There have always been barriers to entry when developing an app, a SaaS product, or business.
No-code is a disruptive trend that lowers those barriers to entry and makes it easier to create a product or bootstrap a company.
No-code platforms are powerful and user friendly, and over the past few years, makers have said that using no-code tools are invaluable.
But no-code is not just for individual makers.
Companies are also turning to NoCode platforms to develop their own tools to run operations their way.
Because of the rise of no-code, there have been many tools appearing on the market.
Which no-code platform should you choose?
You've got to pick the one that suits your needs best. Because the idea you want to develop or the way you do business must be in sync with the platform.
In this article, I'll give you an unbiased look at seven of the most popular NoCode platforms on the market right now. This review will be comprehensive, exploring the positives and negatives of each tool, so that you can choose which one (if any) is right for you.
Here are the top seven NoCode platforms, starting with an ambitious startup company that's quickly growing into one of the most popular nocode tools out there.
Airtable is an online platform used to organize any information, from numbers or projects to events or employees. Airtable can hold this data in the form you choose:
If you like spreadsheets, Airtable has a grid view with the same powerful features that, for instance, excel has. The grid view doesn't just have to hold numbers; it is very visual, so you can input images, collaborators, and product specs into its cells (known as records).
Perhaps you are a visual person. Well, instead of a spreadsheet format, you can organize information in a gallery view, which emphasizes the images in the sheet (known as a table). If there are dates inputted, then you can select a calendar view. There is also a kanban view that groups in the information in the form of stacked cards.
In Airtable, you can operate out of multiple views. This is very powerful because in subsequent views a user can hide or freeze unnecessary columns (a.k.a. fields), or group information by priority status. In short, multiple views can make daily work a lot more efficient.
In Airtable, you can decide if you want to build a table from scratch or choose from a template. If you find a template strikingly similar to your objective, then use it, and plug in your own information and customize as necessary. Else start from scratch and possibly use a template as a guideline. I recommend exploring their templates before making your own table because it gives you a sense of what Airtable can do.
Airtable was built for collaboration. The platform emphasizes network by allowing you to invite team members to your project. And you can sync your projects with slack. You can video chat, send forms and restricted views to clients.
App-integration is also important in Airtable because, along with Slack, you can integrate Airtable with 31 other applications (and use a third party service such as Zapier to connect it with hundreds of others).
And I want to emphasize Airtable's user-friendly feel. The design of its workspace is colorful and intuitive, and I have never felt as if I've been using a spreadsheet or database. It is accessible to anyone, as long as you put in the time to learn how it works.
Let's discuss pricing. We have a visual rundown of each platform's cost at the end of the article. But for now just note that Airtable comes with an invaluable free plan which you should use if you are using Airtable as an individual. Airtable has two fixed paid plans. Then there's the enterprise plan, which you'll want to check out if you are a part of an organization. You get a quote on pricing only after contacting an Airtable sales rep.
Overall, Airtable combines the best aspects of a spreadsheet, database, and project management tool all into one service. It's got the utilities of Excel, the database features of Access, and it can plan your day like Trello. It is one of the best information management platforms on the market.
But Airtable has some downsides. For one, it's just a data platform, so if you desire a NoCode app builder, look elsewhere (or just keep reading this article :)).
Another downside is that Airtable may feel cluttered, despite its user-friendliness. The reason is that it markets itself to both individuals and corporations, so individuals could find some of the features unnecessary, whereas businesses may be put off by the iOS app-like additions catered toward personal use.
Webflow is a website builder and content management system (CMS) that allows users to visually design websites in real time.
When I first heard about Webflow, I simply filed it away as a competitor of Wix or Squarespace. In one sense, I still believe it is, but unlike those companies, Webflow allows users to "visually code".
Webflow is determined to break the front-end development barrier. In the designer, users can construct websites from a blank canvas and call data from a content management system to organize webpages.
The hallmark of Webflow is the designer. That is where you build the website and launch it. Along with the ability to build from the ground up, Webflow comes with lots of templates (some free, others not) to work from, and you get full control over changing the aesthetics and content of each template.
This is the Webflow designer:
There are two key spaces in the designer: the elements tab, where you drag and drop HTML elements, and the styles tab, where you customize those elements.
The first elements to drag and drop into the canvas are sections and div blocks. And then you can drag in elements such as background images or videos, a navigation bar, buttons, and headings and text. Webflow also has prebuilt layouts (composed of various elements) to drag in.
In the styles tab, you define the appearance as a programmer would with CSS - except its all done visually (the designer even looks like Adobe Photoshop).
There are several cool features in the designer that keep the building process super smooth. Examples: the navigation, the assets library, and the responsive tabs. If you end up choosing Webflow as your go-to platform, you will want to explore these.
