What’s New with Low Code, No Code in 2022? [PODCAST]

Adam Smartschan

Partner & Chief Strategy Officer

Emerging in 2022 as a top marketing automation and web design trend: low code, no code.

In this episode, Alex Burdine, Director, Marketing Technology and Adam Smartschan, Chief Strategy Officer, discuss the maturity of low code, no code and how it’s breaking barriers in website development and marketing automation.

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Alex: I’m Alex Burdine, Director of Marketing Technology at Altitude Marketing. Welcome to Marketing Trends 2022, a view from 30,000 feet.

This is a mini-series on the top marketing trends we think will define 2022. Each episode I’ll interview a different member of our team. We’ll talk about the topics facing B2B companies, as well as provide valuable insights to move your marketing efforts forward.

This week, we’re back to talk with Adam about low code, no code and the coming trends – or the emerging trend.

Adam: It is an emerging trend. I would say it’s a trend that’s, if not reached its apex, has really matured about ten years into what is a revolution in the way we do technology. How’s that to make it sound big?

Alex: What are we talking about?

The History of Low Code, No Code

Adam: So at the core, at the 30,000 foot level, we’re talking about low code and no code technology. What I mean by that is, if you look back at the way we built things in the nineties, in the early 2000s into the early 2010s I guess you call them, you would have to physically write code. That was in the way old days, your Cs moving into your scripting languages and then your presentation languages, the HTML, the CSS, all that stuff. To create anything, especially on the web, you’d be working off and in something like Dreamweaver, so you would physically be writing code, you would look at a preview, you would move something, change something. See how that adjusted. If you wanted to integrate multiple systems, you’d be potentially using an API or an early version of an API to hook things together.

This was fine for a few people. Obviously, this is how everything we use today came to be in some way, shape or form.

The problem with that paradigm (that’s a good word, paradigm) – with that paradigm, that way of doing things, was it really created barriers. So it was kind of like only people who spoke one particular dialect of one particular frankly pretty niche language in the grand scheme could actually execute. Anybody in the world, 3 billion, 4 billion, 5 billion people, with an idea could have an idea. Only a few people could actually do it.

So that led in the late aughts into the early twenty tens to tools being created with what were called WYSIWYG editors. What you see is what you get. Those essentially allowed someone to use a gooey or graphic user interface to drag and drop elements without writing code. Now there was code ultimately being generated behind the scenes, but you were still doing things in a way a typical person, not just a speaker of a specific dialect, could understand. That unlocked a lot. It’s evolved and it’s evolved and it’s evolved to the point where now a lot of ways on the web and a lot of ways and things like application development, that’s just how it’s done. There’s some really deep stuff under the covers that’s done physically writing code.

But I would say for 80% of development work these days, especially rapid development work and agile development work, a lot of it’s actually no code.

Alex: All right. So that’s the high level 30,000 foot view. Tell me some examples of this low code, no code.

Trend #1: Low Code, No Code Web Development & Design

Adam: Yeah, that makes an absolute ton of sense to dive into. One big one, I would say, and one we’re all familiar with, is web development and web design. To create an awesome website, you still need really good designers. Designers who can translate the core and the soul of a brand, of an idea, of a promise, of a value proposition into something that’s going to resonate with the user.

That’s not something a typical person can do. We can fake it. I can stand up a website. It’s fine. It’s not good. Our designers and our dev team create good and great. So you still need that.

But to actually put the thing together, a lot of times you don’t need to go and do the kind of heavy-duty database work you used to need to. You don’t need to necessarily go and physically modify code by hand anymore.

One example of this kind of taking to the extreme is Webflow. Webflow is a relatively new product. It’s not a replacement for WordPress, which is a standard CMS or content management system that currently powers about 50% of the usable web. But Webflow allows you to take a design, to take an idea, to take your user experience and stand it up using tools that you can see, right. Rather than going in, writing code, checking in a preview window, modifying the code, checking it again. You can actually see what you’re doing in real time. You’re doing little bits and snippets of code as you go in things like CSS, how a certain typeface appears, the size of an image, padding around something, so the space around something. But ultimately, you are watching in real time what you’re doing.

The huge benefit of this and other no code and very low code builders is that there’s no black box. You know, it used to be, you would have a design, which was a flat file, really an image. You would slice it. And this is where it went away entirely – four or five, six weeks with a programmer who was doing vague code things as far as someone like me is concerned. Then it came back as a website. What you can do with a Webflow is you can go from a design, which is kind of a flat image file and you immediately turn it into a website. Now it’s not a finished website, it’s still bits and pieces and being worked on. But you have a website, you’re knocking out this black box area, you’re changing things like, you know, animations and builds, user experience navigation. All the stuff that makes a site sing, makes a user able to actually engage with it., you can change all that on the fly. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, and we’ll get into that here, but it does mean it’s a lot faster. And it’s a lot more of an agile process. So you can get input from multiple seats – again, not just the guy who speaks the particular dialect of the particular language, but the citizen developer who can say, Wouldn’t it be cool if? And you can see if you can do that right there, versus going back and, you know, trying to figure it out in CSS or, you know, in JavaScript.

Trend #2: Low Code, No Code Marketing Automations

Alex: From my seat dealing with marketing automations and MarTech stacks, I know this isn’t just web design and web development thing. Tell me more about Zapier and how marketing automation is affected by all of this.

Adam: I see you’ve had a conversation with me at some point in the last five years because we talked about Zapier. If they made salad dressing, I would use that.

The big picture with something like Zapier, which is an integration engine, it’s what we used to call middleware, is it allows you number one to tie systems together and number two to automate processes.

Those sound like table stakes. Now a lot of people do that in their business. The reason they do that is tools like Zapier. They made it, you know, essential. You absolutely can’t live in a business anymore with heavy duty, data based manual processes. It doesn’t make sense.

