It's amazing how many tools there are to get from 0% to 100% in building a business almost over night.

I want to explore what those tools are, how they help, and which ones look the most promising.

What is low-code?

Any tool that saves you hours a day in any of the following categories — and can be configured with code — counts as a low-code tool in my book:

  • Hosting (deployment, scaling)
  • Backend (data collection, data processing, connecting to APIs, data storage)
  • User Accounts & Payments (user management, memberships, subscriptions)
  • Front-end (UI components, state management)
  • Marketing (landing pages, email lists, analytics)
  • Outreach (letting other people know you exist, gathering feedback)
  • Iteration (gathering feedback, improving your product and marketing)

(This post will be updated as I discover more tools and conduct more research)

Low Code Tools 👇

Mobile App Generator

  • Glide (generates a responsive web app, not a real mobile app yet)
  • Adalo (real app export, database api, and notifications)
  • DraftBit
  • Thunkable

Addons & Popups

Memberships and Marketplaces

These tools help you set up a marketplace or membership-based website really quickly

Backend as a Service

These tools remove concerns about data management, data storage, user management, and file storage.

Simple Backend as a Service

These offerings provide a really simple service, but make it easy to transform an otherwise static site into a dynamic one

Spreadsheets as a database

A quick and easy way to get started. (Is it secure?)

App & SaaS generators

These give you a head start.

Auto-Generated admin panels

Uses a schema to generate a UI that let admins manage data and users

Advanced spreadsheets

These tools work as internal admin dashboards by adding advanced capabilities onto the spreadsheet model

Quick & Easy Prototyping

I hesitated to add this section, but I think it's relevant. If only because I feel the the goal of most low-code tools is to make building full apps feel more like prototyping. So, look at these tools for where production tools might head soon.

Visual Web App Builders - Simple

These tools are focused on easily achieving a single goal.

Visual Web App Builders - Complex

These make some things easy, but aren't that flexible. I think these are mostly for building back-office apps and not user facing apps. Also might not be mobile friendly.

Builder of Visual Web App Builders

  • GrapesJS
  • Shuffle.dev (truly amazing. this tool is responsible for building out 3 different website builders for 3 different CSS frameworks)

Flatten the stack - new concepts

Some of the most interesting and revolutionary tools are in this category. These tools allow tons of flexibility while completely removing at least one full layer of the product development stack (e.g. database, back-end, build tool, hand-off).

  • Mavo
  • Anvil
  • Elm
  • Imba (very exciting)
  • CanJS
  • Purview
  • Dash from Plotly (looks great! build a data visualization web app in pure Python)
  • Alan (uses a high-level configuration to output a software application. i think this might be the future)

Convert a Static Design into An App

This seems like a big promise to fulfill, but if they can pull it off it would be amazing

  • Supernova (translates sketch to UI code, no hand-off from design to development)
  • Yotako

Flatten the stack - modern adaptations

These solutions try to keep the benefits of modern frameworks (developer ergonomics, real-time updates, component front-ends), while removing the headaches (asset bundling or server-side rendering or too much to keep track of)

New types of tools

Tools that do things a lot different than normal and could save a TON of time

  • Mint & Crystal (I want to try these, they were used to build Base API)

Database query to application

These tools allow you to build app views from database queries, generating the front-end automatically

Flatten the stack - traditional, but modern

  • Rails (reliable, stable, still super powerful)
  • Django (reliable, stable, still super powerful)
  • Laravel (lots of movement in this space, great community)

Exciting frameworks & stacks

These are some of the most exciting combos in the front-end framework world.

Rapid Application Development Frameworks

These tools focus on speed above all else. They might lose some flexibility, but your ability to get to market fast and test out your idea will more than make up for it.

Rapid API Development Frameworks

These tools allow you to generate an API from a database very quickly, potentially saving years of work.

Convert 3rd Part Websites into APIs

These tools scan 3rd party websites, assemble their info into a structured format, and let you use the data in your own web app

Web App Definition Languages

These tools allow you to create a very high-level definition of your app, which is then seamlessly transpiled into the language/framework of your choice.

CMS

Usually not great for building a full-fledged web app, but great for managing a website builder.

High-level / Simple CMS (for building landing pages)

These tools focus more on high-level components, letting you define the content, but not getting into the details

Landing page templates

These tools will help bootstrap your marketing website by giving you the HTML and CSS to get started. You'll need to modify them and host it yourself.

CMS with unique approaches

Uses web native tools (like online spreadsheets) that are familiar to users and can easily hook into multiple platforms to serve as a back-end

  • Vapid (one of my favorites)

Blog CMS

  • AnchorCMS
  • Ghost (absolutely beautiful)
  • Blot (amazing — pretty much the perfect blog platform)

Spreadsheet to website

Workflow builders (process management)

Workflow builders (marketing automation)

Headless CMS

Makes it easy to manage data, so you can just focus on displaying it.

Beyond CMS

More powerful than the standard CMS

Form Endpoints

These services let you collect visitor information and possibly display it somewhere else.

Generate UI Quickly (pre-built UI components)

These UI frameworks come with pages and components pre-built, so you can just piece them together like a puzzle to create a great web app.

Generate UI Quickly (assemble yourself)

You still need to take care of the back-end, but these easy-to-use libraries will make your front-end look nice without much work

Generate UI Quickly (generate UI components)

These UI frameworks come partially pre-assembled or let you build UI with a visual builder

Generate front-end fast (unique tools)

These tools take a new approach to generating front-end code, giving you a head start while also remaining flexible

Purpose-Built Apps

These tools help you do one thing really well with very little effort.

  • Flatfile (add a data importing feature into your app)

Tools for Gathering Customer Feedback

Build configuration generator

Comments & Tips

"Combine Hasura (automatic GraphQL on top of PostgreSQL) with React Admin (low code CRUD apps) and you can build an entire back office admin suite or form app (API endpoints and admin front end) in a matter of hours." — cpursley on HN

"We ended up using AppSync and it is fairly impressive. I highly recommend anyone who is stuck in the AWS ecosystem to check it out. AppSync integrates with a lot of other AWS services (Cognito, S3) very easily and allows you to use Dynamo/Aurora/RDS/Elastic as data sources. On top of this, you can also use Lambda to implement resolvers that need more intense business logic, making the service incredibly powerful." — afvictory on HN

"PostgREST is performant, stable, and transparent. It allows us to bootstrap projects really fast, and to focus on our data and application instead of building out the ORM layer." — Anupam Garg from a testimonial

"As I was looking at some of these workflows, I couldn't help but think how there will be this eventual shift like with Craiglist where companies will spring up that just focus on certain more complex popular workflows. . . . So my advice if you're looking for your next indie software idea. Just observe what these no-coders are automating on Zapier and build a nice UI around it." Kameron Tanseli from a blog post

Further Reading