The Future of No-Code

October 3, 2022

Nocode

During the NoCode Summit 2022 our presentation about the "Future of Nocode" got a lot of success. Due to a lack of place in the room, we promised to publish a blog post summarizing the session. Here it is. You can still download slides here.

Legitimate question to any NoCode editor

When faced with the option to go for nocode, IT Directors and CTOs of companies often have legitimate questions for the editor.

  • Will they be alive in 5 years?
  • How pricing will change over time?
  • Where are they heading?
  • Will I be blocked?
  • Can they scale?

We'll try to answer them in this post, by analyzing the roadmaps and community forums of 4 editors of nocode platforms.

We divided them in 2 categories:

  • Marketing: tools that help you create client facing, marketing oriented websites
  • Internal: tools where you can build internal business applications or portals

Marketing nocode tools

Webflow

The first tool we'll analyze is Webflow, mainly used to build:

  • Corporate websites
  • Landing and product pages
  • Any site, with number of pages < 500
  • And the ones that require no backend

Webflow is an absolute leader in the nocode space (this site runs on Webflow too), existing since 10 years, claiming more than 3.500.000 users, raised almost 350M$ for a massive 4B$ valuation.

Webflow clients include famous brands like:

  • Dell
  • Pwc
  • Upwork
  • Vice

Membership

One of the major features Webflow is releasing this year is the support of Membership. The membership feature of Webflow allows you to create content that is only accessible to members. This is a great way to offer premium content or courses that are not available to the general public. You can also use this feature to build a member portal where members can manage their accounts and access all of your content in one place.

What does it says about Webflow growth plans? First it's a clear attack on creative / influencers industry, and platforms like Gumroad, Memberstack, Onlyfans, etc... The big difference? Webflow do not offer a marketplace therefore no reach. It means they target established content creators with large audiences. They will will provide a strong competitive advantage to those who don't count on marketplaces for the reach:

  • Much more flexible content forms (leveraging the power of Webflow Designer)
  • Very low transaction fees (e-commerce goes from 2% to 0% we can imagine that membership will follow similar levels)

Our analyzes is that Webflow will remain in the SMB space for a while.

Logic

That was a logical feature (hihi), everybody was asking for since 10 years. Finally Webflow decided to introduce workflows and actions. Logic offers a set of features similar to what Bubble or Appfarm does:

  • Workflows managements
  • Triggers, conditions and actions
  • Calls to webhooks and external APIs
  • Forms management

The fact that there is no enterprise features (Git support, versioning, log audits, JS/SQL injections) indicates that Webflow sticks to it's core audience: SMBs. It's a low hanging fruit for them, trying to stop their user switch to more advanced platforms like WeWeb, Softr or Bubble.

Most wanted Webflow features

When analyzing their community forums, we can see that the most wanted Webflow features are:

  • 🇪🇺 European Hosting to comply with GDPR (their reach in EU is quite limited in corporations because of lack of that feature)
  • 🌍 Multi-language sites and CMS fields (yes, Webflow is still not supporting multilingual sites or localization)
  • 🎓 Webflow University Certification (mostly wanted by agencies, as Webflow becomes more and more popular, professionals feel the space starts to get overcrowded)
  • 🛍️ Component Marketplace (Important to grow their community and direct new streams of revenues to agencies investing in Webflow. Seems that templates / themes are not enough any more)
  • 🔍 Faceted navigation/Search (why the hell it's still not there?!)

Our predictions for Webflow

We think that the community will become a strong driver of future growth for Webflow, it's a part that they constantly put aside in their growth strategy so far. It will change in 2023. Weblfow will become more international, finally crossing the chasm of localization and win truly global market. Webflow will become more flexible, with better integration of IT infrastructure (SSO, APIs, Workflows, E-Commerce), without changing it's dominant position in the SMB market. Therefore there is a large opportunity for Webflow challengers attacking the most difficult, enterprise market. Finally, Webflow will start to dominate web space, slowly eating Wordpress marketshare.

