Learn "No-Code" App Building
(Be Your Own Programmer)
No-Code application development platforms have seen a major rise in popularity in the last decade, primarily because these platforms offer a great way for businesses and other organizations to develop apps that meet their needs without having to involve professional software developers. Due to the lack of programming knowledge needed, it’s not surprising that Gartner (a leading research and advisory firm) projects that by 2025, 65% of all app development will be done on No-Code platforms.
Numerous articles and books have explored the different no-code platforms and how you can use them to create your own apps, regardless of whether or not you have any programming background. However, until recently one thing you couldn't do on no-code systems is integrate AI (artificial intelligence) into your apps. That's no longer the case. A number of platforms (including Bubble, Zoho Creator and Caspio among others) have introduced the ability to include machine learning algorithms in their apps. That integration opens up a huge new area for no-code developers.
Machine learning apps are beginning to show up in our everyday life in a variety of forms, from Alexa and helpdesk chatbots to versions that can gauge customer acceptance of a new product or detect defective parts coming off the production line. But if you thought creating a machine learning app was only possible for data scientists, think again.
Some no-code app platforms offer built-in AI functions that allow you to use data you've collected to build machine learning features directly into your app. If your platform doesn't offer that ability you can still make use of AI models. There are a number of AI companies which let you create no-code machine learning models that you can connect to your no-code app. Whether you make use of machine learning features as a service supllied by your app platform or by integrating a third party machine learning model, you now have the ability to create no-code AI applications without being a data scientist. What kind of machine learning apps you build - predictive, classification, natural language processing, image recognition - is entirely up to you.
A few years ago I published a book titled “Anatomy of a Google Sheets Project”. That book described my company's attempt to create a payroll data entry app using Google Sheets. We achieved our goal after a fashion, but we eventually decided to move the project to Airtable to get more of the functionality we needed. That led to a second book, “Anatomy of an Airtable Project.”
Since I left the company a few years ago I assumed that was the last time I would have anything to do with building that app. However, a couple of years ago no-code/low-code app development platforms caught my interest and I decided to try putting together the same payroll entry application on platforms like Zoho Creator, Bubble and Caspio. And now, since I'm hooked on the subject, here's yet another book covering some additional no-code platforms.
Why build a business project this way in the first place? After all, business applications normally require professionals to create and implement the design using advanced programming techniques. However, there are occasions like ours, when a company needs to create a quick, simple, and unsophisticated application to accomplish an immediate goal (and doesn't have the budget or the need to have a polished, professional product). That's where rapid low-code or no-code platforms come in.
Each development platform I've covered s online, so they provide a platform for multiple clients to access the same application from anywhere with an Internet connection. In addition, each one offers relational database functionality, along with input forms and workflows to validate and process input data. Other features include formula or calculated fields, reports, filtering of data, different “views” of the database information, and the ability to import and export your data. They're also easy enough to use that anyone, after a little experimenting, can create their own applications. All in all, any of these platforms would have been a good candidate for putting together a project like our front-end payroll entry application.
I can't claim to have “mastered” any of these development platforms, but hopefully the material I've put together can demonstrate at least the basics of each product. I've also included as many screen shots of the platforms in action as I could, since (for me at least) pictures can be a huge help in following a written explanation of the steps needed to build an app.
Note: I've included portions of two previous books on Airtable and Zoho Creator because I wanted to provide a comparison of a variety of no-code/low-code app building platforms.
A few years ago I published a book titled “Anatomy of a Google Sheets Project”. That book described my company's attempt to create a payroll data entry app using Google Sheets. We achieved our goal after a fashion, but we eventually decided to move the project to Airtable to get more of the functionality we needed. That led to a second book, “Anatomy of an Airtable Project.” Since I left the company a few years ago I assumed that was the last time I would have anything to do with our payroll app, but just recently a friend of mine asked how I would do the same project using Zoho Creator, a cloud-based app development platform.
Like Google Sheets and Airtable, Zoho Creator is online, so it provides a platform for multiple clients to access the same application from anywhere with an Internet connection. In addition to accessibility, Zoho Creator allows you to design input forms, link different forms together, create fields with calculated values, import and export data, store all the input from your forms in a relational database, and create “workflows” to validate and process the input data. It's also easy enough to use that anyone, after a little experimenting, can create their own applications. All in all, Zoho Creator would have been a good candidate for putting together a project like our front-end payroll entry application.
This book is about my attempt to build that project using Zoho's app development platform. I decided to give Zoho Creator a try because I had some time on my hands and thought it would be interesting experiment and I did finally get a working version of the app. I have to admit though, Zoho Creator has a lot of features and I'm still learning how to use it effectively, so there may be a better way to do certain things. Regardless, here's my blow-by-blow description of how I managed to re-create “EZ Pay Sheets” with Zoho Creator (only this time around it's “EZ Pay Entry”).