“We had tried to build the most intricate platform — all bells and whistles — so it took us five months before we got anything out to customers,” says Murvah Iqbal, who at the time was running a platform that sold advertising on white delivery vans in London. By the time they got the product out, the team realised they didn’t have product-market fit. They had done too much, too soon and burnt through their small angel round of funding.
Now, Murvah is the founder of parcel delivery service Hived. Her first startup failure taught her her biggest lesson: if you have an idea, you need to ship it quickly to test it with customers. She’s now a big advocate for no-code and low-code solutions — building websites, apps and platforms with easy-to-use templates, drag-and-drop solutions or logical sequencing.
In our Startup Life newsletter, Murvah shares her top tips for using no-code and low-code tools to build a scalable company.
Start with the basics
There are lots of tools available but it’s best to start with ones that are tried and tested and have a community around them. This means there will be a tonne of guides, forums and tutorials to support you. You want to make your life as easy as possible. We used Airtable for our databases, Typeform to gather information, Zapier to automate our workflows and connect things together and Bubble to build our platform. Use Canva for design — your logo, quick mockups, newsletter design, etc. If you are a bit more design savvy, platforms like Figma provide a bit more creative freedom.
If you have an idea, you need to prove that it is working. So, just start with the most basic form of your product — your MVP (minimum viable product). Hack something together with the tools you have — that may be a landing page, a simple contact or information request form, a basic customer flow… And get it into your customers’ hands as quickly as possible to test it. Ask them what’s working, what are they missing, what doesn’t quite work as expected? Then iterate your offering and get it out and test again.
Think in databases
You need to be able to think logically when building with no-code. You need to translate your problem into a relational database — a type of database that stores data points that are related to one another and can access and connect with each other. Draw out what happens if X situation happens or Y situation doesn’t happen, what happens when a customer is in this state, etc (basically, plan for all eventualities). For example, at Hived we need to think about the state of a parcel. What happens if the parcel doesn't get delivered? What happens if the recipient changes the delivery day or cancels the order? What happens if the parcel can’t be delivered?
Harness the power of Airtable
Unlike many no-code tools, Airtable doesn’t just have one use — you can customise it as much as you want. It has many third-party apps that can be plugged into it to level it up. We needed a barcode scanner and a dashboard, for example, and someone had already built one. It also integrates with most other tools, like Bubble and Softr.
Know its limitations
A few months in you may be like, "hey, I don’t think we can do this without building custom stuff" and at this point, it may be time to start hard-coding your own product. Investment in engineers is now much lower, because you’ve tested your initial product, you know what you're building and understand what features customers want. We transitioned to building with code when we knew we needed to scale faster.
How (and how not) to run a startup.
Build new features
That doesn’t mean that you’ll transition away from no-code forever! There's only so much that engineers can build at any one time. Decide:
- Does this particular thing you need to build need to be shipped out and tested quickly? If so, build it with no-code. It can later either be integrated with your system or you can custom build it.
- Does this particular thing you’re building need to be scalable? Has it already been tested? Do you already know what it needs? Then, coding it yourself is probably the way to go.
On the subject of...
🤓 No code/ low code briefing. Sifted has put together everything you need to know — the numbers, the trends and the startups to watch.
🔧 How to be a DIY CTO. One from the Sifted archives.
📋 Want to get started with Airtable? Here’s Murval’s favourite Youtuber who can help you do just that.
🧑🏽💻 No code 101. Zapier and no code platform Makerpad have ganged together for this free intro to no code course.
❓Which tools should I use? There are hundreds available. Use this platform to help you find the right tool to build your project with.