The Rise of No-Code Tools—and What That Means for Businesses

6 min read • May 13, 2021 • Jesse Sumrak

Once upon a time, you needed a developer to build everything for your business.

Need a website? Hire a developer. What about starting an email marketing program? Hire a developer. Or how about organizing all of your company’s documents and digital assets? You guessed it: hire a developer.

Fast forward to 2021, and there’s hardly an aspect of your business you can’t get up and running with no-code tools. Think about it.

Want to build a brand-new beautiful website? Use Squarespace’s pre-built templates and drag-and-drop editor. Need to set up automated email campaigns? Dial-in your triggers, timing, and messaging in minutes (yes, minutes) with Mailchimp’s automation tools. Want an easy-to-use cloud storage tool for your whole company? Hello, Google Drive.

More people and businesses are joining the digital world than ever before. Heck, it grew by 298 million users (7%) in just a single year. And businesses are joining the world at an even faster pace—would-be entrepreneurs submitted 4.41 million business applications in 2020 (yes, during the time now known as the “Year of the Dumpster Fire”). That’s a whopping 79% more than in 2010.

Every business needs a digital presence—but there aren’t enough developers to go around. 

A report from HackerRank’s Hiring Trend suggests that 94% of hiring managers are currently trying to hire software developers. But there’s a talent shortage of 472K developers.

So does an aspiring business wait around for a unicorn developer?

No, they get started with a no-code tech stack.

What Is a No-Code Tool?

No-code tools empower non-programmers to build programmer stuff without any code. They provide pre-built templates, widgets, and formulas to help you create everything from mobile apps to workflow automations to integrated websites.

Instead of writing apps in coding languages, normal folks just drag-and-drop what they like into a visual user interface.

The code is still there, running everything behind the scenes—you just don’t have to worry about it.

How No-Code Tools Are Changing Small Businesses

Thanks to no-code tools, businesses can build digital solutions without developers. Now, let’s not get too carried away with this developer-less notion—you’ll still need a developer to create any completely original idea.

For example, thousands of developers built Facebook—but you can now create a Facebook Page all by your lonesome in minutes. Thousands of developers built Shopify, but you can now make a fully integrated Shopify e-commerce store in 19 minutes (he said it, not me).

That’s the power of no-code tools.

This movement is raging right now, and Forrester predicts it’ll be worth $21.2 billion by 2022 (a long way from $3.8 billion in 2017).

Why? Because it empowers entrepreneurs to build big ideas without taking a 2-year coding course. It cuts development time, automates processes, and alleviates the developer shortage issue. 

And, let’s get another thing straight—developers love no-code tools, too.

Think about it. Without no-code tools, if you wanted your Instapage landing page on your WordPress website to work with your Mailchimp marketing campaigns that were part of your Salesforce contact list (*breathe heavily*), you’d need developers to build out all the integrations.

Thank goodness that’s not the case.

Now, these systems and tools can be almost completely integrated in an afternoon by a marketing team.

The 5 Best No-Code Tools for Small Businesses

The rise of no-code tools is exciting, especially for code-deficient entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas bigger than their Python vocabulary. However, it’s also causing a few hiccups. 

Many development companies are jumping on the bandwagon and building no-code tools. Seriously, you can find hundreds of tools to build just about anything.

Unfortunately, this is causing an extreme case of paralysis by analysis. How in the world are small business owners supposed to find the best tool for them and their particular use case? 

Think about email marketing, for example. Google “email marketing tools for small business,” and you’ll find 30+ no-code tools. If you’ve never heard of any of these tools, good luck narrowing it down to 1.

While we don’t know everything (we’re oh-so-close, though), we do have a quick-and-easy list of our favorite no-code tools. It’s not bulletproof, but it should be a good jumping-off point for your buying journey.

1. Best No-Code Website Maker: Squarespace

Build a beautiful website with creative pre-built templates and easy-to-use drag-and-drop editors. Squarespace has hundreds of integrations with other services, making it a great website builder for any codeless business.

2. Best No-Code Mobile App Builder: Glide

No, mobile apps aren’t out of your reach. With Glide, you can create an app from a Google Sheet in 5 minutes (for free). Whether you need an employee directory, asset manager, attendance tracker, or mobile restaurant menu, you can whip up an app in no time.

3. Best No-Code Voice App Tool: Twilio Studio

Build voice response menus, conversational messaging bots, and notification workflows without a single line of code using Twilio Studio. It’s as simple as building an “if this, then that” workflow tree. For example, if a customer makes an appointment, send a reminder text. If a customer doesn’t open the reminder text, make a call.

4. Best No-Code Landing Pages: Carrd

Create a 1-page site (for free) in minutes with templates and easy customization tools. Seriously, we tried it ourselves, and it takes just a couple of minutes to publish a good-looking, responsive page with Carrd.

5. Best No-Code Email Automations: Mailchimp

Set up email campaigns for password resets, appointment notifications, abandoned cart reminders, nurture series, and much more. With Mailchimp automation, you can create unique recipient workflows for anything you can imagine—and it doesn’t require any code.

The Future of No-Code Tools

Things are just heating up. Expect hundreds more no-code tools to pop up over the next couple of years.

Some will solve unique challenges facing your business, while others will conquer problems you didn’t even know you had. And then others will emerge just for the sake of joining the bandwagon.

The problem moving forward won’t be finding no-code tools—it’ll be choosing the right one.

Still, that’s not a terrible problem for small business owners to overcome, and it’s a lot better than putting all your dependencies on a developer’s shoulders. With no-code tools, everyone wins. 

Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.