Clueless about Codeless

In the past I’ve been a bit dismissive of no/low code solutions – the examples I saw in the past seemed fraught with problems and just seemed to be storing up more problems for the future than they were solving in the present. I always saw the appeal though and it is no surprise that companies have continued to work on the problem/opportunity.

An element of it is bound to appeal to me – after all I work for a technology consultancy but am no coder and at some point this becomes frustrating…it has just never been frustrating enough for me to knuckle down and learn anything (well not since my ill fated attempt to learn Ruby on Rails about a decade ago!).

I am also increasingly interested in removing the friction from the prototyping phase of a development lifecycle and using MVPs for the experiments they were envisaged as rather than the first milestone in a project plan….and god knows if I have learned anything over the years it is that an awful lot of the ‘internet of public service’ is forms, workflows and notifications – which these platforms seem perfect for.

Soooo – I’ve been thinking all of this for a while but honestly I’ve done very little about it. The launch of Honeycode sparked my interest for a bit but then I got distracted and didn’t follow up. I’ve also been noticing just how prevalent Airtable apps have become in the last six months but not enough to do more than comment on the trend. Then I read this post from Paul Ford about ‘enterprise codeless’ and I decided I needed to get off my behind and start taking this seriously – learn enough to have a proper opinion one way or another.

The second half of Paul’s post was a bit beyond me but in the first half he said a couple of things that really chimed with me –>

“Codeless” is a good marketing term. More accurate might be:

Spreadsheets with rules
Databases with comment fields
Smarter pivot table builders

..which just seemed like a really nice way of framing things in a way that changes the discussion and then from a business point of view he wrote the following

Postlight is a product development services company. People pay us to design and code things. Codeless products are designed to pick our pockets. And you might think we’d be worried about codeless products. But we utterly love them. They solve a huge range of problems people have. 

..which as someone leading on product management at a company that is mainly a software engineering concern that people people pay to design and code things this made me feel like my interest in these platforms wasn’t entirely inappropriate!

So anyway I have decided to get on the case and get to learning. I have decided to start with Airtable as it seems like the easiest route in. Just a couple of webinars and then an idea for a little hands-on learning project. If that goes okay I’ll give Honeycode a try (I am steering clear of Tables for now – I just don’t trust Google not to sunset it as soon as I learn how to use it!)

I am interested to learn about their approach to accessibility as well – what I’ve seen so far makes me suspicious that isn’t high on the agenda but I’ll soon find out.

For the record I am a terrible student and this is likely to backfire spectacularly but it isn’t like I don’t have time on my hands these days!