We're now in July. Way to go – we made it. But now that we're in the second half of the year, we may want to take a moment in time to reflect and consider some of the trends we're seeing and what they mean for each of us.
The No Code Movement
What I have witnessed in my own lifetime is matched by what I've learned from others: abstraction is a normal dynamic, and the shift to simplicity is expected.
I define abstraction as the removal of things you need to configure in order to make something work.
Consider what it means to get travel funds from your employer before you take a trip. It would often mean a form that triggered a process that included many people. Unfortunately, you needed to understand the process so that you could follow up with the right person to make sure you got funds in time. That meant learning what was going on behind the scenes. And even then, the process was complicated (if it existed at all).
The thing about complex processes is that you often have to be aware of them in order to make them work. And that's where abstraction becomes powerful. Because it removes all those requirements. You can be dumb about the “how” and still benefit from the “what.”
Now think about Stripe Issuing – where Stripe has created an API that abstracts everything so that companies could create customized, on-demand, printed cards that have the funds on it ready to hand to an employee. An API that produces debit cards, if you will.
Simplicity is different, but similar. I define simplicity as the removal of steps you have to take to get a result.
A few years ago I was a MailChimp user. I sent out these blog posts using their service. And I also had a free email course. But I had no way to get people into my newsletter list from my free course list without custom coding. I know this because my buddy had it working and I asked him what he'd done to make it work. “I hired a developer to use their API to make it happen.”
If you have to hire a developer to make something happen, it's the opposite of simple. Then came ConvertKit, and they gave me an automation rule engine that make it really easy to move people from one list to another. That's simplicity!
So this is where the no code movement steps in. Over the last couple of years you've likely seen several different companies pop up doing things that embraced abstraction and simplicity. In the second half of the year, I expect that you'll try at least one if not more and fall in love. After all, everyone else is doing it.
Which No Code platforms am I talking about?
Here they are:
- Airtable – it's a spreadsheet / it's a database / it's everything you need to do crazy cool things!
- .bubble – assemble software applications without writing code, from pre-existing building blocks.
- Gumroad – want simple ecommerce and digital product distribution without coding? This is it.
- kissflow – forms and workflow processes are made easy without any coding.
- Voiceflow – want to build a voice app for Alexa without knowing how to code? This makes things easy.
- Webflow – build websites without knowing anything about code at all. It's simple and it's abstracted.
- Zapier – connect any two applications and add tons of filters and logic, without any coding.
Like I said, if you haven't already used one of these in the first half of the year, I'd be shocked if you didn't try one out in the second half.
Remember when I said abstraction is a normal dynamic, and the shift to simplicity is expected? Well, this is the same logic behind the second trend I'm witnessing and embracing.
To be clear, there is nothing serverless about serverless. In other words, it's not like software is running on something like a blender instead of a server. It still runs on servers. But the servers aren't your concern anymore because of…you guessed it….abstraction and simplicity.
Serverless computing means you run functions in the cloud without having to worry about the underlying complexity of scaling the servers that the function runs on.
Consider a webform that is on your WordPress site. If you get too much traffic to the page that holds that form, you'll likely watch your site fall over (if you're not already using the Nexcess auto-scaling WordPress hosting that I highly recommend). When that site falls over, it's because the server doesn't have enough resources.
Now consider a different a form that runs on Netlify. You can keep sending traffic there without worry because it is a serverless form. The underlying computing resources are completely abstracted and you don't worry about them.
So how does serverless stuff work? The folks at serverless.com state it like this:
This is what the Serverless Architecture offers — It's built on next-generation public cloud services that auto-scale and charge only when used. When scale, capacity planning & cost management are automated, the result is software that's easier to build, maintain, and often up to 99% cheaper.
In non-technical terms, the feature (or serverless function) is deployed for you without you having to know anything. This isn't just about forms. That's just a nifty example.
In 2006 we witnessed the creation of AWS – the creation of a public cloud. It's when most of us were introduced, over the next couple of years, to usage-based billing for internet infrastructure. And it took a few years for the competition to take it seriously. But the last decade has turned public cloud computing into the main computing paradigm.
So what's next? Further abstraction and further simplicity. (Anyone who has played with the AWS “control panel” has yearned for anything that is simpler.)
Serverless is about not having to own or control servers. In the WordPress space, my example is Strattic. I host my leaders.blog site with them. It's crazy fast and I have no idea how they do it. I don't know how many servers power my site. Or even how they convert my WordPress code into something else. And I don't care. It's fast, secure, and easy to use.
If you're building products that aren't leveraging this new paradigm, I suggest you dig into it during the second half of the year.
If you know me, you know that I'm always watching where and how storytelling is entering into various parts of our everyday world. So it's no shock that I would tell you this is a trend to keep watching.
More than that, I would tell you it's a skill you need to develop (which is why I released a new course on it).
Last month I read this article from MIT. In it was this great quote by the guy who wrote this book (which I've now bought):
“The skill of data storytelling is removing the noise and focusing people’s attention on the key insights.”
But that's not why I raise it up as a trend to pay attention to. Instead I want to focus on a dynamic that I witnessed twice in the last couple of months.
Even if you don't pay attention to sports, you couldn't have missed the way that “The Last Dance” transformed every conversation for people of a certain age who remembered those days of the Chicago Bulls (and MJ) domination. In a world where we each stream our own shows on our own schedule, The Last Dance was aired like old school TV. No binging. And millions of people watched at the same time (and then talked about it the next day).
This past weekend Disney+ aired Hamilton. My Facebook and Twitter feed blew up with comments about the release of the Broadway musical.
What do the two have in common other than being incredible examples of great storytelling? Both had scheduled dates when they were going to be aired. And both dates were changed. The executives behind these two productions decided to speed up the launch because everyone was stuck inside.
This is critical, because it highlights that storytelling is compelling, but more importantly, that it's especially compelling right now! And the situation we're living in (sheltered in place, many people working from home, etc) will continue into the second half of the year. So what made sense for them should make sense for us.
People are ready, and welcome, a great story. A compelling narrative. A way to get past or beyond the challenges right in front of them.
Now is your time to create something new, launch something new, release something you've already created. Now is the time – because everything else is paused (and if you need help building the landing pages for your new stuff, GoWP has just launched a new service to help you build landing pages). Your customers can't go do Disneyland. So they're at home this week. And weekend. And next week too!
Those are the three trends I hope you look out for in the second half of the year. Think I missed one? Hit me up on twitter and let me know.