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Gems, Curiosities, and Must-Haves from the No-Code Industry

Jan 10, 2020 | 8 minutes
A no-code specialist working outside.

To say that the no-code industry’s expectations for 2020 are high would be an understatement: the sector is growing, and everybody loves growth. 

But aside from expectations, it’s hard to make a prediction on how will all work out. On one hand, there are reasons to be hopeful about accelerated growth and adoption of no-code products, including:

  • The shortage of IT talent, which boosts the range of no-code products

  • The consolidation of digital transformation efforts, which lowers the enterprise entry barrier for no-code products

  • Value, of course. Without value, there would be no point in writing about no-code to begin with

On the other hand, there are some doubts about market maturity: while there is no shortage of success stories, the number of no-code products that have been launched in the past couple of years is so staggering that it can lead to some confusion.

Getting no-code right

Which no-code products are good? Which no-code products will survive, and which ones will die? No matter how high the expectations bar is set, adoption and success won’t be every product’s reality this year. 

What is clear, though, is that the no-code market is going through an expansion phase, after which some products will consolidate, and others will no longer be. But let’s not rush to conclusions yet. 

Expansion cycles like these are thrilling, and we want to seize the opportunity to take a deeper look at what’s going on out there with no-code products. Why? 

Well, because there’s a lot of them - literally hundreds more than when Make was launched in 2016. 

Also, there is another reason: with so many new products, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff by just looking at the “no-code” label. 

So, in order to bring you a broader panorama of the no-code ecosystem, we compiled a list of products and placed them into 3 categories:

  • Must-have products: the ones you can expect to deliver instant value to your project or company

  • Gems: promising products that are not quite there yet, but may become the talk of the town somewhere down the line

  • Curiosities: experiments, rarities, and eyebrow-raisers that might not make it in the long run, but are fun to look at / play with nonetheless

After combing through several repositories containing 500+ no-code products in total, here’s what we found. Take a look!   

Must-have no-code products

Recommending a product isn’t always easy, albeit for must-haves. You can rarely go wrong with these. The products below stand a foot above their main competitors for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Ease of use

  • Number of features and templates

  • Pricing

  • Popularity

Not all of these items are factored equally in our choices. For example, some products have a steep learning curve, but what they offer in return is so good that they end up outperforming the alternatives. 

In any case, these are the ones that we consistently identify as must-haves of the no-code ecosystem.

1. WordPress

Category: web development, blogging, content management systems  As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Despite the fierce competition from other products - Wix, Webflow, Squarespace - WordPress remains the indisputable leader when a website with a CMS is required. 

Once a synonym to blogging, WordPress has outgrown everyone’s expectations by making things easier for everyone: developers get to launch fast (and increasingly cool) websites, while users get swift, reliable online experiences. 

Keep the flame burning, you awesome people. 

Overall rating Ease of use: 5/5 Features: 5/5 Popularity: 5/5 Pricing: 5/5 

For a recent sample of websites made with WordPress, check out this post on wpbeginner.

2. Bubble

Category: web development, web apps Bubble is a visual programming language that combines

  • Drag and drop mechanics for design

  • Custom logic for flows and features

  • Integrations (payments, analytics, email, etc.)

The premise with Bubble is simple and ambitious: you can build incredible products without using code. 

A favorite product among the growing no-code community, it’s easy to see Bubble as one of the key players behind the next generation of browser-based products. The reason? 

Products made with Bubble are not just decent, they are excellent. The company has managed to attract high-profile backers, including one of the inventors of Google Sheets, Mulesoft founder Ross Mason, and rapper Nas, among others. In other words: if you have an idea for a web-based product and don’t want to get drowned in code, Bubble should be at the top of your options. 

Overall rating Ease of use: 3/5 Features: 5/5 Popularity: 3/5 Pricing: 4/5

3. MailChimp

Category: marketing, communications MailChimp hardly needs an introduction. It’s popular, it’s effective, it does not require code. 

If you want to keep your email marketing campaigns uncomplicated, MailChimp is your answer. If you believe that email and HTML should not be ever together, then MailChimp is your answer. Good MailChimp alternatives are popping up, but as of now, they remain the masters of their domain. 

Overall rating Ease of use: 5/5 Features: 5/5 Popularity: 5/5 Pricing: 3/5  

No-code gems

This is where it gets interesting, since the no-code ecosystem harbors quite a good number of gems. These are innovative, powerful, reliable tools that aim for the stars. 

Unlike the must-haves, the no-code gems are not nearly as popular, but this is compensated by what they offer in return: possibility. Let’s take a look!

