When Development Becomes Accessible
For all of the Twitter and Google bots, yes this post is about #nocode.
It's time to circle back a bit to why I decided now was the time for me to start working towards a side-project in the first place. Sure, months of remote work from home, and a global pandemic has left a huge chunk of time that was previously reserved for social activities to now be focused on something else. But, for every motivation, there's a spark that ignites it. For me, that was discovering the no-code and/or visual programming tools, Bubble and Webflow.
Maybe that tweet was a little too strongly worded. I don't hate code, I just don't want to live in it >25% of the time. I was a CS major at one point in my life, and I've built scripts to automate processes at work, so I'm sure that I could figure out how to build a web or iOS app... eventually. But, I also value time and efficiency over everything, and that was the opportunity that no-code/visual programming tools provided me.
I'm dancing around it, but I really don't like the term "no-code." It may not be intentional, but it reads too much like "anti-code" to me, which is definitely not the case. I don't think that no-code/visual programming will ever solve 100% of code's use cases, but I don't think that is has to. Getting 80% of the way there, and solving for the known universe of applications would be a huge success. Like how I was drawn to these tools, it's a matter of how to make people as efficient as possible. Doing more with less is is the value proposition of technology, and tools like Bubble and Webflow fit that bill. Windows was an interface for most command line functions, Excel was an interface for most data functions, and I see the long-term vision of "visual programming" to be an interface for most code functions. It doesn't completely replace the nuts and bolts, but it makes things incredibly more accessible and efficient, and raises the bar for everyone.
So, where does this go in the long term? Based on my experience, visual programming seems to be heavily skewed towards websites and web apps, which definitely covers the large majority of use cases. iOS and Android apps are the seemingly obvious next step, but in the long-term how closely can visual programming follow innovations in computing, or serve more fringe applications? When can visual programming take on most Machine Learning use cases? What about Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality? Will we have a Snapchat Minis visual programming builder? Will we come to expect that visual programming tools will come packaged with SDKs? Will we start telling children to "learn to program" or "learn to visually program" rather than "learn to code"? Will apps built on visual programming be able to scale as well as coded apps? That's a ton of questions, but reducing the barrier to code, and making new technologies highly accessible with more efficient tools is a super exciting space. I'm feeling myself getting pulled in.
Tools I've used so far:
Tools that are on my list, but I haven't tried yet: