Today I kicked off Week 2 of my Periscope series on how to build apps as a non-technical founder. So naturally, it made sense to talk about a BIG question facing a lot of non-technical folks (like me)…
Should you learn how to code?
Now, you may already know this, but I’ve spent the last couple years building apps without code.
I’m not a fancy developer.
I didn’t study computer science in college.
But I’ve been down this awesome journey of learning how to make my own apps (without code) as a non-technical founder.
And after years of doing this, I can honestly say that, you can build pretty much anything without writing a single line of code.
Not only that, but code-free development means 3 really important things:
- You won’t waste thousands of $$$$ on developers who may not share your vision and make a bunch of expensive, time-consuming mistakes
- You can launch your app or website in days rather than weeks or months and get it into the hands of real users for invaluable early stage feedback
- You control your own app so you can make updates whenever and however you want… without any of the fees often charged by developers for simple updates
Anyway, I talk through all of this, plus answer a ton of questions in this Periscope video:
Here’s the video replay.
- Follow me on Periscope for new live videos
PS- Are you more of a reader, than a watcher? If so, here’s the complete transcript of my “Should you learn how to code?!” Periscope video
Hey guys, Tara Reed here.
If you are watching the live replay thanks for hanging out with me. So I am today talking about a couple things.
Number 1, I’m talking about whether or not you should learn to code. So many people ask me if that’s something they should spend their time on. Is it a good investment? Is learning to code is actually something that they should spend time on or is it a total waste of time? So I’m gonna be talking about that today.
I’m also gonna talk about,how much can you actually do without code, if you decide that you don’t wanna learn how to code. So I’m going to shed some light on that and actually give some specific examples of things that you can do without code and also stuff that you just truly cannot accomplish.
Sometimes people come to me and they say… “hey I have an idea for an app,” and I will be honest with them and say “look you can’t really do that without code.” So we’re going to talk about that, and I will give you guys an opportunity to shout out some high level ideas of apps you’re thinking about and I’ll be super honest about whether or not you can actually do that without code.
So if that sounds interesting to you…
if that’s an interesting topic…
if you want to figure out whether or not you should learn how to code…
And then, also, if you choose not to learn how to code, lean what you can actually build & how far you can actually take it. And I’m gonna be sending also today a ton of resources, links that I have, resources that I think will help you figure out: is it a good use of my time to learn how to code or is it gonna totally waste my time? And then also we’re gonna be talking about how far you can actually push this whole ‘not building things with code’ concept. I’m gonna give you honest feedback on that.
Okay, so cool!
Do I even code? [USER QUESTION] Really good question. No I don’t. So let me give you a little bit of context of who I am, what my background is for talking about code today.
So my name is Tara Reed and I’m the founder of appswithoutcode.com. So what I do is I help non-technical entrepreneurs build their own apps without writing code and also market them and start generating revenue without writing any code at all. So that’s what we do with appswithoutcode.com. I specifically feel really passionate about teaching this to people because I had a really amazing journey myself as a non-technical founder.
So a few years ago, I left my job working in a big tech company. I was working…
(So who actually writes the code?) I’m gonna get back to that in a moment.
So I left my job in a big tech company over here. Microsoft to the time before, when I was working at Foursquare and Google and I… nope I don’t subcontract overseas, I built it myself just without code and I’ll explain exactly how in a moment. So, I…
(Why did I teleport here?)… Not sure.
So I left a job in a big tech company and started building my own startup. I had an idea for this really cool startup and I was trying to figure out what would I do as a non-technical person… and I was trying to figure out, how do I get this started? And so I went through this awesome process of learning how to build my own apps as a non-technical person. So that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. Should you learn the code? Should you not learn the code? And then also if you decided not to learn the code, what do you do?
So let’s start with the first question, should you learn to code? So it depends, right? And this is what it depends on — a couple questions. I have a couple questions for you and actually I’m gonna ask you guys
(To code or not to code? That is the question). Totally the question, right?
So here’s the first question I wanna ask you guys. Usually I find that there are three reasons why people want to learn how to code in the first place. So reason number one is because they want to get a job. They want to get a job, a 9 to 5 job programming. If that is you put a 1 on the text. Just text 1 if you are thinking about learning the code because you wanna a job- 9 to 5 job coding. Not quite one? Okay so I’ll give you some more options. The number two reason is usually because people have an idea for an app or for a website. So put up a number two, just type in number 2 on the chat if you have an idea for an app or website and you are thinking about learning the code because of that. Okay a few number 2s, a few number 2s in here. So that was me, right. And the reason number 3… couple more number 2’s… so reason number 3 is because people just think it will be an interesting hobby, right? It’s just something that they wanna try and have fun with. So put up number 3 if you’re thinking about learning to code just because you want it to be like a fun hobby and a challenge. So like 1,2,3 — usually I find that those are the 3 things people are considering. Number 1, they wanna get a 9 to 5 job and make more money, being a developer. Number 2, people want to actually execute and try like to implement this app or website idea.