1. Airtable

Category: databases, spreadsheets, forms Airtable didn’t make the upper category by little. While the company’s hybridization of databases and spreadsheets has proven a massive success, Airtable still trails behind legacy products. 

But what makes Airtable so unique? For us, it’s:

  • The user interface

  • The overall user experience

  • The integration possibilities

In addition, Airtable brought two things that were really missing in spreadsheets and databases: fun, and interoperability. 

Overall rating Ease of use: 5/5 Features: 5/5 Popularity: 4/5 Pricing: 5/5

2. Make

Category: integrations, automation, working with data. Hi, yes, this is us. 

If you are thinking that there are more popular tools than Make, you’d be right. But alas, there is no tool nearly as powerful as Make

Make is the swiss-army knife of integration software, standing at the center of the upcoming API economy, ready to make your life easier and your work better. Never before a no-code product has put so much power in the hands of makers, creatives, and other types of forward-looking souls that make of problem-solving a way of life. 

Make offers hundreds of pre-made scenarios that are ready to use, but remember: it’s you who sets the rules of what is done, and how. If you don’t believe our words, sign up and try it yourself: it’s free!

Overall rating Ease of use: 4/5 Features: 5/5 Popularity: 3/5 Pricing: 5/5

3. Podia

Category: education, e-commerce, knowledge economy. Podia is to the knowledge economy what Make is to the API economy: a product that makes it possible. Knowledge workers can rely on Podia to build the kind of websites they need to sell their expertise. And what does a knowledge worker need on a website? 

Video, downloads, memberships, email marketing, payment integrations. While it comes with a hefty price tag, Podia is the no-code answer to the knowledge workers’ prayers: a website builder to bring knowledge further. 

Overall rating Ease of use: 4/5 Features: 5/5 Popularity: 3/5 Pricing: 3/5  

No-code curiosities

Welcome to the little shop of no-code horrors. Truth be told, there’s nothing horrific about the products we are about to showcase; if anything, they are deeply inspiring and audacious. As we said above, this kind of products tend to make an appearance during industry expansion phases - in more mature markets, they are even rarer, so take your time for further examination because it’s worth it. 

Now let’s take a look at less-explored paths of no-code: the curiosities.

1. Buildbox

Category: games Pioneering the no-code development space with a strikingly simple proposal is the San Francisco-based company Buildbox. 

Buildbox is to traditional mini-game development what Canva is to graphic design: the ceiling is right there, but the breadth of what you can do before hitting it is pretty impressive. 

As it turns out, drag-and-drop mechanics and embedded logic are more than enough to turn Buildbox into a prime tool for:

  • Creating mini-games

  • Developing concepts and prototypes

  • Testing storylines and scenarios

Needless to say, there are many limitations, but visible enough for the whole experience to remain playful and enriching. The price tag of Buildbox is not for everyone (just a hair under $60/mo), but there’s a free plan to check out the basics and make your first game on the platform. 

Game on!

2. Lobe

Category: artificial intelligence, machine learning Lobe is a no-code platform to develop deep-learning models, refine them and include them in apps and products. 

To use it, you’ll need data and some basic knowledge of how deep learning models work. Lobe is a promising platform - so much, that it was recently acquired by Microsoft. The company, however, still offers access to its semi-private beta. If you are curious and have some data-driven ideas (and, of course, the data to put them in motion), this is your opportunity to join the beta

Don’t let it pass!

3. Voiceflow

Category: app development, voice Voiceflow is a no-code tool to create voice apps for Alexa and Google Assistant. The company sees voice as the “user interface of the future”. Is this a divisive statement? Hell yes, but also a powerful one. 

Just like Airtable almost makes it into the must-have list, we were close to placing Voiceflow in the “Gems” category. Why? Because there’s quite a good number of people already using this product, and it definitely feels more advanced than Lobe and Buildbox. 

For us, it’s not the product that makes Voiceflow a curiosity, but the way of approaching a nascent, and arguable hyper-competitive market: by means of no-code. Hats off for the vision, friends, and all the best for what’s to come.

No-code: the inclusive alternative

Contrary to the common belief, no-code is not an enemy of code (or coders). In fact, thousands of no-code users are coders themselves, striving for simpler (and weather-tested) solutions to tackle new and old problems across different industries. 

The reasoning behind the rise in no-code products is simple: it can spare costly resources and deliver similar - when not better - results than a code-based solution. 

And this is what the products above have in common: they all strive for simplicity in one way or another. 

The vision of a simpler world, in which more people can work out their own solutions is one worth pursuing. 

And we are glad to be part of it, or as we like to say: to be part of the solution.


Martin Etchegaray

Content Manager and Senior Editor at Make. I enjoy writing and reading about history, science, and tech.

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