When I first heard about no-code last year, I went down a no-code rabbit hole. I read articles, listened to podcasts and watched YouTube videos to find out more and had a lot of questions about taking my first no-code steps.
Which tool should I use? What project should I build? Who should I follow on Twitter?
Paralysed by indecision, I emerged from the rabbit hole to continue life as usual. But a few months later I felt an irresistible urge to build things (without code). Take two.
This time, I decided to break down what felt like an overwhelming space into a daily 30-minute learning habit and started 100DaysOfNoCode. It helped me connect with fellow beginners, learn how to leverage the right tools and bring my own ideas to life.
By completing 100DaysOfNoCode and empowering 100s of others to learn no-code, I've been able to see first-hand what works and what doesn't when starting out. This article distils the no-code insights I've gained so far and will help you cut through the noise to capitalise on the power of this emerging tech.
Why should I get started in no-code?
Before leaping into how you get started in no-code, let’s touch on why you should be getting started in the first place.
Entrepreneurs can benefit from no-code in 3 key ways:
Fast - you can not only create software faster (and in turn pivot more quickly) but you can also use no-code to automate processes to boost efficiency
Cheap - you can start with tools that cost a few hundred pounds a month or less, rather than hiring a team of developers
Easy - the learning curve is much lower than learning to code
5 steps to get started with no-code
So you can get up to speed with no-code in the quickest possible way, I've condensed my experience and insights into 5 roughly sequential steps.
1. Pinpoint your why
Yes, this space is incredibly exciting. But as a founder your time is scarce and there are always opportunity costs at play, so don't jump into no-code because it's a cool trend. Do so because it has applicable use case(s) to accelerate your startup.
Before you start worrying about which no-code tool to pick and the like, you need to understand exactly why you want to leverage this space. A few valid reasons could be that you want to:
Build your MVP
Optimise the efficiency of existing operational processes
Rapidly prototype new product features
Stay informed on the latest developments in no-code
Create growth tools
Regardless of whether it's one of these, a combination, or something else, make a note of your reasons.
This is important, because no-code is rapidly growing and changing all the time, so if you have no yardstick to measure your progress against, it'll be easy to get lost and distracted.
2. Pick your toolbox
Now you have your why, it'll be easier to pick which tools to learn and build with. But before running through these, I want to caveat this by saying:
Don't be tool-led, be tool-agnostic
No-code is still early and has yet to hit anywhere near maturity, so while some tool platforms have first-mover advantage, that's not to say the landscape won't look very different in a year or two.
With this in mind, it makes sense to build by use case instead of specifically doubling down on one tool or another.
However, as there are so many tools available, I’ve handpicked what I believe to be the most versatile and useful stack that can meet most, if not all, imaginable no-code use cases.
📈 Airtable as a database
Airtable is a spreadsheet-database hybrid that gives you the functionality of a database with the UI of a spreadsheet.
It's intuitive, powerful and can display your data in multiple ways including Grid, Kanban, Calendar and Form views, lending itself to most marketing, product and project management use cases.
🔍 Zapier for automation
Zapier is the glue that sticks different platforms together.
It helps move information between two applications using triggers and actions. For example, before Zapier, if someone completed a lead generation form on your website, you would then have to manually add this information into Hubspot. Zapier automates this manual process.
This webinar goes through how one startup leveraged Zapier workflows to become a $10M company.
🧱 Bubble for building web apps
Bubble is arguably the most powerful visual web application development platform in no-code right now.
It has a visual editor, database, workflow logic builder and can connect to third party APIs. With such functionality, you can create complex web apps including forums, booking applications, task trackers, marketplaces, CRM's and dashboards to name a few.
This article goes into more depth on what you can build in Bubble.
📱 Adalo for building mobile apps.
Adalo is a platform for building mobile and web apps that can be published to the App Store, Google Play, or as a Progressive Web App.
You can create attractive and functional applications that have payments, push notifications, database, charts, user authorisation, and that can connect with external API's, plus integrate with Zapier.
Check out their showcase to see what you can build.
