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Low-code Lessons From My Website Overhaul

Thoughts on spaghetti architecture, citizen developers, subtraction, and simplicity.
Jun | 19 | 2023

Jun | 19 | 2023
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What’s the difference between low-code and no-code tools?

I address the question in Low-Code/No-Code, and I even recorded a quick video about it after the book dropped last year.

The answer is simple, despite many analysts’ and vendors’ efforts to introduce jargon and superfluous complexity. If you can add your own code to a website or app, then the tool qualifies as low code. If not, then it’s a no-code one.

That’s it.

False Dichotomy

Of course, it’s absurd to view the notion of adding code as binary. It’s not. For instance, some vendors deliberately restrict the types of code that users can insert into their wares—and for good reason. Security is a common and legitimate concern. (Can someone say SQL injection?)

Low- and no-code solutions each offer different benefits and drawbacks.

As I write in the book, low- and no-code solutions each offer different benefits and drawbacks. I won’t rehash them all here, but adding a bunch of code can wreak havoc on your creation.

I should know.

Over the past decade, I made that very mistake. As my technical chops improved and my design sensibilities evolved, so did my desire to tweak my site. The effect of each individual change was pretty negligible. Over time, though, these customizations slowed down my site, caused unexpected errors and conflicts, and even forced me to upgrade my hosting plan. #DeathByAThousandCuts

The Breaking Point

Earlier this year, my website had become virtually untenable or, in tech parlance, spaghetti architecture. I came to the realization that I needed to rebuild it from scratch.1 In early June, I spotted an opportunity in my schedule to complete the overhaul during a one-week break from my current ghostwriting assignment and other client projects.

I predicated my underlying design philosophy on simplicity. In other words, just because I could add something cool didn’t mean that I should. (Cue obligatory Jurassic Park reference.)

Case in point: My previous website contained the following rotating text in its hero section:

The geek in me appreciated the touch, but I channeled my inner Gary Gulman and asked myself the following hard questions:

  • Did I really need rotating text in my hero section?
  • Did it likely result in anyone booking me for speaking or consulting gigs?
  • Would anything bad happen if I eliminated it altogether?

In each case, the answer was a resounding no. I then repeated this process for all of my site’s pages and their individual elements. Rotating carousel? Nope. Über-fancy menu? Gone. Oodles of customized templates? Auf Wiedersehen. Ditto for the fancy icons in the footer.

By the time I finished, I had reduced the number of lines of code in my site’s stylesheet by 80 percent. 💥 In a related vein, its speed had significantly improved. From GTMetrix:

Yeah, the whole project took about 40 hours of work. What’s more, I had to throw my developer a few hundred bucks, but the juice was well worth the squeeze. (If you find any bugs, I’d appreciate it if you let me know.)

Simon Says: Learn from my mistakes.

Citizen developers would do well to follow this advice: Before haphazardly adding new code to your app or website, ask yourself these fundamental questions.

Feedback

What say you?

Footnotes

  1. I even explored WordPress alternatives for the first time in 14 years, but vendor lock-in made a move impossible.

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