So again, let’s go back 2010 2011, before that existed. If I wanted to do something as simple as getting the data from a form on my website into my CRM, chances are I was doing it by hand. If I wasn’t doing it by hand, I was probably hoping there was a native connector between my form and my CRM. All of a sudden, I’m limited now in what systems I can use, what I can build based on what someone did in the code.

Enter something like Zapier or the other middleware providers out there. I am able, again without writing a line of code, to tie system to System B. And what’s more, change data, modify data, append data on the fly and create lengthy and conditional processes.

So the watchword I like to use and we like to use here at Altitude is, any time you’re doing something more than once with data, chances are you can automate it, make a robot do it. There’s never a good reason to copy and paste. Right? Maybe once. But frankly, the second or third time you’re copying and pasting something similar, you should probably use something like Zapier for it.

15 years ago, I wouldn’t be able to say that. What I would have been saying was, get a coder and have them build a lightweight custom app for you. What I’m saying now is go to your Zapier account, pick application A, pick application B, put in your credentials, build a simple workflow, a simple business process and have it done for you. It doesn’t mean – again, I touched on this before and we’ll get there I promise – it’s easy, but it does mean it’s possible. It means it’s possible a lot faster. And it means that again, a citizen developer, someone who isn’t a coder who doesn’t speak that dialect can get it done. They can turn their ideas into action and action into revenue without the gatekeeper we used to have.

Trend #3: Faster & Better – But Not Easier

Alex: Are you keep touching on how it’s not easy or the ease of use, the variability of that and, you know, tell me more about that.

Adam: Yeah. No code is a little bit of a Faustian bargain. You can do anything. That’s the good thing. The bad thing is, you can do anything, which means a dummy like me can go in there and build business processes through the process of if you give a mouse a cookie, which is how I often build things usually late at night – doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea.

So with no code and that power comes great responsibility, you do need to look at strictures and structures in the business itself, in the way you deploy technology, in the way that you interact with the web and applications and other increasingly core bits of your business.

So that’s one piece there, and that’s something that can be solved operationally. It’s something that we’ve spent a lot of time on here at Altitude. We have some wonderful folks in operations, in project management who have locked down these processes because it’s no code, there is more of a human element, honestly, than there used to be. But locking down that human element, putting those rules in place and really understanding what you’re doing and why you’re doing it is critical.

Number two, no code again doesn’t mean easy to do. You’re still programing something. You’re just not physically writing code. You still need it on some level to think like a programmer. You still need to understand conditions. You still need to understand what happens when. You still need to look at down streams. You still need to look at inputs, right? The old garbage in, garbage out. It isn’t magic, right? Just because it’s possible doesn’t mean you can churn it out in five minutes or ten minutes. It’s still going to take some time.

I spoke about Webflow before. You could probably create a Webflow website in a few hours, and it’s going to suck. It’s still a multi-week multi-month process. It’s not as long as it used to be, but design is still critical. You still need a professional designer to do it right, to articulate your brand and tell your story. You still need content, especially in the B2B space – very high end, very frankly difficult to come by content – to make it sing and make a user do what you need it to do. You still need to be thinking about things like SEO and automation and integrations and all the stuff that you sitting across the table have in the back of your head and deploy on a daily basis for our clients. And you can find us at altitudemarketing.com.

All of these things are still there. So just because you’re removing the code aspect and democratizing a development process doesn’t mean the entire thing is simple. It does mean the end product tends to be a lot better. It tends to happen faster. You tend to have more options with what you do with your business processes and with your data.

Low Code, No Code: Taking It Down to 5,000 Feet

Alex: I promise our listeners on a weekly basis that we zoom in to like a five thousand foot level view, and I want folks to get a practical knowledge, practical element out of this. So what can the average person do with low code, no code?

Adam: One of these days, you’re going to leave the recorder on and I’m simply going to preach for hours. It’s going to be amazing. Listenership will be through the roof. It’ll be fantastic. Until then, we can get to the practicalities and no code.

Number one. There is no good reason for you to struggle. If there is something you want done in the digital realm, in technology and you see someone else has done it, you can probably accomplish it a little bit easier than you think otherwise.

Number two. Ultimately, you have a lot of choice now. Any cloud-based system, you know, be it a CRM, be it a marketing automation platform, a pure email platform, your spreadsheets, your databases, your CMS maintenance platform, whatever it happens to be. All of that data is available to you. All of that data can be used and transformed and sent elsewhere. If you have a repeatable process in your business, the same things done over and over again just with different data and different inputs, chances are you can build a robot now to do that process because of the power of no code.

The last piece is, ultimately, again, while this is faster while, this is easier than it used to be, while this is democratized, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. There are still a ton of inputs that need to happen on the creative side, on the content side, on the user experience side, on the technical side, apart from just the core build of something like a website or an application that need to be in place to make something really sing.

So it doesn’t mean you’re removing all the professionals, all the adults in the room just because you’re not writing code. It just means you can do things faster in a more iterative and agile fashion. And ultimately, like I say, come up with a better end product than you used to.

So let’s say what used to be maybe a sixteen week process can be put down to an eight to twelve week process. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be an hour, no matter what some of these vendors are trying to sell you.

Alex: Final thoughts on this here and now trend of low code, no code?

Adam: If you open Dreamweaver, you’re doing it wrong.

Alex: That’s been our episode. Thanks for listening, and we’ll catch you next week.

Adam Smartschan

Adam Smartschan heads Altitude's strategic marketing and branding efforts. An award-winning writer and editor by trade in a former life, he now specializes in data analytics, search engine optimization, digital advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization and technical integrations. He holds numerous industry certifications and is a frequent speaker on topics around B2B marketing strategy and SEO.