(1 or 2?) Yeah, you can have more than one by the way. It’s not a one answer deal.
And then number 3, they want to just try it for a hobby. So that’s gonna answer a lot of the questions for you.
If you’re in number 1 only and your main reason is because you want to get a 9 to 5 job, you should go learn to code, right? Because that’s what you’re gonna need to have in an office setting.
If you are in the number 2 though, you’ve got a little bit of a different scenario. If you are number 2 and you have an idea for an app or website but you don’t know how to code, it’s often not a really good use of your time to learn how to code because it takes a really long time. By the time you get proficient, someone has already taken your app idea, alright. Like it is long gone. And so I often give folks who are on that number 2 category a different piece of advice. Before I jump in into that advice, number 3. Number 3 is really about hobbies, right? So if you really want to learn how to code as a hobby, I also think that you should learn how to code, that’s a good idea, right?
(What degree do you have?) I don’t have a degree in anything technical so I am not a developer by background. I went to Columbia for undergrad and New York City and I studied Comparative Ethnicity and Anthropology so I’m truly a non-technical founder. I am not an engineer but I worked at a tech company as a marketer before I got all this app stuff started. So I’m in the same boat as you guys. I am not a developer.
So all right, going back to the ones choosing 2’s. If you are in that number 2 camp, you have an idea for an app or startup, my advice to you is sometimes it’s not a really good use of your time to learn how to code and that you could be using your time a little bit better. So here’s the way the whole apps without code concept comes into play.
(Is it available in UK?) Yeah, anywhere it doesn’t matter.
And so as a non-technical person, totally not the traditional person who builds apps, I’ve been really successful in building my own apps. Generating lots of money, getting investors on board – we’ll gonna talk about how in a moment. So the way that I did it was by building apps without code.
So what that looks like is that there’s a handful of upcoming platforms that allow you to build your own apps. So think about, this has actually been going on for a little while in the website space. So there’s a lot of tools that allow you to build your own website, right? You’ve heard maybe of Squarespace, you’ve heard maybe of WordPress. All these sites let you build your own website without being a developer, right? You can just drag and drop. Drag all of your elements, drag and drop all of your elements on to the page.
(Do all the apps look similar though?) No, and I actually can tell you about a lot of totally different apps that people in my program, I run a program called Apps Without Code Bootcamp. And everyone’s got a radically different looking app.
So let me tell you a little bit about the platform that I used and I think that will help you get some context on like “do all the apps look the same or not?” So the answer is no, they don’t. So you are sort of getting familiar with this – you can drag and drop and build websites on your own. That’s becoming a popular concept. What is not super popular yet is the ability to build your own apps in the same kind of way. But now it’s starting to bubble up and become more and more a popular thing. So what I personally use is a platform called Bubble. If you wanna check out the website it’s bubble.is – Bubble. There are a couple other platforms that I will walkthrough on top of that. But that’s really my personal favorite platform to build my own apps. And then here’s what Bubble looks like, there are three major tabs – three important tabs. The first tab is the design tab, so you literally just drag and drop and set up however you want your app to work. Someone asked me earlier like “do all the apps looks the same?” No, you literally get to design it however you want and actually I’ve got this really great process that I use and that a lot of my friends use called the “Google Design Sprint.” If you check out my Apps Without Code Bootcamp program well I’ll teach you that process.
So the design tab lets you design your app exactly the way you want. Then you’ve got a data tab that has all of your database in it. So for example when a user signs up for the first time on your app they get saved into your database. Whether your user does a specific action or input some sort of information. So for example, if you’re making your own Uber app, all of the logs of the information of all the rides that they have scheduled, all of that is in your database. So you truly have a robust database just like you would have if you are building an app with code, right? All of that functionality is there.
And the 3rd tab is my personal favorite. I think it is the coolest and it’s called the workflow tab. On the workflow tab, you have all this information about logic that you can use to make your app work. So again I’m not talking about prototypes. Lots of people talk about building prototypes without code, yeah you can do that. I’m talking about something different though. I’m talking about building fully-functional real apps, that you can put in the apps store if you want, you can have a web app that you share with a bunch of people, you can run ads to it, you can generate money from it – all that stuff, right? So I’m talking about real apps. So the workflow tab makes the actual app work. And what you do is you use general logic in English to build your app.
(Is it free?) There’s a free plan and there’s also a paid plan and I think that’s $19 a month. Totally affordable.
