view source” in a web browser — which is how many of today’s developers learned to write code. It was easy to start by hacking together custom MySpace or Tumblr themes, which eventually led to building a website or app, and ultimately a career.

These days, things are a little different: While the “view source” option is still ubiquitous in modern browsers, sites use code libraries like Facebook’s React that make it easier for programmers to add complex features, but also make that public code undecipherable. The “view source” option no longer reveals exactly how something is put together.

That means getting into development is harder than ever — it’s not as simple as peeking under the hood anymore. The modern “no-code” movement hopes to reverse that trend with tools for digital design that don’t require custom code. Some, like Webflow, allow anyone to create a website with a drag and drop interface, as if it were being arranged in Photoshop. Others, like Zapier, help nontechnical people make multiple services talk to each other. For instance, even someone who has never heard of an API could use the tool to automatically post to a Slack group every time something is added to a Google Sheet. By combining Google Sheet with a service called Sheet2Site, someone with no coding capability can create an entire website, backed by a spreadsheet.

Tools for making web products without code have been around in one shape or form for awhile. When I was growing up, apps like Macromedia Dreamweaver (now owned by Adobe) and Microsoft FrontPage provided rudimentary ways to visually build websites without needing to know how to code. But while these early tools provided drag-and-drop editors, they were often simple, static affairs that couldn’t do much at all. Sure, you could build a swishy ’90s website with FrontPage, but with no content management system on the…

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Owen Williams
OneZero

Fascinated by how code and design is shaping the world. I write about the why behind tech news. Design Manager in Tech. https://twitter.com/ow