November 11, 2021

Why product managers should embrace no-code

Despite no-code being a game changer for bootstrapping founders, many large organizations have yet to harness its power and are losing money as a result. This is surprising because no-code can enable organizations to build new minimum viable products (MVPs) faster, accelerate learning, and save developers' time in order to validate a product idea. As common promoters of the lean startup, product managers can become a greater asset within organizations by applying this new MVP development approach or, even better, knowing how to ‘no-code’ themselves.

At its core, an MVP is a method that enables rabid learning from your customers while minimizing resources allocated to developing. From my experience though, the 'minimum' part often gets neglected when shaping an MVP, as teams often fall into the trap of including unnecessary features, over-designing, or developing from scratch. That’s where no-code can help alleviate these temptations. However, once a no-code MVP is validated, software developers should still be depended upon to build a robust and scalable version of the product.

Go to market faster with a working product

An MVP often doesn’t need features. It can be as simple as a landing page with a phone number, where value is manually provided to customers behind the scenes. While this super minimal approach might help you validate a problem, it does not offer a strong signal of how customers will react to whatever product you might build to solve it.

No-code makes it easier to release with a minimum feature set and add improvements to address the needs of early adopters through snippets of existing applications and leveraging user-friendly automation tools like Zapier to connect them. Your MVP can also further impress and attract users, without requiring valuable time from designers, by leveraging existing themes for webpage builders like Webflow, Shopify, and Wix. There are many libraries of visually stunning, user friendly, and inexpensive or free themes that can be easily applied and adapted for different use cases.

No-code hedges roadmap bets

No-code reduces the need for developers to code MVPs. In more mature organizations, this means developers can instead focus on improving existing products or features that are already helping the business reach its goals instead of allocating their time and resources to a new idea that might need to be reworked or even killed. 

Once the MVP is live, no-code teams can be even more agile. Instead of writing requirements and waiting weeks for sprint completion, no-code teams can quickly iterate and test ideas based on their direct learnings from customers.

Proceed with caution. And with developers!

Don't let this new superpower fool you! Growing a product no-code and without developers should be avoided for some of the following reasons:

  • You cannot build anything - I have wasted countless hours figuring out how to work around the capabilities of external tools (especially Airtable) in order to enable unique use cases. However, developers can often solve these challenges probably 10x faster than someone non-technical. Remember, as a product manager your time is also valuable along with your mental health. Don't try to be a one man army. Trust the specialists on your team.
  • Privacy - sharing sensitive data with many external apps that do not meet key privacy standards of your organization, such as GDPR, may result in some legal issues.
  • Over-reliance on interconnected apps - one change to an API can cause your cross software integrations to go haywire. If you are building a platform where data is constantly being communicated for 1000s of users, do you really want to be relying on zaps for any complex backend logic or algorithms? Not me!
  • Maxing out on data - Airtable’s basic plans max out at around 50k rows. Not bad right? Well if your ambitions are high this will become a problem. There is an enterprise option that offers more storage but when your product is getting to this level of volume is it really worth not setting up your own DB?

How we saved two months via no-code

To illustrate its impact, my team recently saved two months developing a new MVP from scratch through no-code. The MVP’s goal was to allow medical professionals to send medical exam data and images to a specialized doctor so they can analyze exams and send their feedback to the patient in a secure and medically compliant manner. We accomplished this by connecting the following external apps/resources:

  • Airtable - offers a GDPR compliant database
  • Webflow - frontend
  • Zapier - automations and connecting all of these tools together
  • Flowbase - theme, UI components, automations
  • Makerpad - login and user management
  • Google Slides - a creative solution to writing and create pdfs through Zapier
  • Docusign - Adding doctor signatures to the pdfs
  • Typeform - form input for logged in users

Despite the creativity of this solution, we ultimately did not achieve product market fit and halted our marketing for it. Sure this lack of success was disheartening, but as a startup, can you imagine how much worse it would have been if we dedicated 2-3 months to this solution? No-code allowed us to de-risk our bet.

Learning no-code as a product manager

No-code has a learning curve, but the best way to get past it is to build something yourself. There will be times where you are banging your head against a wall due to limitations. However, with Airtable, Webflow, Bubble, and Zapier you can acquire a strong foundation to create, customize, and design some pretty cool things with ease. A good starting point to learn, would be through the tutorials and community on Makerpad.

Then next time your company is planning to develop an MVP, consider no-code as a more minimal approach. Knowing how to lead these projects will not only benefit your company, but also get the ball rolling faster on the next great product idea you or your teams has. Happy no-coding! 💪

I'm Ian Ruta. I'm the founder of the no-code agency Equip Digital, and a product manager at Medicilio.