Is "No-Code" the best term possible?

No-Code Jun 23, 2020

If you are going to learn about No-Code for, say, a 100 days (and hopefully even more), you will obviously learn about processes, workflows and drag-and-drop interfaces. You also could learn, if you’re invested in this world, about the community and what is interesting to their members: the history, the big players, the upcoming projects and even the debates and terminology.

One very prevalent debate among this community is, precisely, one of terminology. And it is about its very identity. For some time there has been a discussion about whether this movement should or shouldn’t be named No-Code.

Why? Let’s find out.

A few months ago, Ben Tossell from Makerpad made a very interesting thread on Twitter, in which he commented on a few topics, trying to clear up stuff regarding No-Code. One of those, obviously, was the name —otherwise it would have been very weird to bring that up. First, he explained the correct spelling of the name, being ‘No-Code’, instead of ‘Nocode’ or ‘No Code’. The logic behind it lies in the fact that “Code is still used but the abstraction you're using doesn't require you to write code. Using the hyphen joins the two words as a name for this 'movement' - there's still code being written behind the scenes”. For Tossell, the hyphen connects the lack of code the users apply to their projects with what they actually do, but realizes there can’t be a negation of the code itself, which would be implied in the other two uses of the term.

However, Tossell agrees that No-Code —hyphen included— is still lacking and far from an ideal term for what people in the community and the movement develop. “Movements shouldn't be based around a negative”, he states in the thread, talking from a place that I think comes from a more marketing based approach. Giving a brand, a community or a movement a name that brings to mind negativity can be frowned upon by experts, who instead recommend the opposite. You should never associate your brand with “no’s” or “anti’s”, but try to switch it up so that it can be pro-something or positively related ( it’s important to state that these are just conventional marketing recommendations, and by no means are universal rules or truths). “Visual developer is closest but still doesn't feel right”, he adds, ending his take on the topic —you can check the whole thread here.

But there are those who are fond of the term and defend it. That is the case for the maker Helen Ryles. Leaving aside the marketing approach or even the etymology of the concept, Helen looks at the No-Code name from a practical point of view. Ryles accepts it’s not a perfect term, but it has been useful in terms of creating community. She writes on Twitter: “[One] big reason I love the name #nocode that people don’t mention: It let me find other people like me. No-Code tools have been around for years but it was largely building in a vacuum”.

Ryles probably refers to tools like Wordpress, Wix, and even Shopify that have been successful on their own, but not necessarily associated with a community or a movement, or even just a way of doing things. In the social media era, filled with tags and hashtags, the term No-Code brings together a lot of people doing the same thing, and the utilitarian aspect of it is what people like Ryles appreciate, even if it doesn’t describe perfectly or even accurately what it does.

So yeah, on one hand there’s the conceptual part of the name, how it describes what these developers do —or fails to do it—, how the ‘No’ part may be associated with ‘less than’, how it can be misleading. On the other hand there’s the practical side; the approach of ‘it is what it is, so let’s make the best of it’ and actually execute it.

If you ask me, I’m more aligned with the second way of thinking. Finding names for basically anything is one of the hardest things to do, but normally it’s more about the actions than the name, more about the product than the name, more about the movement than the name. Ask every person you know who has been in a band about how they came up with the name for it. Probably a large amount of them will say it was hell and eventually they just decided to go for it even though they weren’t a 100% sold on it. It happens. But, again, it’s not necessarily about the name. Dave Grohl hates the name “Foo Fighters”, and it’s still one of the biggest name in rock.

But that’s just me. What do you think? Should we rename the movement? Should we just keep going? Why not discuss it through our 100 Days of No-Code Challenge? Let us know!

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