Four Kitchens

Why developers shouldn’t fear a no-code interface

5 Min. ReadDevelopment

For those of you who manage digital projects, your world centers upon change. From deploying new versions of website platforms to navigating all manner of software updates, the fast pace of the technology industry requires (and rewards) persistent upending of the status quo

Consequently, the role of “site builder” has shifted in new directions as well. The days of a lone digital gatekeeper at every organization are quickly fading—and thank goodness for that. Given the scale of digital demands your business faces, your developers can no longer be the bottleneck where projects stall before launch

Over the past several years, development platforms have grown more accommodating to those with less technical backgrounds. Custom modules have opened up new possibilities for developing no-code websites that can be updated and enhanced quickly and securely

Both Drupal 8 and 9 feature user-friendly capabilities that enable content owners to update a website’s architecture without complex code. As these interfaces grow more streamlined, your organization’s power users are ready to take on additional responsibilities. As a result, IT managers need to be flexible while still ensuring your website stays healthy

Change always introduces a level of discomfort. However, to ensure your organization stays competitive, you have to embrace the shifts that will make your digital projects run more smoothly.

Drupal Layout Builder
Drupal Layout Builder

Minimize development delays by empowering content owners

As tech leaders, many of you have wo
he title of webmaster at some point during your career. Shouldering the responsibility for your entire company’s online presence, a webmaster’s responsibilities encompass site design and development as well as digital marketing and communications

Life somehow felt easier—or at least more stable—when only one person could make changes to a website. Now, businesses recognize websites are more than novelties and provide a sophisticated means to reach customers. In the process, your stakeholders have grown more technically literate and willing to contribute to your website.

To ensure your organization stays competitive, you have to embrace the shifts that will make your digital projects run more smoothly.

However, enabling other teams to access your website produces a level of anxiety for website managers. All developers carry a long-held instinct to lock down configuration to prevent critical errors. Unfortunately, your fear of losing control over your code will bog down your organization’s content delivery capabilities

Content management systems like Drupal have made life easier for developers. The addition of component libraries has enabled development projects to proceed faster and more efficiently. But as appetites for digital projects have grown, your content owners always seem to need more access to your site’s controls

You can’t let fear to hold back your site’s development. Though Drupal, you can provide a flexible backend experience. Freeing users to modify page layouts, manage menus, and build dynamic content in Views and Webforms. As the platform has advanced, site-building has grown more accessible through “codeless” development within the Drupal UI.

Drupal Webform Builder
Drupal Webform Builder

No-code software plays a critical role in modern website development

Developers live for creating the right custom tool for a given job. As a result, we have a love-hate relationship with the shift toward no-code development platform software. On one hand, it streamlines production, but on the other it reduces development to simply checking boxes

The next generation of web apps and APIs have matured toward user-friendly interfaces, and some developers have grown worried they’re more likely to be replaced. The fact is, these changes have encouraged citizen developers to grow in numbers. Website managers must also grow with the ongoing shift toward codeless development or risk being left behind

A developer’s role isn’t being eliminated as much as it’s shifting to other parts of the development stack. For example, Drupal has systems in place for managing form fields, but their capabilities are limited. Depending on what your organization needs, you can use field formatter plugins to change its results to different currencies or apply new calculations

No one with a strong coding background wants to be the person clicking buttons to reconfigure a website. Instead, you want your developers to write the custom plugins and organize backend code in a way that empowers someone else to click those buttons

Plus, your organization needs someone with a technical mindset to provide effective governance and training for your content owners. No-code solutions through a module like Views will not necessarily make good decisions in every instance. By applying the right processes, you can empower people and give them a greater sense of ownership over your organization’s website.

Managers must balance expanding access with effective website governance

Given the right workflow, your content owners should be able to update fields, menus, and other configurations without producing anxiety in your IT department. Allowing these tasks to remain so difficult they’re only understood by specialists is not a security policy. You can’t serve your organization’s needs by ensuring every user must go through a single person to publish changes

However, permitting content owners to contribute to site development does not mean opening the floodgates. Good governance is essential to both maximizing the capabilities of a modern site platform and retaining a consistent website experience. Establishing a training program will ensure your users know the capabilities of each website module and how to deploy them properly

After users have completed training, you can expand their roles and permission levels within the CMS to make changes within restricted areas. You should also create a feature request process that allows new projects to be reviewed by your developers and internal stakeholders. Feature requests provide a transparent roadmap of your organization’s development plans. Then, once approved, the project undergoes a formal change review to verify it’s been properly built before being published

The most robust option for maintaining the health of your website’s code is to create a staging environment where all changes are first published. Once your team tests new features on the staging site, the changes can then be moved to production

When supported by effective training and workflow management, no-code tools for website management speed development and eliminate production bottlenecks. IT teams acting as the single source for development expertise may have offered more security, but that model has is now unsustainable. With a thoughtful approach to opening your development process, you can ensure your organization’s needs remain fulfilled

For more on how plugins can allow developers to keep their code organized, abstracted, and highly functional, see my “Empowering Site Owners by Developing Custom Views Plugins” presentation from Drupal Flyover Camp 2020.