The no-code movement is in full swing. Gartner predicts that by 2024, no-code tactics will account for more than 65% of all app development (Forbes).
And if you’re looking to build out a modern no-code stack for your business, you’re in the right place. In this post we’ve gathered seven essential tools you can use in conjunction with each other to create an entire application framework from the ground up, all without a single line of code.
One of the reasons no-code application development has surged in popularity over the last few years is that it has mass appeal.
Enterprise teams love no-code because it allows them to move with speed and agility that’s not possible with custom development. No-code allows development teams to bring concepts to life much quicker, but also gives non-technical teams the power to ‘develop’ applications themselves without overloading the IT team.
But solopreneurs are also finding a use for no-code technology stacks by essentially creating a ‘workforce’ out of applications that help them expand their service offerings and streamline business operations:
But when utilizing this technology, you should know that there is a huge distinction between plugging in a few digital tools to your workflow and creating a true “no-code stack.”
The first method is tactical and typically solves one specific challenge.
The second follows a more traditional development framework complete with layers of components that work synchronously to achieve virtually limitless outcomes. Examples of typical layers of components include:
In this post, we’ll provide analysis on some of our favorite no-code tools for each layer so you can build out a fully featured application that’s extremely powerful yet easy to produce.
What is a No-Code Stack?
A no-code stack uses the same organizational framework of standard app development—it’s composed with layers of components (frontend, backend, database, authentication, etc.) that work together. The only difference is that no-code stacks use platforms that enable users to create applications without using a development language.
It’s called a “stack” because it has layers, and each of those layers has a specific role to play and must be configured in the correct order.
Think about a plate of nachos. Everyone instinctively knows to put the tortilla chips on the bottom, but when you break it down, there’s a real reason why we do that. The role of the chip is to carry the melted cheese and assorted toppings to your mouth. If you put the cheese underneath the chips, the whole meal doesn’t work.
Food metaphors aside, it’s important that you structure your no-code stack with quality tools that serve their proper function. That said, we’ve identified seven tools you can use at various layers of your no-code tech stack to create a killer application.
Frontend Layer: Glide
While there are lots of great no-code tools out there, Glide sets itself apart for three reasons:
Ease of use
Ease of use - Gilde takes the historically complicated task of app development and solidifies it in a way no other no-code tool can. Start with a source of data housed in a spreadsheet like Google Sheets, Excel, or Airtable. Next, use drag-and-drop components to create both the functionality and design of your app—done. You can create simple apps in just minutes, and more complex apps in just a few hours.
Documentation - Anytime you make software more powerful, you generally add complexity. With Glide, there is a ton of documentation that ensures your project moves ahead even if you get stuck along the way. There are video tutorials, hundreds of pre-made templates to start with, and even a community of support (paid and free) for you to engage with.
Cost - Start for free, but even enterprise customers can build large-scale apps for the price of a steak dinner. View pricing here.
For the reasons above, Glide is an ideal solution for companies looking to create internal apps and startups to test early MVPs. Basically, if you have a huge, multi-tabbed spreadsheet that is running part of your business operation, you need to check out Glide.
Here’s what Glide customers have to say.
Honorable Mention: Webflow
Rather than be limited to a web page template, Webflow gives users the power to build completely custom websites—including interaction and animations—with an intuitive visual editor.
Note: Database integrations are somewhat limited, so if your site needs extensive custom functionality you may need to look elsewhere.
Backend layer: Xano
When most people think about apps, they think about the user interface. But developers know that behind every button click, there are a series of actions that happen in the backend.
For example, when you click the “Buy now” button on a website, there are several things that all happen in the background:
Validate credit card is authentic
Contact distribution center
Begin fulfillment process
This is where Xano comes into play. Without any need to code a single line, Xano allows users to create backend functionality like API calls, logical sequences, and background workflows to help power your app. It’s also designed to send the functionality you design to any frontend source, meaning it’s platform agnostic.
For users that don’t have the technical knowledge to set up their own backend infrastructure with custom development—or for devs who just want to deploy faster—Xano offers a great no-code solution.
Database Layer: Airtable
We’ve mentioned that the frontend layer offers user interface and some functionality, while the backend layer provides additional actions like payment, security, inventory, etc. What we haven’t mentioned yet is data, which is the fuel that powers applications. And to manage your data, you’ll obviously need a database layer for your app.
Airtable is our choice for no-code database management for its ‘Goldilocks’ appeal:
It’s much more powerful than Google Sheets, but it’s much easier to use than a relational database programming language like MySQL.
Airtable is a cloud-based no-code database platform that has skyrocketed in popularity the last few years due to its impressive array of features. You can set up a sophisticated database with Airtable, of course, but you can also create project management systems and even custom applications.
Honorable Mention: Google Sheets
It’s impossible to write about a no-code stack without at least a nod to Google Sheets. While it may not be as powerful as Airtable, Google Sheets is still a fantastic option for entry-level database management.
Google Sheets is extremely affordable, more powerful than you think, and almost everyone who has a computer knows how to use it. Most Glide apps start by connecting a Google Sheet.
Authentication Layer: Firebase Authentication
The authentication layer, which often doubles as the authorization layer, is responsible for identifying the user and providing access to the proper pages or screens of your app. What you know as “logging in” with a username and password is the authentication layer at work.
Note: There aren’t really any strictly no-code authentication services, but the following are low-code solutions.
Firebase Authentication from Google is a tried and true solution that allows developers to create and grow access-based websites, web, and mobile apps. FirebaseUI provides a library of common authentication and authorization use cases, so developers can simply drop the code into their apps without having to research or write their own. Again, this is far less code than developers would have had to use in the recent past, so another big win in the no-code/low-code landscape.
Honorable mention: Memberstack
Relatively new on the scene, Memberstack was founded in 2018 and is worth keeping an eye on for authentication and authorization. It has found a niche within the Webflow community, but offers services to application developers as well.
Again, Memberstack is a low-code solution, as opposed to truly no-code, but it packs a ton of features into a very small amount of developmental programming.
No-code is here to stay, but the question is: What will you do with these new opportunities?
As we mentioned, there is certainly plenty of room to plug in a no-code tool into your workflow to optimize a specific process, but there’s just so much more you can do with a full-on no-code stack!
If you’re interested in learning more about what’s possible in terms of application development, we encourage you to check out the community section of our website. See what Glide developers are building and get inspiration—or technical support—for your next project.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on how to build a no-code stack, but more importantly, we hope you do something with it.
At Glide, our mission is to put the power, beauty, and magic of software development into the hands of a billion new creators. We can't wait to see what you build!
See if Glide is right for the frontend of your no-code project today by signing up for free.