Are you a non-technical founder looking to build an MVP? Here are some ideas for your NoCode Stack, as well as communities to support you on your journey.
We recently wrote a blog on the importance of just getting started and not waiting around for a technical cofounder to begin working on your startup. Here, we share some tools and communities that can help you get going.
I have a bit of experience building a minimum viable product using off-the-shelf software and no-code builders. My first startup was built on a no-code database builder. We scaled to over one thousand users and even began white-labeling our marketplace product before bringing on a CTO to help us build the product.
If you are thinking about diving in and building your own no-code startup, here are ideas for tools to form the basis of your no-code stack.
The first stop on your no-code journey has to be Zapier: a tool to connect your apps and automate your workflows. Zapier will be the plumbing for whatever you build, enabling you to do things like connect an onboarding form in Typeform to your database in Airtable*, to your mailing list in Mailchimp.*
Zapier is far and away my favorite tool for this job. Others exist, such as Automate.io and Integrately, but I haven’t bothered exploring them because Zapier is so good. See a complete list of Zapier alternatives on G2 Crowd.
You’ll need somewhere to store and retrieve information from. Airtable* is a popular database tool for this job. Airtable has has built-in workflows and automation a la Zapier and forms, so you don’t need a separate tool to capture information. The problem is the forms are pretty basic and don’t have complex logic like a Typeform does.
Airtable is a bit inflexible if you are trying to do something complex. For example, if you want to have log-ins or allow users to input and update data. I built my first startup’s MVP using a product called Knack, which hasn’t really got the recognition it deserves during this recent no-code craze. Knack calls itself a database builder, but I think it sells itself a bit short. Knack, you can build complex applications and UIs that are pretty flexible. They don’t tend to be the prettiest apps, but you can work a bit of CSS magic to improve them a bit.
I recently came across Xano, which serves as a backend for your no-code app that can plug into just about any front end. I don’t have any experience with Xano. Still, if I was going to build something new, I’d certainly check it out and potentially pair it was Webflow as the front end.
There are also some all-in-one tools that can serve as both data storage and a UI. Bubble is the most famous example, where you can build comprehensive web apps using drag and drop. There are also many plugins to extend your app, such as integrating it with other tools and taking payments. Bubble is much more focused on the UI than Knack, for example, and I always struggled with setting up the databases whenever I tried building something on Bubble.
If you are creating a marketplace, Sharetribe is a great solution. Create a marketplace site like Airbnb or Upwork without writing any code.
And of course, if you are building an eCommerce site, you can’t go wrong with Shopify.
One of the best things that happened in my career was learning WordPress. I was working at a startup, and we needed a website built for a side product. One of the co-founders put me in charge and exposed me to the world of WordPress. It showed me that building things as a non-technical person was much more accessible than I had previously thought. I still love WordPress - it’s a great way to build a comprehensive website quickly. You can really extend it with different themes and plugins.
When we started Taskable, I decided to switch over to Webflow* for the first time. I’d played around with it before. There was a much greater learning curve than WordPress, but I also saw how flexible Webflow was in comparison. Plus, the performance of the site is much stronger than WordPress.
In the early days, I sometimes regretted that choice because it did take a while to get comfortable, and I kept breaking things. But I am glad we went with Webflow in the long run.
You can use Webflow as a eCommerce site as well. And with tools like Xano use it as a front end for a web application, though I don’t have any experience with this, so not sure how intuitive it would be.
There are plenty of other website builders out there like Wix and Squarespace that I never really used. My impression was always that they were not as extendable as WordPress or as flexible and powerful as Webflow. That may not be the case, so definitely give them a look.
If you are diving into building a digital product as a non-technical founder, you are not alone, luckily. There are tons of great communities that can support you on your journey. Most of the problems you will face have been faced many times before. You can lean on these communities to troubleshoot and get ideas for how to build.
Makerpad is the premier community devoted to no-code. There are tons of tutorials, lists of tools, a forum, even a job board. Definitely start here.
Hopefully, this was helpful for non-technical founders looking for ways to just get started on something. Don’t wait around to find someone technical to start - just get going.
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