What Is a No-Code MVP?
A minimum viable product can have many forms. The key of every approach is to start providing value for the user as soon as possible.
That said, in the world of mobile app development, a no-code MVP is one of the swiftest methods to validate ideas using technology, at a low cost.
Building a no-code MVP means using a platform that lets you put together a mobile application without having to write code. Because the learning curve is significantly lower compared to custom development, a no-code MVP can be released within two weeks.
In Bravo, one of many no-code platforms out there, you use designs from Figma that are then turned into mobile app screens. In that way, Bravo simplifies the frontend development of your mobile product — you still need logic (the backend). You can use many integrations available inside the tool (e.g., Airtable) to configure the backend that does the thinking behind the screens.
“No-code platforms let businesses build native apps for iOS and Android. After familiarizing yourself with tutorials and documentation, you can build the app, sign it, and publish it all on your own without ever needing developers. If I was to estimate, it should take two to three days of learning to start building a product in Bravo,” says Adam Zawiślak, Product Manager at Nomtek.
What Can I Build with a No-Code Tool?
The possibilities of no code platforms have developed incredibly in recent years.
Just two years ago, it was common for no-code tools to have scalability limitations, forcing companies who chose them to move to custom development after initial validation to accommodate the need for feature extensions. That said, currently there are many successful products that were built entirely using no-code tools — and they’re operating as complete businesses.
Here are some examples of apps you can build using no-code tools:
- Photo editing (including AI touchups)
- News feeds
- Loyalty card management
- Finance management
The list is incomplete and the pool of apps you can build using no-code tools is constantly expanding, along with the sophistication of no-code tools. But even though you can create an increasing number of app types with low-code tools, there are still some limitations to keep in mind if you plan a long-term support cycle for your app or simply want to introduce more features.
What Shouldn't Be Built Using No-Code and Low-Code Tools
While there are products out there that are doing fine with no-code at their core, no-code tools aren’t fit for every project type. Let’s take Bravo. The platform lets you build only certain types of apps (but the pool of those is quite big). But there’s no option yet to build video-conferencing tools or prototype augmented reality solutions.
That said, here are some app types that would fare better with native development (as of October 2022):
- Streaming apps
- Maps apps
It’s not that these apps can’t be built using no-code, but the longer content load times and jittery screen transitions would negatively affect user experience.
Benefits of No-Code MVP Approach
Low-cost idea validation
The biggest benefit of no-code platforms is to check if an app idea will stick. For example, habit-changing applications need long-term usage data to validate product assumption. Without usage data spanning months (because time is often the predetermining factor for strong habit building), it’s difficult to make an educated decision to keep a product alive, pivot, or kill it altogether. Because developing an app in no-code tools takes days instead of months, you can start gathering data on your product fast.
Full-fledged product development
While you can have limited UI customizability options with no-code tools, you can enrich your MVP with engagement features like leaderboards and goal streaks to add more interactivity and create a community of invested users. This will further help you validate the idea (you’ll have more usage data, which is critical in habit-building apps, for example) and consider possible extensions.
Integration with Figma and Adobe XD
Many no-code and low-code platforms have Figma or Adobe XD plugins that let you import your designs and convert them into mobile app screens. These mockups then become clickable and working prototypes. Not just designs that look good: an actual product to test with your audience.
Limitations of No-Code Product Discovery
Even though no-code solutions have been around for many years now, they’re still not able to replace all elements of custom mobile app development.
Security concerns for enterprises
When you choose no-code solutions, the data is hosted with the solution provider. This can be a problem for enterprise-level security measures where data storage is strictly controlled.
Plus, it’s not inherently clear for security teams at enterprises how to check for security vulnerabilities with limited access to code. And as no-code tools become business-critical systems for some companies, a question about the maturity level of their security teams arises.
Limited calculations and “if” statements
With more complex backend operations, some of the “if” statements and mathematical calculations need to be handled by the custom backend written separately. This naturally calls for backend development experience.
While no-code builders let you create custom designs, they lack engaging animations and features. You’re left with default animations, shapes, and shades. But fancy animations aren't necessary to validate an idea.
