“Learning to code is like learning French”
AirDev has pioneered a new approach to software development by replacing coding engineers and managers with business-savvy builders. We invited Andrew Haller, co-founder and co-CEO of AirDev, to talk about this San Francisco-based startup and to weigh in on the future of programming.
JAXenter: Is learning to custom code-building computer software, apps and websites from scratch a waste of time?
Andrew Haller: Yes, for most people. Learning to code is like learning French. For some people, it is a fun hobby in an of itself. For others who plan to spend lots of their life in France, it is necessary. But for most people who might visit Paris for a few weeks, it would be overkill to learn the language. Individuals should learn to code if they want to pursue a career in computer science, solve new technical problems. For someone looking to launch an app or build them for others, it doesn’t make sense anymore.
JAXenter: What’s your solution then?
Andrew Haller: There are a number of “no-code” tools that allow individuals to build full websites and applications without writing a line of code. Popular platforms like Squarespace and Wix are great for simple static websites (like personal portfolios or small business pages). At AirDev, we use a tool called Bubble, which allows us to build complex and dynamic web and mobile apps (think Airbnb, Yelp, Twitter) without writing code. Bubble has a visual interface similar to Powerpoint, where you set up your database, design, and all user actions. With this tool, we are able to build apps for clients in a fraction of the time of traditional developers.
In the next 5-10 years, most software that today is created by coders will be assembled by builders using no-code tools.
JAXenter: So how can you build websites and applications without hiring coders?
Andrew Haller: The answer depends whether your scarcest resource is time or money. If you have time, you can learn the basics of Bubble in a few hours, and learn more complex features in a few weeks. The logic of a complex app can still be difficult to master but Bubble provides the “Babelfish” to eliminate the coding language barrier. If you would rather eliminate all effort, you can hire a Bubble partner (of which AirDev is one), where a business-savvy builder can help translate your idea to an app quickly an economically. For example, our five-Day Sprint offering takes less than a week and costs $3K flat.
JAXenter: Do you think the way software is built will undergo a fundamental change in the near future?
Andrew Haller: In the next 5-10 years, most software that today is created by coders will be assembled by builders using no-code tools like Bubble. There are several precedents for this movement: computers were limited to specialist coders before visual operating systems by Apple and Microsoft came around, and coders were needed to build financial models prior to tools like Lotus and Excel. Coding is poised for this type of transformation, and while most software goes this way, expert computer scientists will continue to seek new solutions to unsolved problems.
The gap closes and the cases where pure code is needed get smaller and smaller.
JAXenter: Would you say that code-free building tools are disrupting the industry?
Andrew Haller: This is a classic case of low-end disruptive innovation, as coined by Clayton Christensen in the Innovator’s Dilemma. These tools are much faster and cheaper than learning to code or hiring a traditional developer but they can’t do everything pure code can do. Due to the limitations, traditional developers tend to dismiss the technology as inferior and not a thread. But the general rule is that technology advances faster than customer need, and so as tools like Bubble get better and better, the gap closes and the cases where pure code is needed get smaller and smaller.
JAXenter: Can AirDev solve the coding talent shortage? How?
Andrew Haller: AirDev hires smart but non-technical individuals to join our team, and we teach them how to master the Bubble platform as well as the processes we have developed to optimize development. Through this approach, we are creating full-stack developers at a faster pace than can the traditional industry through bootcamps like General Assembly.
JAXenter: In your view, how does the future of programming look like?
Andrew Haller: We imagine a new kind of role within companies of all sizes: a business analyst who can create slides and spreadsheets, but who can also create web and mobile apps. Learning a tool like Bubble will be as common (or more so) as learning Powerpoint or Excel, and the result will be an explosion of custom apps to solve very specific business problems.
Thank you very much!