🎬 Softr for building landing pages
Softr is an easy-to-use landing page builder for creating quick, clean-looking websites.
It's ease of use enables you to spend more time on your content and messaging and less on building. This is the reason why I recently transitioned the 100DaysOfNoCode site to Softr.
They’ve also recently added web-app functionality, so you can create job boards, curation lists and more using your Airtable database as the backend.
While these tools are powerful on their own, they are even more so when used together.
For example, Softr, Bubble and Adalo can be integrated with Airtable. And Zapier can trigger actions to and from any of these platforms. Think of it like assembling a LEGO set.
3. Join a community
Join a group where the desired behaviour is the normal behaviour - James Clear
Ok, so you have the why and the tools. Now comes the hard part: actually being able to leverage these tools - and the no-code space more generally - to your advantage.
This is where community comes in. Here are 5 reasons you should join one:
Accountability - learning any new skill is tough, so having others keep you in check will push you forward.
Shared knowledge - good communities are those where members help each other out. If you're learning alone, you won't get exposure to the tips, tricks, resources or time that others learning the same skill can give you.
Collaboration - 70% of no-coders intend to use these tools to build a business. This means being part of a no-code community will not only give you access to people learning the same skill as you, but also to entrepreneurs just like you. This could lead to useful one-off Zoom calls, or in the case below, full-blown co-founding partnerships!
Expert help - although the no-code space is still young, there's folk who have been around for a while and have expertise in one or many tools. So if you're ever stuck, you'll always be able to turn to power users in your community.
Inspiration -s no-code is relatively easy to build with, the rate at which people in the community launch things is inspiring, guilt-inducing and motivating all at the same time, so surrounding yourself with these people will only be a good thing.
You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with - Jim Rohn
4. Start learning
Now you're ready to learn.
While these no-code tools come with a far lower learning curve than coding, this isn't to say it will be plain sailing.
Just as it's tricky to pick which tools to use, it's also hard to find the best resources to learn them.
In keeping with my recommendations above, I've curated some of the best content to kickstart your learning in each tool:
The Essential Guide to Airtable will give you the fundamentals in 2 hours
Airtable Tips and Tricks will get you from zero to one
The Airtable Power User's Guide will take you from beginner to advanced
Read 'How one startup launched and sold in one week on Bubble' for inspiration
Take Bubble's 101 and 102 courses
Read through and apply Bubble's 'How to Build' series
Watch Coaching No-Code App's Youtube channel
Take this Bubble Bootcamp Udemy course
Watch Adalo's Youtube Tutorial series
It has a no to low learning curve, so you won't need any learning resources.
These are good learning resources, but they only scratch the surface of what you can consume. Here is a great thread to find some other gems.
5. Start building
Create more, consume less
This step doesn’t come after the previous step. Learning and building should run alongside each other.
It's easy to trap yourself in a consumption loop and pretend that each new video, article or podcast makes you more adept with these tools. It doesn’t work like that. In fact, you won't know where you're at with these tools until you actually start using them.
No-coders who have learnt the quickest have used a project-based learning approach.That’s what you should do too. Make sure to create something in each new tool you pick up, whether they be fun, disposable projects or one's you'll need.
Again, here are some beginner project ideas for you to tackle using my recommended tools:
Airtable - create a no-code journal to track your learning progress or a database to visualise your product roadmap.
Zapier - make note of any repetitive tasks you do over the week, and pick ones you can automate
Automation is a habit you have to build
Bubble - create a directory using this tutorial
Adalo - make a custom to-do list app
Softr - create a landing page for your startup idea with a 'get early access' signup capture as part of your idea validation process
That's a wrap. Remember to:
Identify your why to inform the types of tools you want to learn and use
Have a bias towards building rather than consuming by making mini projects that'll help your startup
Join a community to take your no-code game and startup to new heights
Further reading for no-code entrepreneurs
Other resources to help you get started with no-code
Read up on current opportunities in the no-code space with Trends
Find out more about the no-code movement
Use Side Project Stack to pick your the right tools
The truth about no-code for non-technical founders
7 Zapier workflows to grow your startup faster