10 NO-CODE TOOLS EVERY ARCHITECT NEEDS TO LEARN

AS HIGHLY TRAINED AND SKILLED DESIGNERS, ARCHITECTS HAVE A UNIQUE AND LARGELY UNEXPLORED OPPORTUNITY IN TECH. LEARN WHAT TOOLS ARCHITECTS SHOULD USE TO BUILD WEB APPLICATIONS TO MONETIZE THEIR SKILLS BEYOND ARCHITECTURE, WITHOUT LEARNING CODE.

An architect is a bit like a truffle pig. We don’t know our own value.

‍In 2022, there are countless opportunities for a skilled, computer savvy, designer to plan, execute and win big in their industry and beyond it too. If you can design a building, you can design lots of things and architects should really explore this idea more. After all, it may be a way to further monetize your education.

‍Every year, there are fewer barriers to entry in various fields. Yet architects chug along as if nothing’s changed. Keeping up with trends is exhausting. Even so, it might be useful to understand how your 14 year old son made a million dollars trading NFT’s. Clearly that’s an extreme example to highlight a point. However, having a little bit more knowledge than your colleagues may be something that gets you ahead in your career.

‍You may not be building the next Google. But as a designer, you don’t necessarily need to code to build a profitable tech company.

‍Here are 10 tools to explore when getting your design side hustle on!

10 NO-CODE TOOLS ARCHITECTS SHOULD EXPLORE AND LEARN:

1. WEBFLOW

‍If you’re a designer or even if you’re not, learn how to use this tool…

‍Webflow is an extremely powerful no-code/low-code web app builder, with a built-in CMS.

‍I can pretty much guarantee that in less than 5 years most websites will be built on it, or a tool like it. It’s the web builder for designers you’d imagined for years before it even existed. Clearly someone else imagined it too and went and built it.

‍Unlike more basic platforms like Wix, which have their place but lack flexibility, Webflow is a fully visual code interface. In plain English, it allows you to design visually whilst writing clean code for you, so you don’t have to.

Webflow Tutorial Video

Like so many technologies offered in 2022, Webflow has removed a barrier to entry. In this instance, in the form of an expensive web developer. Essentially, you could build a site on Webflow without learning a single line of code, the functionality is that robust. Nonetheless, it’s even more effective as a low-code tool.

Learn some basic HTML, CSS and Javascript and you really can build anything your imagination lets you on Webflow. Plus, the tutorials are brilliant! Why doesn’t everyone make tutorials like this?

2. FIGMA

I love Figma. It’s a brilliant tool for building design systems for web and mobile apps. It’s also great for prototyping and creating animations. On top of that, it’s just so intuitive and easy to use.

Figma logo, with Figma logo text

‍That might be because I’m an architect and have developed a knack for using design software. Either way, it loosely expresses my point of why I think architects should be exploring tech. There are many transferable skills and UX Design is a great segway into tech for many.

‍UX Design? ‘The hell’s that..?

‍It stands for User Experience Design. If you’re a designer and you’ve not heard the term, it’s time to come up for air, as your head’s been buried in the sand!

‍UX Design is a relatively new discipline. It’s been described as …the design of the experience an audience feels when interacting with a piece of software, website or application. But why am I talking about UX Design? That’s clearly a separate post. This chapter is about Figma…

‍Figma by and large, is seen as the industry standard for UX design by many. Although you can check out its main competitors, Sketch and Adobe XD. Here’s a bonus: Figma is completely free.‍

3. AIRTABLE

Currently I’m using Airtable to manage blog posts, my email list and digital product inventory. I’m also using it to manage how much money I’m spending on haircuts each month. That’s the thing, the use cases for Airtable are probably endless. You’ll likely be able to find a use for it, whatever you’re doing.

So what is it?

It’s been described as a spreadsheet app like Excel, which isn’t untrue. However, it’s also more and not the same. Imagine an application which allows you to interpret spreadsheet data into other useful things like forms and calendars etc. Unlike Excel, many powerful formulas are built in. But if you need to customize further, you can do that too.

I work in a field called BIM. Architects will know what this is, but for those who don’t, it stands for Building Information Modeling. So why is that important? It’s not.

However, my job does involve the management of complex data which I use to automate repetitive tasks no one wants to do. Not that I’ve done it yet, but there’s a use case for Airtable in architecture somewhere, I can smell it. And this is kind of the point.

Airtable’s modular and adaptable utility means you can customize a workflow suitable to your needs. You can get started for free, but in the end you might want to pay, because it’s that good.

4. ZAPIER

In my spare time, I’ve been building an army of intelligent robots which do my bidding. Zapier helps a lot with this and would probably help you too.

‍If my platform plasticfreebydesign.com was a person, she’d be a woman. If all the tools I’ve mentioned are her organs, then her veins and arteries are Zapier linking her organs together..

Zapier is effectively an automation tool that helps you build an ecosystem between your various applications. Its automations extend to many of the familiar tools that companies use. Twitter, Slack, Dropbox etc. I use it for other stuff though and I’m sure there are some customisations you’d think of, of your own.

Nonetheless, I mention Zapier as perhaps it’s the best known automation tool requiring minimal code. But is it the best? I don’t know about that. Use it in conjunction with other automation tools like Integromat, Parabola and IFTTT. Either way you should be adding some form of automation tool to your side hustle empire.

