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Picking a no-code platform (a quick guide)

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If you’re a regular reader of our blog (and if not, why not?!), you’re already aware of all the wonderful benefits of no-code - specifically, how and why to optimise your business operations with no-code tools

But picking a no-code platform to build out some of your internal tools is not always as easy as one, two, three. There has never been a richer choice in platforms across the market, but with more options comes the need for more research in order to avoid wasting time and resources on picking the wrong tool for the job. 

“So how do you know which tool to pick for the job?”, we hear you ask (we don’t have superhuman hearing, we’ve just been asked this many times before). While we work with a carefully researched and extensively tested set of tools, there are always new ones emerging, meaning it’s been important for us to nail down an approach that’s both agile and strategic. Here’s how we go about it.

Is it no-code or low-code?

No-code tools will provide you with a user interface and visual design functionality that enables you to create an application as required. Simple as do-re-mi.

But there’s a catch: with no-code tools, you won’t be able to achieve any functionality outside of what’s available to you within the interface. You can push it to the limit, but unlike Scarface, that limit may not take you very far. 

While they still provide you with a visual interface, low-code tools will also allow you to add custom code (like JavaScript) when required. This gives you far greater agility and capability in enhancing the functionality of your application - result.

Have they been around the block?

While no-code platforms aren’t the New Kids On The Block, the landscape has become a lot broader over the past few years, with competition increasing…Step By Step

While this spells good news for the end user in the long run, like with any competition, there will be winners and losers. Some no-code platforms will inevitably be unable to create a sustainable business and will be forced to shut their doors amidst a hotly contested market, leaving any business that has built up a dependence on this platform in a little bit of a pickle.  

Of course, this challenge is not isolated to no-code and can apply to any SaaS business. But sometimes you could get less than one month’s notice to find a replacement, meaning it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to migrate anything beyond a database. However, if your platform has been around a while, you should take some comfort in knowing that they won’t just pack up their bags overnight!

Bootstrapping, raised funding, or even better, profitable?

Bootstrapping is great and, if feasible, one of the best ways to grow your startup and leave the fundraising to further down the line where you potentially have a stronger negotiating position. But there are a few considerations you need to make - you know, like what does this mean for the longevity of your digital platform, and how long could you live on your mate’s sofa dining on super noodles?! 

Raising funds is a double-edged sword for the end user. Sure it’s great that the business has some cash in the bank and can focus on the product, but there comes a point where the focus is on growth, and this might notably impact a number of key areas like customer support, uptime and platform stability, and the direction of the development roadmap.

Top tip: you can normally get an idea of how many funding rounds a business has been through and how many people it employs on a website such as Crunchbase.

What is the support like?

The level of support you receive is key to your decision making - without solid support, you’re on a rudderless boat, helpless with no direction. Kind of like Cast Away, but without Wilson to keep you company (and that doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?). 

It’s important that you can easily get the answers and advice needed to keep your applications functioning. Note that if you opt for a demo of a platform, that will usually be run by a sales team and shouldn’t be confused with support, which you will likely only encounter once you have started to pay for the service.

There’s a bit of a trend right now to only offer forum support, but heed this warning: if you’re building out processes on these platforms, prepare for prolonged periods of frustration as your issue takes weeks to be picked up and you receive replies in often weekly intervals. Not ideal.

Pricing changes

Much like ABBA, you need to pay attention to the money, money, money (no spandex required). 

Has the platform had many pricing changes over the last few years? This can be checked with a quick snoop on review sites or you can use a tool like the Wayback Machine to see how they’ve structured their pricing pages to date. 

Note: Pricing changes are not always just increases but can also relate to the structure of pricing plans. An example of this might be a plan priced on the number of apps utilised but at a flat rate being changed to a plan which is based on actual usage (similar to API requests).

If the platform’s price has not changed since launch, there’s a decent chance that there will be a price increase in the future and this should be considered when budgeting. That being said, this isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule - there are apps whose prices haven't changed since launch, but this tends to be in the minority.

Review sites

There are a number of review sites that will provide user collated feedback on a variety of SaaS and no-code platforms. This includes sites such as Capterra, G2 and Product Hunt, which can give you a better idea of how the platform performs and how the business operates. 

These are always worth a look before committing to any new tools, just to minimise the risk of encountering any nasty surprises! Think of it like checking out that new restaurant on Tripadvisor before booking a table.

Enterprise options

This is entirely dependent on the audience the platform is targeting.

For example, if they’re targeting enterprise customers, then enterprise options will be available…obviously. However, if they’re targeting a broader range of company sizes, this might be indicated by a starter plan of approximately £100 or less, along with a mature range of enterprise options. And this is a good sign - it shows that the platform has well architected technology that can handle this level of customisation, and demonstrates that they have considered the requirements of the enterprise market and addressed potential scaling issues early. 

Of course, this also means that they probably already have enterprise customers, giving you extra reassurance that they’ve gone through due diligence to ensure platform integrity.

Fail quickly

If you’re unsure about whether the platform will support your requirements, try to recognise the unknowns at the beginning and build the absolute minimum to test out the platform and identify any red flags early. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a mammoth task. One of the biggest advantages of no-code platforms is that you can create a new app and test out some of its functionality in a very short space of time, all without having to truly provision anything to get a prototype up and running.

Sure this process might take a few hours, but this time is truly well spent and much better than finding out the app you have spent a couple of weeks on won’t work because of a missing feature that is a blocker to the completion of the project. As a rule of thumb: if you’re going to fail, it’s always better to fail quickly and cheaply!

While we focus on a number of platforms that we know are tried and tested, there are always new platforms for us to experiment with - that’s the exciting thing about no-code. By making the considerations in this list, we can always take an agile and strategic approach to picking the right platform for the job, and provide precise feedback to support how and why we made our decision.

Need help finding the right no-code platform for your project?
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