Officially back in 2004 when I was working in an agency and had the original idea for Webflow — it was all about removing the need for a coder in the middle of a designer and the client.
I was working with an agency that had very large customers like Apple, HP, Quicksilver, etc. And one day, I saw the invoice for one of those clients, and it was so astronomical! And I thought, okay, there's an opportunity here where we can remove the barrier between what designers want and what actually ends up going live on on the website.
No-code is any tool that leads to the creation of working software that doesn't require a translation layer of transforming a design to code or to the working product. So it’s basically anytime you’re creating software, workflows, or things that solve a problem that was classically done by a developer but now you’re using a visual interface to do it.
I honestly was racking my brain on this one. It definitely wasn't a thing in 2000. And I know low code became a much more prevalent term, maybe five plus years ago. So I think there was some iteration of people talking about code and low code in some sort of enterprise use cases where no code originated.
So I don't know exactly where it originated but it was definitely three years ago when it started to heat up.
I think it's got to be no dash code. Okay. It has to be. Because it helps with the idea that we're not actually saying there's no code involved. So I think that the no dash code alternative makes that more clear that it's more of a pronoun.
I think it's going to be weighed much more heavily towards the small startups, entrepreneurs, and smaller businesses initially. In the past you had to spend many months, if not years, of validating a problem before launching it and hoping that users arrive and convert & upgrade, start using it, etc. And now with no-code, that barrier to entry is a lot lower. The speed of all that and the number of people involved is significantly cut down by having tools like Webflow where you can now validate that idea.
I fundamentally believe that only 10% of all the SaaS services have been created so far. I think there are so many more that are kind of locked away right now because it's so hard to build.
For enterprises, it’s going to take longer to catch up to that mentality, because they have much, much larger requirements for what an initial version of something needs to do, right. So they need to carve out smaller use cases, maybe it's a tiny landing page or a marketing experiment where they can start to enter the no-code space. But overall, it's going to be an obvious solution to more and more workflows, especially as the tools mature. Because just like spreadsheets, right, there's so many things that used to be built by code that are now solved with just spreadsheets. And you can see this is increasingly becoming the case with Airtable and other sort of workflow automation tools that look like a spreadsheet.
I think it's a gradient, depending on the team. And what we're seeing most at Webflow is that for developers — even though conceptually a lot of people think we're trying to work developers out of a job, right. But really, what's happening is we're trying to automate the things that are most prone for automation — so for developers they’re elated because they get to work on the hard stuff on the really interesting problems now.
For designers it makes them the heroes. It’s a superpower, right? Because they're doing the work of two people now. And they're feeling more creative!
For PMs they get to move faster as well. They can validate ideas sooner. They can vapor test things faster. They can rely on their designers and the research phase, a lot more as opposed to the waiting that happens with the classic waterfall where you design something and then you have to wait for dev to go implement it, or you have to prototype it in code and then somehow present it to users.
Even If your main value-add to a customer is ‘we’re a dev agency’, at the end of the day, that's not what you're selling. You're not saying selling code. What you're selling is we're going to give you a website, a product or a service, or a mobile app or whatever, that's what you're selling. So no-code helps you get to that much faster.
What we see along among freelancers & agencies especially is that they're able to sell the same value. Which means that they're usually charging the same exact price as the same agency if they have a dev in house or not, because they're providing the same value to the customer. Customers no longer care how it was created.
For non-dev consultants, they can move much faster. They’ll use no-code in the same way they use Excel as a powerful tool. It really speeds up their ability to present something to the client and deliver value.
One analogy that comes to mind is Zoom. Right Zoom, very much focused on the enterprise on like, large scale meetings, etc. Now my kids are upstairs using it as a preschool right? And we're using it to hang out with friends. There's a lag to when that sort of business value is realized and it moves to a more social context. The same is going to happen with no-code.
I think for kids it’s going to become a basic skill almost like literacy. Right now my daughter runs this Animal Facts site where she collects fun facts from her friends, and they're all like, you know, filled with puns and stuff. And she adds new facts where she sort of chuckles as she enters it into the CMS, and then sends a text to her friends saying, like, ‘Check out the latest one!’ No economic value, right? But already understanding the principles that hey, the internet is my playground.
As far as economic disparity, it takes a long time to get a computer science degree. It takes a lot of money to go to these boot camps. You have to have a lot of both resources and luck and privilege and specific kinds of past experiences to even participate in something like that and have the chance to learn something as complex as code. And that keeps a lot of people out. And I think no-code levels that.
At Webflow we know that there are hundreds of colleges already offering classes using it, they might not categorize them as no code. But I think, most colleges, probably, I would say, three years from now.
And in grade school I think the answer is kind of the same but more like 5 years. There’s friction with Terms of Service and signing up for software products so there’s a little to figure out before it’s mainstream.
18 to 36 months. Already, we're seeing a lot of momentum of things launching a product and again, because it opens up the ability to create software from like, point 3% to like, maybe 30%. It's just a volume game at that point.
I think they will never converge. For the same reason that a word processor will never converge with being able to draw something on a piece of paper, there's just like a lot more detail.
I want to say there's like a because of the volume game that there's gonna be something that is going to be simple enough and powerful enough and scalable enough that it's just a matter of time that something like that emerges. Maybe it's not going to be like a multi-billion dollar company. Right. But in terms of popularity, one or two years.
It's hard to predict when the first no-code IPO will be. I definitely believe that it’s possible but I’m not sure when.
Two years. When you realize that there's a better way and all of those other agencies start to run circles around you, you’ll start using them.
My best guess is three years because I think we're going to have a whole lot of conversations national and global around retooling and switching more things to digital than classically were based on physical commerce and things like that. And it's just natural.
There’s an organization called News Story charity. They started five years ago. They were primarily designers and they went to Haiti after a huge disaster and saw that so many people were newly homeless, right, and they saw a huge need. And they wanted to provide a solution, a crowdfunding site, where they wanted to fund families and fund very affordable homes. But they weren't developers, right? So they were able to use Webflow. They were able to fund one family, then 10 families, then 100 families, then they started to augment that with more kind of behind the scenes operations and now, they've raised like 10s of millions of dollars and They're 3d printing homes!
Getting the power of programming into vastly more hands and getting that barrier to entry much lower, it means much faster better solutions. It’s like electricity, right? Like when we invented it, it wasn't good enough until we brought into a lot more hands and a lot more people could benefit from it. And I think no-code really accelerates that. So to me that's the magic of no-code. That's why I think no-code is needed and why I'm so inspired to keep working on it and making it better.