We think that within 5 years an M&A event may happen for Webflow, and the potential buyers for us are: Adobe, Intuit or Hubspot. Adobe because they just acquired Figma and Magento, attacking the SMB market (they already have a player in enterprise market with AEM, but nothing in the self-serve / SMB). Intuit, because they address exactly the same segment as Webflow and have Mailchimp. Finally Hubspot, will need to expand its offering to imitate Salesforce success.

WeWeb

WeWeb is our hidden gem. You will hear more and more about them. It's a relatively small startup, who went to YC and raised around 4M$. They build a Webflow competitor, but targeting enterprise market and offering the beauty of Webflow on top of APIs and Databases. Basically they beat out Webflow on every single feature, their execution is just perfect.

What WeWeb is good for:

  • Dynamic websites
  • Web applications
  • Front-end for e-commerce (in a headless / MACH e-commerce architecture)
  • API/Database driven portals

Look how easy it is to connect and external REST API with WeWeb. Truly amazing.

Important features WeWeb are working on

Analyzing their open roadmap we noticed some important features:

  • 📦 NPM libraries includes (it's a major step enabling them to leverage millions of existing NPM libraries, and avoiding building everything by themselves, it's a very bold move)
  • 🍱 Containerization (it will be possible to launch WeWeb on private networks, that means a huge competitive advantage compared to Webflow or Bubble, letting them into the enterprise world).
  • 📏 Grids (supporting modern grids will help those who build portals and internal apps)
  • 👤 OpenID (important SSO feature, to support their enterprise customers)
  • 🌐 Integration Partnerships (No editor succeeded without a strong network of integrators like us, Capgemini or Accenture). From internal sources we know they already work with Accenture.
  • 🦈 Catching on Webflow

Our predictions for WeWeb

Almost profitable and very smart, WeWeb should double or triple its users base within a year as feature-gap with Webflow is filled. But, unlike Webflow, they will  go for enterprise market and will totally dominate it within 5 years. To do so, WeWeb will launch integrators-fueled, indirect sales program.

As for Webflow, there is a huge risk of early acquisition from Google, Adobe or even AWS.

From our point of view, it is the most promising nocode startup on the market right now, with Xano.

Internal Business Applications with nocode

This category optimizes for internal usage. Milions of applications fuel internal business processes optimization and digitalization. Internal applications survey conducted by Retool, gave us a good understanding of different kind of applications their users are building:

Types of internal applications that developers build

Bubble

Bubble is the current most known nocode platform, and probably one of the oldest (10 years) if we exclude low-code platforms like Mendix, Outsystems and Microsoft. They raised over 100M$ for a valuation around 500M$. With more than 2.000.000 users, Bubble is also known for their very active and loyal community of "bubblers". With some agencies, being 100% dedicated to the tool (ex.: Cube).

Bubble can be used to build almost anything in web-space: marketplaces, social networks, dynamic websites and applications for very small and medium sized businesses. For us, Bubble is not suited for enterprise or large projects for following reasons:

  • Slightly outdated builder/developers experience
  • Integrated Database makes it almost useless for the Enterprise
  • Inability to run it locally
  • Recurring performance issues
  • Lack enterprise-grade features
  • Overwhelmed support
  • Lack of partnerships with agencies and integrators

What Bubble works on currently?

We spent some time analyzing their monthly updates, and it seems they currently are focused on the following:

  • Training and education (it's a major problem for Bubble, their learning curve is steep and their UX is outdated)
  • Responsive design engine (again, they pay here their slow pace of innovation since 10 years, forcing their team to refactor major parts of their stack to support responsive engine).
  • Version control and SOC2 compliance

Our predictions for Bubble

Bubble will experience no growth in large companies, but will continue growth in the SMB space. Templates will be the dominant way to build applications. Very few will be started from scratch. Bubble will struggle with performance and support for few years more.