When you go down the no-code path, you sign-in with a vendor that delivers the no-code platform. In other words, the future of your product will be dependent on the vendor’s business. That entails monthly fees and often an inability to get the source code in case you want to extend the product in-house with your own team using custom development.
The app will be protected so that you won’t be able to stop using the platforms and retain the code. The vendor lock-in could eventually become a restricting factor in the development of your application. What if a certain feature won’t be supported? What if an integration of a third-party tool that you heavily rely on won’t be implemented?
Mistakes to Avoid When Building a No-Code MVP
Your key goal when building an MVP — regardless of the tool and method — is to validate an idea. Limiting that idea to a single main feature is critical to make the process as efficient as possible.
This conservative approach saves you time and effort, not to mention money. But most importantly, you get to validate your idea fast and make important business decisions based on plenty of real user data instead of lab experiments.
Doing everything alone
While no-code solutions immensely help non-technical people build digital products, single-person teams won’t get the best results with no-code. The reason why is that the development will simply take too long. And the goal of no-code, after all, is to ship fast.
So even though the barrier to entry is lower compared to custom development, having a backend and frontend expert (or expertise), plus a designer and even product manager will ensure you build something good quickly.
Using no-code tools to find a problem
It’s sometimes easy to fall into the trap of first building something and then figuring out what’s the problem the app is solving. The proper way to build anything is to always start with a problem hypothesis and then build a product around it.
So don’t think in terms of features — that should be set to an absolute minimum only to serve the main purpose: validate the problem hypothesis.
Basic Development Workflow in No-Code Tools
If you’re wondering how to build an app without knowing code, here’s the basic workflow from Bravo.
As you can see in the picture above, you still need considerable knowledge to define many elements of the app. Things that govern the logic of the app, such as REST (i.e.: POST, GET, PUT, PATCH, DELETE) and data manipulation in general require at least some experience with development.
On the other hand, platforms like Bravo support many integrations to facilitate the development of the backend logic. As such, you can integrate your no-code MVP with Airtables, Zapier, Google Sheets, Firebase, or OAuth 2.0. Of course the simpler the app (in that the less logic it needs on the backend) the easier it is to build it.
Which No-Code Platform Is Best?
There’s an abundance of tools out there with no-code and low-code features. At nomtek, we’ve tested FlutterFlow, Bravo, Bubble, and a bunch of others while helping our clients validate their ideas. Each tool has different benefits that work well with specific project scenarios.
However, Bubble seems really impressive in terms of frontend and backend abilities.
Other players on the no-code tools landscape include:
- Google’s AppSheet
Can I Build Web Apps with No-Code Tools?
Technologies such as FlutterFlow can be used as a website builder to deliver true cross-platform experiences for companies who want to test business ideas with potential customers spread across different operating systems and devices. There’s also Webflow and product-specific tools like Shopify.
Is the Future of Software No-Code?
While AI and supportive technologies are getting more sophisticated, there’s still a long way to go before (if ever) no-code tools will entirely take over development.
The main reason why is simple — there might always be edge-case scenarios for which AI and automated technology might not be enough. Simply put, some problems and concepts can only be tackled by humans. Technology alone (without the supervision of a human) might lack the creativity and multi-level thinking to solve complex problems. At least for a while.
Build MVP without Code to Save Time and Validate Quickly
By using low code and no code tools, you can publish and build your app using your limited resources and without risking overspending on solutions with uncertain future prior to market validation.
Of course, there are technical limitations and limited customization options, but that’s never been the point of no-code product discovery and development. It’s not about what no-code tools can’t do. It’s about the fact that you CAN build a working mobile app with them and test your idea with almost no money invested and very little time.
Problem First, Tools Later
The main reason why no-code is a good start for ideas is that it helps you find a solution to an EXISTING problem. That is, the tool itself won’t help you build a great product if you don’t have a problem you can solve using technology. Which is another element of the puzzle — what’s the degree you need technology to solve that problem. You have to do extensive research and experimentation to make a data-backed decision and decrease the risk of overspending a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
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