Although the designer is the core of Webflow, the platform has an additional capability: CMS collections. This is how the collections space looks: CMS Collections is a database for your website. A collection list is composed of labels, fields, and items. A collection can be any type of information, from employees to color presets to blog post data. Then, in the designer space, you can insert information from your collections into the site itself. One other cool thing is --> the Webflow editor. Once your site goes live, use the editor to (1) edit words on the page and (2) to view pages, collections, and add blog posts, somewhat like the WordPress admin.
Now let's discuss pricing. To design and host a website on Webflow, you need to sign up for two types of plans: an account plan and a site plan. An account plan allows you to use the software, and a site plan allows you to host that website and have a custom domain name. The pricing on the account and site plans range depending on the features, especially if you want to host an e-commerce store.
Pricing takeaways: (1) Webflow allows you to create a free project, but there's no way to actually launch that project onto the web until you sign up for a paid account plan and hosting. (2) Although Webflow may initially seem pricy, I personally think they provide great plans for the caliber of their product.
So, now we've covered all that Webflow can do. But who is the platform for? Here's a short rundown:
For one, Webflow is a dream service for web designers. Pay for one account plan and then let clients pay for site (hosting) plans for each website.
Webflow knows this, and they've marketed their platform to freelance web designers. But...
...If you want a personal website or blog, then Webflow may not be for you. If you want a static website for your small business, instead go with Wix or Squarespace. If you want to start blogging, go with WordPress.
All that said, Webflow is amazing if you want a custom-built, flexible e-commerce store. Webflow rivals the price of Shopify and the software is just insanely good.
Webflow is also great if your small business could benefit from a sleek and flexibly designed site. If the small business puts out regular online content, then the advantages of using Webflow scale further.
Let's switch gears with our next NoCode platform:
Bubble is a NoCode development platform used to custom create anything, from apps to websites. It's a visual programming tool, and everything you create with it is hosted on the cloud. You can use Bubble to create your own website in a drag-and-drop fashion similar to Webflow, or you can create a minimum viable product (MVP). Nearly any kind of app (at least a baseline version of it) can be built inside of Bubble, an indication of the developers' mission to eliminate hand-coding.
Bubble's interface does not initially appear accessible. However, I found Bubble to be intuitive once I went through their video tutorials provided on the site, along with one run-down on YouTube. It is not as colorful or easy to use as Airtable, but it is designed with the ability to create more things.
The Bubble interface is divided into three main divisions: design, workflow, and data. We'll start with design. Under the design tab you use drag-and-drop functionality to visually construct your application. It is very flexible and unless you install a template you're free to shape it in any way. It's also the most intuitive part of Bubble.
Now let's cover the workflow tab. In the workflow tab you define actions for your app. For example, let's say you have created a button that should take a user who clicks on it to another page. You set this up in the workflow tab. Another example could be a user logging in and out - you set up this process there.
Last there’s the data tab. Most likely the application you are building will need a place to store information. This information will be inputted by users of your app. You can store this info in an organized way using types, fields, and ‘things’, and you can set workflows to retrieve this information when the context applies.
One key feature of Bubble is its plugins marketplace. Although not as expansive as, say, WordPress' plugin collection, the Bubble plugin marketplace is very useful to extend the platform's core design or integrate with another service. Perhaps the most common Bubble plugin is an API connection to fetch data from a datasource (ex: retrieve songs from iTunes). Another common plugin would be to add an analytics service such as Google Analytics to run in the background of your site.
Whatever you create with Bubble will be hosted on either a shared server or dedicated server, depending on your plan. So, Bubble could be for you if you need a website that is taking in information from the users. Because of its data tab it is a much better option than, say, WordPress for such a website. Bubble could also be for you if you want to launch a product out into the world, but you either (1) don't know how to code or (2) want to quickly create an MVP to test the idea.
Now let's discuss pricing. First there's the free plan. The main negative of the free plan is it has 'Built with Bubble' branding attached to anything you create. Next is the personal plan. It's $25 per month, and the labeling is removed. The next two plans would typically only be for companies. The professional plan is $115 per month and has three units of server capacity, which gives your app loading boosts if it is loading. It has other features as well. The production plan is $475 per month and has ten units of server capacity and other features. Bubble has an enterprise plan that can meet special requirements, and it includes a dedicated server. Next is a custom plan for people who build sites and apps for clients, and finally discounted plans for students and non-profits.
Before moving on, keep in mind the downsides:
One downside is it takes time to learn how to build things in Bubble. There's a learning curve to get your app working smoothly, and the design of the interface doesn't help much. Other downsides are going to be specific to your objectives. For example, if you're building a website, you may not want a shared server for hosting - it could slow down loading. Or, if you want your app on the App Store, Bubble does not yet support native apps (although they're working on it), so you'll need to use another resource in conjunction to Bubble. The last downside I'll mention is that it does not encourage collaboration. Only an upgraded plan can invite users to join the project, and restricted views are not available.
