How we came to zerocoding

I completed a small but very intelligent intensive from ProductSense “Technical Skills Intensive for Managers”. The intensive was devoted to the nuances of classical development, but in the last block of this course, Vad Mikhalev, the founder of the Zerocoding University, spoke about zerocoding and conducted several practices using specific tools as examples.

This topic was a revelation for me. I have heard the term no-code before, but everything flew past me and seemed like a separate specific topic from the programming world. But it was the two days of Wada’s intensive block that showed that this is not so – these are new opportunities, first of all, for product managers.

I opened the seminar materials and decided to try what would come of it. Five days later, we had the first draft of our MVP prototype. This became the basis of the decision that determined our entire current period.

First draft of the prototype in the Adalo interface
Comparison of zerocoding tools
The first draft of the prototype was assembled in Adalo, but it became obvious that the database capabilities of the tool itself were not enough for our tasks. A database in Adalo is a simple construction that allows you to operate with all basic types of information and build relational links between different tables, which are called collections in Adalo. But here are the minimum possibilities for working with the data itself at the database level.

In our case, we had to:

Looking for a solution for an external database – choosing between Airtable and QuintaDb. Fortunately, I already had a reason to deal with the database before and I talk about it in the article.
Looking for a solution to synchronize data between an external DB and Adalo. Chose between Zapier, Integromat or direct communication via API (API is a separate topic that is no less important in development than a database. Here I describe my experience in studying this issue)
It was necessary to find and study data parsing tools with their subsequent cleaning for transfer to the database with minimization of manual labor. For parsing, I chose between parser programs and the Scherpa RPA software robot (for data cleaning: Excel, Google Sheets, Airtable).

Decision stack chain options
Glide VS Adalo: App Builders
Today there are several dozens of zero-coding constructors available on the market that solve the problem of developing a mobile application without code. Glide and Adalo are definitely among the leaders: here I calmly trust the expertise of Zerocoding University and its founder Vadim Mikhalev. It was these two solutions that he offered at the intensive for product managers. This can be confirmed by active chats in the Russian-speaking community on Glide and Adalo.


prototype in Glide interface
On Glide, I assembled an almost final version of the MVP of our project, and if it were not for the limitations of the constructor itself, then this version could be enough.

But the limitations of Glide are not a minus, but rather a plus, as they allow the designer to stay firmly in their niche of tools for design professionals. Glide helps to quickly assemble an application for solving applied design problems, although there are quite successful applications for the mass consumer.

What are the limitations of Glide:

There is a ready-made set of functions, possible interface designs, types of user screens that cover a significant part of the needs of a mobile application. Choose and use. Like in Lego – there are several types of blocks from which you can assemble both a car and a space rocket. The downside is that it is extremely difficult, or maybe not possible, to make something custom, neither in terms of capabilities, nor in terms of design. Plus in the same. Most of the logical structures have already been developed and there is a very good chance that you will have enough of them. A ready-made design with minimal possibilities for correcting something will not allow you to make an obvious cranberry. There are really many modules and functions offered. As well as ready-made templates, on the basis of which you can get your application with your own data in 15-30 minutes.

The database is only Google Sheets so far. Minus – Google tables are not a particularly suitable tool for maintaining a database. It is no coincidence that Glide itself extends the missing features of Google Sheets with a set of its own functions and field types. Databases in Google Sheets lack several dozen types of columns, normal relational relationships between tables, and the power to process data. If the table has more than 1000 rows, the performance drops. You need a Google account to use Glide. But if you feel at least somewhat confident in Google Sheets or Excel or Numbers, you know how to enter information structurally, then you are already ready to work in Glide. You won’t have to worry about setting up data synchronization – take your Google spreadsheet, connect it – and that’s it: the application is almost ready. And the data was entered through Google, and you are entering it – everything is already synchronized. UPD: I was corrected in the comments – Glide’s own database can work without connection to Goggle tables. Yes, this is a correct clarification. Own database is quite functional, although it has a somewhat strange tool for linking data in different tables.
There is no option to publish to stores yet, only PWA. The disadvantages of this are primarily marketing. Explaining to the user that placing a shortcut to a PWA application on their desktop turns it into a native application is not an easy task. So if users are not fans of your project or employees of your team, then only because of the PWA format you can lose a significant part of your potential audience, which is a shame, because there is nothing wrong with the PWA format. But to teach the market – so-so idea. Pros – this is an excellent PWA, much better than the PWA of the same Adalo, in my subjective opinion.
The main thing is that the entry point and understanding of the program logic in Glide takes several hours. You can assemble a prototype or immediately the final version of your own application in one or a couple of days. The proposed logic and developer capabilities not only speed up the login process and ease of operation, but also can easily give you some sensible ideas for UI / UX design or a set of features that you yourself would not have been born.


MVP in the Adalo interface
Adalo is a mobile application builder that allows you to solve a specific problem in several ways at once and gives you arbitrarily visual formats for solving it.

The database built into Adalo will be enough if your project does not involve a large array of data, for example, no more than a few hundred rows for 3-5 tables, and you do not need to constantly update or replace this data with arrays and carry out various work with them outside the framework user interfaces.

But to sort data by different fields, filtering data, grouping, own report at the Adalo database level does not allow. You can solve such problems if you develop special internal interfaces in Adalo itself, similar to user screens, but this is an excessively expensive way, not effective for a large amount of tasks.

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