Finally, Bubble will be forced to make peace with agencies and launch certifications & partnership programs, or die trying. Raising 100M$ is a cursed gift, as Bubble will now have to show growth of their customer lifetime value and try to go for the enterprise market, where they will have to compete against Microsoft, Mendix, Outsystems and new comers like Appsmith or Retool.

Retool

Retool is our absolute favorite and game changer in the business applications industry. It's a front-end only, low-code tool to visually build internal apps and connect them to different back-ends: SQL Databases, NoSQL Databases, REST and GraphQL APIs, etc. To create an app, you simply put your ready to use components from a library of over 90 and connect them to queries. At any moment you can write plain javascript to enhance and modify behavior of each component or alter query results.

Mobile apps!

Retool is launching native mobile apps support. It's a bold and natural move from Retool team. There are still a lot of questions about offline mode and local storage, but they are aggressively attacking mobile apps nocode tools like Glide, Flutterflow or Appgyver (acquired by SAP).

Here more about this new feature roll out:

What features Retool team is working on?

Aside working on mobile apps support, Retool is working on following major features:

  • Better styling of components (to try to bypass the major con of Retool: limited stylization options of their front-end)
  • Versioning (important features around logs, versions, deployments and git branches
  • Components marketplace (it's a very important feature to leverage Retool's community and make Retool more sticky)
  • Tables rabbit-hole (Tables support is amazing in Retool, but there are still tons of improvements to beat out custom made ones)
  • More components (to add to an already impressive catalog of more than 90)

As you may see nothing very exciting there, it seems like Retool's team need to stabilize their current backlog and growth, before rolling out anything major.

Our predictions for Retool

Retool will jumpstart community driven initiatives as a components / templates marketplace. They start to feel fierce competition from their open-source equivalent: Appsmith. Therefore the need for a community leveraged features is important. Retool could provide some ETL capabilities through acquisitions, as they still entirely depend on the format of data-structures provided by the back-ends they connect to. Retool will heavily invest in mobile applications support.
Retool will become more and more developer friendly/oriented. Unlike other nocode tools, still promoting the citizen-developer or builder/maker, Retool makes it clear: they love developers and you need to be a developer to build complex applications with Retool. We love that!

Google, SAP or Amazon could acquire Retool within 5 years.

If you're interested in building internal business applications with Retool, check our guide here.

Nocode in 5 years, our vision

Nocode is just the last brick on the abstraction pyramid

No-code industry is here to stay. It could not really shine before today. It needed following key innovations to widespread before getting attention from developers and large companies:

  • APIs and Headless architectures. We think that no-code's sweet spot is in front-end applications. So until headless, MACH and APIs were everywhere it was quite complicated for the NoCode platforms to overtake the world. It's now feasible.
  • Powerful browsers and advanced front-end frameworks like ReactJS, AngularJS or VueJS. It was impossible to build a real no-code tool until we had those frameworks.
  • Usage and UX Stability: did you notice that in 2022 all the websites and applications looks more or less the same. That's because digital is now a commodity and users wants stability in the components they interact with. That's why you have burger menus, top-right corner "Sign-in" buttons and 3-4 columns tables presenting pricings.

So as we said Nocode is a perfect match today for front-end applications consuming data from back-ends through APIs. That's why we think bundled platforms like Bubble will have limited future inside medium and large corporations: 

Big guys entering nocode industry

We foresee major players entering the nocode game either by building internally or through external acquisitions. The most potential players from our point of view would be:

  • Intuit (very strong in SMBs, massive sales forces, already present with Quickbooks and Mailchimp)
  • Adobe (present in design with Figma, the next logical step would be acquiring a nocode platform to integrate)
  • SAP (already experimented with Appgyver, buying Retool or Appsmith would make perfect sense for them)
  • Google (it would be the less obvious move, but their work on simplifying the life of developers shows their interest in low/no-code movement and they already tried with Appsheet)

The very best nocode tools in 2027

For us, we see a profound changes in nocode / lowcode landscape in the future years:

5 major nocode trends for the next 5 years

Enterprise

Large companies will embrace nocode slowly but as strongly as they did for cloud hosting. Fueled by billions raised in 2021 major NC players will integrate Enterprise kit: Authorizations, Security, containerization, indirect/enterprise sales flow, auditability, tracability and integration with enterprise software.