Appsheet is a NoCode platform primarily for businesses who want to look at information in a new way. Rather than viewing all their company data in the form of a spreadsheet or in documents on DropBox, businesses can convert the data into an app, which can then be viewed on both desktop and mobile devices.
Appsheet’s proposition is that, by using the platform to customize the look and and feel of your data, your company’s processes will become more efficient, and your collaborators’ productivity will increase.
To understand the basis of Appsheet, consider the other platforms we have reviewed. Either the platforms are drag-and-drop app builders (Bubble) or information management services (Airtable). In contrast, Appsheet is a data-driven platform, meaning you import existing information into an app builder, and then you organize and tweak that data.
Let’s go through a brief rundown of Appsheet’s key features. First is that you choose your own data. More specifically, you import existing data from one of a variety of different services, including Google Sheets, Excel, Dropbox, and Smartsheet. You then connect your cloud drive to Appsheet so that the app you will create is backed up. So, because you choose your own data from an existing source, you don't create anything from scratch. Instead, you use existing data in Appsheet and organize it in the form of an app. Importantly, you can add or take away imported texts and images, and the changes are synced with your source (ex: Google Sheets).
Once you import your data, a baseline app is more or less automatically generated, so this eases the user's subsequent steps. (Note: the way your imported spreadsheet is set up is going to depend on the accuracy of the automatically generated app; the column headings in particular determine how Appsheet formats the app.) Appsheet's data tab is where you add/change the data, and the three main features under the data tab are the tables, columns, and slices. While you add things to the app, you can see your changes made live in a screen on the right.
The UX tab is where you customize the look and feel of your app. One feature of the UX tab is multiple views. Appsheet views are really similar to Airtable views. Create calendar, gallery, and chart (and many more!) views, and make ones for certain collaborators who only need to see certain info. And change the color theme of the app with the brand feature.
The behavior tab is very important because in it you set up actions, workflow, and reports. An action is simply adding your own feature to your app that, when in use, can be clicked to do something. For example, you can set up an action that allows users of your app to switch views. Other actions include adding an in-app feature to delete rows or columns, or to initiate an email to someone. Workflowsallow you to set up automated actions in your app. A workflow in Appsheet feels like I'm visually creating an excel formula. Finally, there are reports, which are only useful if you've got a paid plan. On a paid plan you can set up, say, a date on this condition to, for instance, send an email to someone.
Appsheet enables collaboration only on their paid plans. If you're on the free plan you can't add collaborators. However, you can use the Users tab to share the app via email so that your friends/team members can test it. You can select a button to add those you send the invite email to as coauthors, so that they can change a few select things in the app. Alternatively you can share a domain name so that all the people with that email extension will receive an invite, or you can simply share a custom link. Appsheet also allows you to receive notification broadcasts.
Check out Appsheet's pricing. First, note they have a free plan, but it's mostly to just to test the platform. You'll want to upgrade to the premium plan ($5.00 per month per user) to launch your app and invite team members. Next there's a pro plan which is $10.00 per month per user. Appsheet offers two plans, business and enterprise respectively, that require a request for pricing. Check out the features of each plan here.
Overall, Appsheet is a good service that differentiates itself by its data-driven creation process. By importing existing data into the platform (which then automatically generates a baseline app), users can save a lot of time creating their own applications. Appsheet simplifies actions and workflows by breaking them down into a visual step-by-step process. It's certainly a fun and easy platform to use. The question you will have to answer yourself is whether it's really worth transforming your company's data into an app that enables users to organize and retrieve information efficiently.
5. Zoho Creator
Zoho Creator is a low-code platform by Zoho Corp for creating business applications. Zoho Creator is equipped to create a small organization's whole operating system. Things you can do in Zoho Creator include: track projects, manage inventory, collect data on products and orders, and run calculations and generate graphs.
--> Like Airtable, Creator is primarily a database platform.
Everything in Zoho Creator hinges on forms and reports on those forms. As the user, you create forms by dragging and dropping field types into the editor. Essentially, you create forms to later input information into the app. Then that information is collected into automatically generated reports. You can display these reports in various formats: lists, pie charts, gantts, pivot tables, calendars, etc.
To create an app, you either start from scratch or choose from a pre-made application in the gallery. If you start from scratch you go about designing the application's forms, setting up a report structure, and implementing workflows, which involves Zoho's own language, Deluge Scripting. If you choose a pre-made application then you'll probably need to modify the forms, and then you and your collaborators can start inputting your own information.
The applications in Creator are meant to be shared among people in a company. Restricted views are certainly available. To illustrate how this works, let's say you have created an inventory management system in Zoho. By logging into your app, various employees can add new products, create order forms, generate invoices, and input suppliers. All of this information - put into your app via forms - are stored in the automatically generated reports which you have structured according to your needs.
