How to build your idea without a single line of code
You’ve got a revolutionary idea — something that could change an entire industry the way Uber changed taxis. Or maybe you just want to try out a small thing you’ve been kicking around in your head for a while.
Either way, you’ll need an MVP — Minimum Viable Product — to test the hypothesis behind your product. Building the most basic version of your idea is the best way to see if it’s worth pursuing.
But what if you can’t code? Of course you could learn how to, but that’ll take a while. Alternatively, you could hire some developers to build your idea, but prepare to pay up. This is a roadblock for non-technical founders who are short on money — but don’t fret.
For years, building something on the internet was reserved for developers. Well, not anymore! Today, there are tons of user-friendly web development tools you can use without any in-depth technical knowledge — you just need to know how to use a computer.
Assembling your toolkit
If you can’t code, you’ll need the right set of tools to do the work for you. These can roughly be broken down into three categories: Backbone, Workflows and Plugins. I’ll take you through them.
This is what most people would refer to as the ‘website’ — it’s the place on the internet where your thing lives. It’s linked to a domain name like ‘http://coolidea.com' so people can easily find it. You’ll use this as a starting point to build your product, hooking in other services to craft your MVP.
Squarespace is a well-known all-in-one solution to get your website up and running. It features a powerful visual editor that lets you drag around blocks to build your page. Carrd is a cheaper, more lightweight alternative that uses the same principle. By default you only get one page to work with, but that’s more than enough to get your idea up and running. It’s actually been used to create a ton of great MVPs, like this cryptocurrency job board by non-code creator Ben Tossell.
Alright, now that you have the website live, you need your product to actually do something. Again, we can’t code, so we need to find some tools that can put the computer to work.
This part can be tricky — it’s important to first figure out how your product should work. Sketch it out on a piece of paper, but don’t worry if you don’t know how to build it— you’ll figure that out later.
Zapier is an incredibly powerful tool that glues together various online services, which you can use to create your MVP’s functionality. It works with Zaps, interactions between apps that look like this:
If you need a sign-up form to add email addresses to your Mailchimp, there’s a Zap for that. Actually, there’s a Zap for almost anything. Read a bit about how Zapier works in their Getting Started guide.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the best things to plug into our backbone and glue together with Zapier. Note that this is just a selection — there’s much more out there.
Chances are your MVP needs to capture data like email addresses or text submissions. There are tons of great form tools you can use for this, like Typeform, Wufoo and Google Forms. Then you could, for example, send this info to an…
There are lots of reasons why you would want to collect email addresses in your MVP. If you run a newsletter it’s pretty obvious, but when you’re selling a product or service you’ll need it too. There’s no shortage of platforms, but MailChimp is powerful, easy to use and can be easily implemented in your no-code MVP.
If you’re looking to keep track of data or present it on your website in an orderly way, Airtable is here to help. This incredibly flexible tool can handle all kinds of input and output via your backbone page, making it invaluable for pretty much any kind of project.
It’s surprisingly easy to integrate payments into your MVP — both Squarespace and Carrd offer a way to add Stripe or PayPal payments. You’ll need to be registered as a company in your home country, but that’s worth it anyway if you’re going to build out your product.
Let’s get one thing straight — you won’t be able to build a website like Facebook or Netflix without writing code (or hiring thousands of developers, for that matter). It’s simply too complex, and your tools aren’t up to the task.
But that’s not what we’re trying to do here. You’re just putting your idea to the test by building the most basic version — you’ll have lots of time to add features at a later stage. Focus on the minimum in MVP.
Now that you’ve got a rough idea of how to start, maybe you’re able to figure out what to do next yourself. If not, don’t worry — building an MVP can be pretty challenging! Figuring out the right steps to get to a fully working product isn’t easy.
Fortunately there are some great resources out there. NoCodeMVP is developing a course on how to use non-technical tools to build your dream MVP. Codefree offers a similar learning program, teaching you how to get started without learning to code. It’s also worth keeping an eye on Product Hunt for the latest no-code tools to use for your project.
What are you waiting for? Lack of coding skills isn’t an excuse anymore — go out there and build your thing.