Who enjoys doing social media? Not me, make it easier with Zapier and IFTTT.

5. GUMROAD

I’ve got to hand it to them. Gen_Z are pretty badass…

I feel like throwing stuff online in the form of intangible “digital products” and expecting money for it just comes more naturally to them. I’m a millennial and what I can sense are some limiting beliefs amongst my generation that Gen_Z just don’t have.

What constitutes value in 2022 is different from 2002 and will change some more over the next decade. Digital products may even be worth more than physical ones. In many instances, they already are.

Gumroad provides an easy, modern and brilliantly fun platform for selling digital assets of just about any kind. Having a presence here may be worth your while and won’t require any code. It’s certainly worth getting creative here. You’ll be surprised at what you have, that properly packaged, someone might pay for.

Architects, ever thought about selling those stray Revit families you’ve got knocking around? Just a thought.

Gumroad allows artists to become their own business owners through their own creativity. I think they likely take a cut of your earnings. Do your own research.

6. MAILCHIMP

This one’s a bit of a no brainer. You need an email list, this is how you get one.

‍In 2022 building a startup, small business, side hustle of any kind means growing and understanding your audience. Mailchimp will help you do this and has everything you need to collect customer information, analyze who they are, and get in touch with them.

‍Sounds simple? Building an email list can be kinda hard. Start by producing great content and contacting your audience regularly, consistently but not annoyingly.

‍Mailchimp will allow you to launch social media campaigns and conduct surveys. There are also a number of no-code/low-code integrations with platforms like Livechat and Webflow, which I’m using myself. If you want to get really creative, link your Mailchimp database to Airtable for some extra functionality. I’m doing this too!

‍Certainly one for the arsenal, the benefits will become clear as your email list grows. Starts free.

7. GOOGLE ANALYTICS

You’ve probably heard of google analytics. Well at least I hope you have, because it’s watching you right now…

For that matter, so am I…

I don’t know who’s currently winning the creepy voyeur Olympics, but I was considering nominating Google… How about you?

I’m torn between thinking Google is the Devil and Jesus Christ. Their tools are so invasive… But useful!

Let’s revisit our anatomy metaphor. Her name is Plastic Free_By Design. Her veins and arteries are Zapier. Webflow is her brain, which makes Google Analytics her eyes. That’s a complicated comparison. But hopefully you get the point. Google Analytics monitors the global activity of your platform and you get to see it. Which is pretty cool. In fact without it, it’s going to be very difficult if not impossible to make informed decisions.

Here’s an example. I’m planning to sell products in Germany, because Google Analytics tells me I’m getting a lot of traffic there. That’s technology, use it. Without Google Analytics in 2022, YOU_ARE_BLIND.

Is it no-code? Not quite, but it’s easy to install and it’s free. So get it installed on your web app ASAP.

8. HOTJAR

Google Analytics watches you from a distance. Hotjar is more direct and watches you close up.‍

You don’t like it? Stop clicking that accept cookies button. That’s what that is.

‍But on the upside, you can use these technologies too. Luckily we live in a democracy so the spying is egalitarian.

‍Hotjar is a low-code tool that allows you to install a piece of software on your app, which will detect the activity of a user on your site, using heatmaps. Hotjar will record the activity, which you can then use as an indicator of how people are using your site. This can help you make highly informed decisions on what’s working and what might not be. Great for UX research.

‍The tool has been around for a little while and there are similar tools on the market, check out CrazyEgg.

9. TYPEFORM

Typeform Is a pretty handy tool. Once you have an audience, Typeform is a great way to communicate with them and look really professional as you do it.

There’s loads of applications for Typeform which can be really useful. Personally, I think it stands out most as a tool for gathering valuable data. It allows you to build customized forms as polls, quizzes, tests, and more and is a great way to gather audience feedback.

Typeform also allows you to customize your own branding and build personalized experiences, which is a great way to distinguish your brand.

Generally, it’s quite user friendly and allows for no-code integration. Subscriptions can be quite pricey and perhaps this goes without saying. But it’s best to have a robust strategy for your no-code stack.‍

10. SCAPIC

‍I’m going to admit, I’ve not actually used this tool, but I’m intrigued.

This is one of those tools that hasn’t caught on yet, but you know it probably will.

Scapic is supposed to address the problem of online shopping. As convenient as it is, not being able to see or touch a product in real life has its limitations. Scapic intends to reduce this problem by allowing you to add augmented reality experiences to your ecommerce store.

Pretty cool right? Architects you may want to pay attention, as it requires 3D models which you spend all day making. One to watch.

So there you have it. 10 Great tools for budding entrepreneurs / architects / designers. You know what, Let’s scrap the labels. Anyone can learn this stuff and most of the resources are free, at least to get started.

So why not learn something new and begin your empire, doing whatever you enjoy?

Oz Nwachukwu is a British Architect living in London and the founder of plasticfreebydesign.com. Feel free to get In contact for a chat at hello@plasticfreebydesign.com.

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Oz Nwachukwu

Oz Nwachukwu

81 Followers

British Architect with a deep focus on sustainability, systems, data, design and emerging technology. I also dabble in spirituality and the esoteric.