The No-Code Movement has its advantages: you can build minimum viable products and proofs of concept in minutes for free, and no-code development platforms are incredibly easy to use. Making a personal website or manipulating databases have become common tasks where programming creativity is not inherently fundamental. Reinventing the wheel is overkill in those use cases, and not everyone is interested in learning how to code. Generally speaking, no-code tools are for people willing to outsource all coding activities.
If you’re a tech maker, however, learning how to program will give you tremendous entrepreneurial powers. Notice I wrote “learning how to program”, and not “learning how to code”. Anyone can code, but programming takes a lot of tacit knowledge.
Each piece of code is a brick: you can stack code together to obtain a wall, a program. There are many ways to build a wall. Some will resist the strong winds, some will collapse at the first breeze. Programming is the craft of building sustainable programs, for machines and humans alike.
And this is precisely the huge difference between home-made quality software and no-code tools: the former is built with both sustainability and customizability in mind, its essence is organic.
Of course, the learning curve to master a no-code tool is way smoother, because you sacrifice several benefits of making things yourself.
Coding stuff yourself is cheap: you can start running a startup with a few bucks. All you need is a domain name, some elbow grease, sometimes a web server, and you are set. You trade time for money and knowledge. I started monetizing 200 Words a Day along with three other websites for $20 a month. Bubble for professional use starts at $62 per month. Wix for businesses starts at $18 per month, but you also have to get yourself a bank account, pay for a domain name, and you are limited to one website.
Programming is becoming independent. The more you rely on external companies to help you, the more restricted you are: a tightly-coupled solution cannot work by itself, by definition. If your solution provider is experiencing a breakdown or decides to raise its price, you are at its mercy. Using development tools is a creative trade-off: you can choose the design template you like, but you are still limited. The appeal of creative freedom is what got me into learning some code in the first place: I was a 13-year-old teenager who loved joining role-play phpBB forums, and I wanted to build my own forum. I started with phpBB forum generators. I quickly felt limited by the built-in parameters so I decided to learn how to make a website.
Learning enables social aggregation. All successful tech entrepreneurs belong to one or several tribes because humans are inherently social: indie hackers, YC alumni, makers… we all need labels to strive. On the other hand, sharing and contributing is inherent to programming: what you learn is content you can distribute. Knowledge commands respect and recognition, learning how to program is thus a way to develop your network. From an entrepreneurial point of view, developers are extremely interesting because they are educated early-adopters, not afraid - sometimes excited - of trying out new technologies to give valuable feedback.
I’ve always been excited about science fiction and all the possibilities offered by software. Artificial intelligence, web development, cybernetics… the field is just so versatile. Boredom appears impossible. Learning how to program is not just any skill, you are not simply learning how to paint a wall, it’s a set of highly marketable skills you can get paid for. All industries are impacted by digitalization and programming gives you access to these new opportunities. If you love dancing, you can build your own platform to showcase your salsa skills, to create your own brand, or to become a virtual teacher. You can stay at home to take care of your kids or sick parents, or travel the world as a digital nomad, while still interacting with customers worldwide. The declensions are infinite depending on your own interests. Learning how to program becomes more than a skill, it’s liberating, it becomes an integral part of your lifestyle.
Economies of scale appear when you become a more experienced programmer. Everything you code should be modular, meaning, capable of working on its own but easy to integrate. If you respect this principle, all code is reusable. If you program a blog engine once, you don’t need to code its features again. You can reinject each feature in new projects. Code quality is built by iteration, just like a craftsman learns to forge better swords by learning from his shortcomings and improving over the previous ones, except that with code you can reuse the base materials ad eternam. The resulting boilerplates skyrocket your productivity, and that’s how you become a prolific maker: by constantly recycling and improving. On the contrary, reusability is quite restricted when it comes to using no-code tools.
For makers, building a hundred different web applications is quicker with code because your execution skills grow exponentially when you start programming things yourself. And we all know your speed of execution on the long-term is what really matters in the entrepreneurial game.