Once Retool, Appsmith or WeWeb will sign their first large enterprise deal, all the Fortune500 will follow within few years. Banking and insurance are the hottest verticals for those tools.

Natively mobile

We think that native mobile support will be progressively implemented in every single nocode platform. The separation between web and mobile NC tools will be thinner than ever. It will also add a lot of competition to the market of mobile NC tools like Glide, Flutterflow or Appgyver. 

Retool already started the war with its Retool Mobile feature.

Marketplaces everywhere

To compete against open-source tools, and keep pace with very demanding and growing user base, tools will have to open plugin/component marketplaces and let external developers interact with their tool. Managing a marketplace is a tremendously capital extensive job and only the most solid / smart will succeed. But the winners will completely destroy competition who did not launched their marketplace yet.

When we see successes like Shopify, Wordpress or Bubble, the path to NC marketplaces is here. Marketplace will accelerate features expansions of tools and will require more experts and agencies to select and build NC apps. A whole economy of ready-to-use components and plugins will arise. Many SaaS tools will create dedicated connectors eating on Zapier / Make market-shares.

AI-Powered

AI powered features will integrate NC pretty soon. We could have a Text 2 Component features in Retool or WeWeb leveraging OpenAI's GPT3. The success of Github co-pilot, shows GPT3 capabilities in quite open code space, meaning a lot of potential in a more discreet environment like NC.

Another possibility is automatic, AI-powered ETL. These features will be quite transparent, but it will be possible to connect any API or Database to components without doing mapping and transformations on data-structures.

Design-2-App

We're almost touching the Design-2-App: the possibility for UX/UI designers to create in their favorite tools like Figma and then connect their design to workflows/APIs and data collections to generate applications. We see some incumbent start-ups working towards Figma 2 React connectors, which means that the step is not that big. Who will make the first move? Probably Adobe. When? Within 3 years, by probably launching a new version of Figma that will integrate nocode features or WeWeb that will offer a Figma plugin to initiate app from Figma.

4 survivors of the nocode consolidation

The 4 places for Nocode war survivors

There are too many tools doing pretty much the same, but nocode platforms are pretty much operating systems, where millions of applications will run. While we might see some niche/vertical nocode platforms, there will be 4 major players occupying:

  • SMB / Marketing addressing all marketing / customer facing sites and apps. Place occupied by Webflow and Wordpress now
  • SMB / Internal tools to help companies build internal tools fast. Place occupied by Bubble, with serious pressure from Retool/Appfarm/Softr/WeWeb
  • Enterprise / Marketing to build customer facing platforms. There are no players here yet from NC (Adobe / Sitecore / ContentStack are going there probably adding simpler interfaces and page builders)
  • Enterprise / Internal tools: large companies building internal tools is the graal of each NC tool. Retool & Appsmith are good candidates to replace Outsystems, Mendix or Microsoft and their PowerApps.

Nocode creates new jobs and destroys software verticals

As nocode will become widespread, more and more complex applications will be built. Design patterns and architecture patterns will emerge. The professionalization of the industry will erase the need of citizen-developers, as web professionals replaced webmasters.

On the other hand new jobs will appear:

  • Front-end Maker (a mix of UX and Front-end no-code engineer, building interfaces using nocode tools)
  • UI Nocode designer (an art director working on designs directly inside no-code apps like webflow)
  • Query builder (a mix between back-end engineers and database admins working on connecting apps to back-ends)
  • API / Tools sourcer (mix of product and purchaser, working on identifying, assess and select external API and SaaS tools integrate in a nocode application.

Our secret wishes for the nocode

Finally to finish this long post, we would like to share our secret crazy desires about nocode industry. So if you're a running a nocode platform, please add those in your future roadmap :D

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