So the workflow is really interesting. When I talk about the workflow tab I talk about “if this, then that” statements. So a good example of an “if this, then that” logic statement is “if I push the domino, then the other domino will fall.” That is the “if this, then that” logic statement. Another example of an “if this, then that” logic statement that’s a little bit more complex is: “if I push the domino and the first domino was really far away from the other dominos, then the other dominos will not fall.” If you can grasp just a basic “if this, then that” statement, then you can build your own app in bubble because it’s literally looks like that in English. It literally on the workflow tab says “when the user clicks the button, then log them in.” It literally says that in English instead of code. And so it’s a new cutting edge thing called visual programming, where you actually see visually, drag and drop what you want it to look visually and then you set the workflow visually for what you want it to look like.
So should you learn to code? Quick recap on this – it depends. It really depends on what your objectives are. Primarily it depends on whether or not you’re trying to get a job from learning to code, and in that case you should learn to code. It depends whether or not you’re trying to validate your app idea and you don’t know how to code. Often times it really doesn’t make a ton of sense.
So cool, I just wanna close this up, I’m gonna go continue hanging out on my vacation.
(Is this technology going to kill coding?) No, I really don’t think so. I think that this technology is actually going to make developers, people who do code, be able to work on things that are much more exciting.
(What did you create?) I have an app that is a match-making system for arts. So I help people find really cool artwork for their home based on their budget and their taste. So what I do, we do web scraping, we pull art from all over the internet and then we match people to artwork based on their taste. Things like Spotify, Pandora, Netflix and all these recommendation engines are prevalent all over the verticals except for art, and so I have a recommendation engine for affordable art.
So closing up.. Should you learn the code? It depends on what your objectives are. If you want a more concrete answer, you should go to shouldyoulearnthecode.com. I made a quiz for you to check out and it walks you through a bunch of my questions for you on whether or not you should learn the code and it gives you a real honest answer. Sometimes the answer is like “actually you should hire a developer to build what you wanna build because you can’t build it without code.” Sometimes it’s just like “yeah, you really should learn how to code,” so it depends. shouldyoulearntocode.com – check that out if you want your answer.
(If you are designer, don’t code?) I actually think that if you’re a designer, you should really be trying this process that I use to build apps without code. Maybe you should learn how to code if you want to, if you wanna do this as a hobby, you can learn, but I find that designers really like this process that I’m talking about, building apps without codes because it’s totally in line with the way that they think. It’s visual – exactly.
So, recap. shouldyoulearntocode.com if you want to know if you should learn how to code.
(Can we share our idea with you?) Yeah, I almost forgot about that. So if people have, before I go, if people have ideas that they want to share really quickly, just like high level, type them in. So like a really good example of that is like “I wanna build Uber for X.” That’s really helpful because I can tell you straight up, yes or no: can you build that without code or should you learn how to code to build that. Does anybody have app ideas that they just want to generally share? You don’t have to share all your trade secrets but like a high level, what you’re thinking about building… any thoughts? I’ll give you folks a couple minutes to type if you’re typing.
So yeah, I’m going to close off, and once I see any quick ideas on apps I’m going to continue hanging out right by the water – very beautiful. Okay I’ve got a couple here:
(Build a kid’s cooking recipe app?) Totally you can build that without code. I’m gonna give you some more examples too. Like games – you can totally build interactive games without code depending of what type of game you wanna build. I’ll refer you to different platforms. So for example if you wanna build a trivia game, I would say build it on a platform called Bubble, you can build that yourself. If you want to build more like a video game, there’s a platform called Stencyl and that has more video game experiences that you can build.
Other things, so I can tell you I teach a program called Apps Without Code Bootcamp and the folks in my program have ideas for an app and they are going through this 6 week one-on-one coaching with me to actually get their app idea out there in the wild. So we actually just finished our first Bootcamp last week. I can tell you generally, people are launching platforms to allow people to rate media experiences that they see on the internet. People are building apps to go along with their startups…
(How long is the boot camp?) Six weeks.
People are building apps to go along with their startups, so they already have a little bit of funding and they need logistics somewhat like Uber. I’m not sharing all people’s app details. I’m gonna be writing a blog post coming up really soon with all of the details.
(When is the new cohort?) It’s coming up in the end of July. I’m gonna be opening it up in a couple of weeks.
Other things that you can build without code: I’ve built an algorithm, a match-making algorithm for art without code. You can build algorithms on these things. And a couple of other students have built algorithms around, for example, humor. People have built all sort of things. Like there is really not a huge limit.
And so if you want to know more about what exactly you can build, I’m happy to chat with you – I’m going to be doing some one-on-one office hours coming up before the Bootcamp opens so watch out for that.
(Is this for iOS or Android?) Either one, doesn’t matter. iOS, Android, web apps or mobile friendly web apps, all of the above.
Cool! I’m gonna jump off the hangout and I will talk to you guys later. Have a really awesome evening.
Hi there- My name is Tara Reed & I’m the founder of Kollecto. I'm a non-technical founder building software without writing any code.I’m also a first-time entrepreneur who swore I'd never become an entrepreneur…Oh well, sh*t happens! :) Follow my journey as I build a cool art startup...