Zoho Creator supports app integration with various services. Of course, you can integrate with Zoho's other services, such as Zoho Books, Zoho Analytics, or Zoho Sites. You can also integrate with G Suite, Wordpress, Quickbooks, PayPal, and many others. If you can't find integration with a particular service, you can use Zapier.
Zoho Creator is also mobile friendly. You can download Creator from the App Store for IOS. It's also available on Android. You can even access Creator's reports on the Apple Watch. Your applications on Creator are on the cloud.
The pricing plans for Creator are very fair. There's a free plan which gives you access to its core features. When you sign up for this plan you get 14 days of access to all the premium benefits. Then there's a basic plan ($10 per month), the premium plan ($20 per month), and the ultimate plan ($35 per month). Finally there's the enterprise plan with custom pricing. You can check out the advantages of each plan here.
QuickBase is a LowCode platform for managing data and automating processes. With its hefty price tag and powerful tools, it is meant for businesses that need a platform for centralized data organization and collaboration.
QuickBase promotes its services to businesses which have "outgrown" juggling spreadsheets and are now facing "business challenges" because of their current way of running things. The uniqueness of Quickbase lies in its low-code features --> instead of getting locked into one format, users customize their own applications to run operations their way.
You may want to think of the Quickbase platform as your business operating system. The subsequent apps you develop in Quickbase will be tailored to specific parts of your business.
A Quickbase app is composed of tables, which in turn are made up of forms. Once you determine the fields in a form, you can auto generate as many forms as you like, and fill in the proper information, to add to a table. Tables in Quickbase are relational (like linking tables in Airtable), meaning you can sync information up between records in separate tables. Creating tables/forms in Quickbase is not as easy as in other platforms - but Quickbase's features unleash more power.
You generate reports to see your data. When you generate a report, you can tell Quickbase what records you want to see (and in what order), and how the layout should be designed (table, grid view, chart, kanban, etc.). A key thing about reports is you can generate unique ones, based on the same data, for different collaborators. You generate reports from data in tables.
QuickBase aims to provide midsized companies with the tools to do things that would normally require a software developer. So the tasks that QuickBase can perform get complex, particularly when it comes to workflows, but code is never involved. Also, QuickBase provides an extraordinary pool of training. There's plenty of guides to get you started, and as you progress they provide monthly live webinars and in-person conferences, along with personal training from a 'solution provider'. There's also QuickBase University available, and it offers long video courses and three exams to get your 'certification'.
QuickBase is the most expensive platform on this list. It's billed monthly (just for the record: it's not 'per user' like the others on this list). It starts at $500 per month and increases in price from there. Check out the pricing plans here.
Zapieris a great tool to use in conjunction with some of the NoCode platforms on this list.
It is an automation tool that allows you to connect applications together to automatically perform otherwise tedious tasks.
Prior to Zapier, to automate tasks, a software developer would have had to use code to connect these web apps. Now, in Zapier, users can do this in a simple step-by-step process.
I recommend thinking about cool ways to use Zapier before actually getting into the platforms. What tasks, if automated, would save you tons of time? What automated tasks would bring data into a centralized and visible space?
For instance, I used to sell products on amazon. I could connect amazon seller central to Google Sheets, and for each order, automate a row in sheets to be added.
Let's take a look at creating a 'zap':
The process of creating a zap is very intuitive, and there's a guide to follow in a tab on the right. In short, you choose an app to trigger an action in another app.
Zapier is a little pricy, in my opinion, but you can decide on that for yourself by clicking this link. There's a free plan with good starter features, and the first paid plan is $19.99 per month, billed annually.
Overall, I do not consider Zapier a NoCode platform in the purist sense, although it certainly takes the place of writing some code. However, I have included it on this list because I think it's invaluable to use in conjunction with the other NoCode services we've reviewed. For instance, imagine the possibilities of linking an Airtable database with Webflow's visual designing. --> Moving forward in the NoCode space, it will prove vital to have the data in each NoCode platform working together for you, so use Zapier to do this.
Check out this summary of Zapier:
These are the top seven NoCode platforms on the market!
Here is a comparison chart for quick reference. The orange 'slash' marks represent features that the tool supports to an extent - but not of the same par as the other tools.
Of course, this guide doesn't cover all of the tools...Many cool NoCode tools are appearing and gaining traction.
Because NoCode is gradually entering mainstream consciousness, many companies are adding codeless features to their platforms. Be sure to check for those out, too.
NoCode is a great concept to be familiar with, and it can, in fact, revolutionize the way you as a maker develop a product. It can also change the way businesses organize data, processes, and management.
I hope you can find a NoCode tool that suits what you hope to achieve.