Traditionally, having robust software tools for one’s business required custom development. In the last few years, digital tools for building websites and applications have grown tremendously in flexibility and power. These so called “No-Code” solutions enable people to build software without any custom development at all.
For example, if you were launching an online retail brand, previously you would have needed a $100k+ custom software development budget to get started. Now you can use Shopify to get a store up and running easily; Klayvio to automate your email marketing; Convertkit to build customized landing pages; Airtable to give you powerful business analytics; with Zapier to connect the dots.
This is revolutionary for small businesses, particularly those starting from scratch. No-code tools can be learned and operated more easily by entrepreneurs themselves, saving lots of money on consultants. The team can make changes directly, eliminating latency with external teams.
However, while no-code solutions enable teams to manage more of their own tech stack, it’s not easy. No-code tools can be tremendously complex. Since they need to be customized to suit the business utilizing them, most benefit substantially from a professional design approach so that they look clean and legitimate to users. When it comes to websites, many no-code sites suffer from speed, usability, and accessibility issues that can harm their effectiveness and open up their owners to legal liability.
The Future of Agency Work with No-Code
Some in the agency world have feared that no-code will be detrimental to the business of making websites. We don’t think so. Instead, we see these tools as a new medium through which we can deliver value from our expertise in digital marketing.
Over the last few years, we have started to get fewer inquiries from small business clients who want to put up a quick site. The marketing footprint of Squarespace and Wix has grown to such a large extent that many small business owners are thinking of those tools first. We have started to receive a lot of inquiries about fixing issues with a no-code site, managing them, customizing them, and augmenting them.
We have always had trouble working with some no-code website builders because the sites they create tend to have messy code. They are frequently poor when it comes to accessibility and do not deliver a great experience to users.
Meanwhile, our mid-to-large size clients have been asking us to integrate more no-code tools with their websites, creating robust software ecosystems. Their sites are much too complex and interactive to be built with no-code, so we build custom Salesforce integrations, custom mailchimp integrations, and so on.
The lower end of the website market is changing dramatically as a result of no-code, but it is not going away. Instead, clients are discovering the tremendous value of a strong agency partner in coordinating their no-code marketing stack. While clients can technically set everything up themselves, it is very time consuming and error-prone. They have to do a lot of research to understand how all the pieces of their no-code ecosystem can fit together – research we may already have done for a prior project.
Our No-Code Strategy
So nowadays, our recommended approach to smaller-budget projects is to:
- Find the combination of no-code tools that make sense for the client’s needs. Consult with them to figure out a strategy that will match their business.
- Perform whatever setup and configuration they don’t want to do themselves.
- Train the client in how to use any tools they do want to manage directly.
- Configure a site on Webflow (either from a theme or from scratch). Make sure that it performs well and is accessible. This includes custom design, either for tweaks and resources within the theme, or for a custom theme.
- For more information on our Webflow approach, see Webflow Approach
- Provide other custom design services as needed to make sure that the various platforms the client is using all look professional and cohesive
For many clients, no-code tools may not go far enough, and they may actually need some code! For example, we’ve built custom software to augment the notification system from Mandril, a transactional email builder. Working with an agency with extensive custom software experience for no-code work can end up being very handy, since sometimes a small custom piece makes sense even within a no-code context.
While the costs of building a small, simple website have indeed decreased, we are finding that agencies like us can provide even more value by expanding the scope of the tools that a small business client will have access to. Thanks to no-code, small businesses can tap into billions of dollars in software R&D for a small monthly cost, enabling their businesses to be dramatically more efficient and profitable. Cantilever equips them with the right tools and training to get maximum effect from a minimal investment.
Edited by Nikki Munson
Head of Support at Cantilever