How to develop mobile apps without coding skills

Maureen Ochieng displays an app ​she created on her phone within 40 minutes during an interview with the Nation at Nation Centre in Nairobi. PHOTO | FAUSTINE NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Maureen Achieng is in the process of creating an online varsity to train Africans on no-code app development dynamics.
  • Mr Harry Mwailengo, the manager at Sote Hub in Voi expounds that no-code and low-code mostly uses visual development environments for beginners to quickly learn how to create apps and websites without having technical knowledge of coding.

The global necessity to place populations under total and partial lockdowns due to Covid-19 has opened new opportunities in the digital arena to innovate solutions that appear to adapt to future technological changes.

One area that is seeing thousands of innovations around a number of challenges to enable companies survive in the current recession is the mobile app development field.

An upsurge in no-code and low-code app and website development has been witnessed during the Covid-19 period, with ladies getting involved in the frontline mission of preparing the tech industry for the next wave of coding disruption in Kenya.

World over, traditional modes of creating an app are now being abandoned because they rely on hard core coding that takes longer to deliver a project, in a new global order where solutions are needed as soon as challenges arise.

"It is not only slow, it is more expensive, less mobile responsive, has bugs and tiresome. People must forget all traditional mindsets in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including coding," Ms Maureen Achieng, who has created an online platform to train Africans no-code app development dynamics, tells the Nation.

In the past four months, she has been holed up in her house at Westlands, Nairobi training Kenyans how to create apps of better quality, faster and with less strain.

"I train them remotely from 9pm to 10pm from Monday to Sunday for four weeks. I also give an extension of one week for slower learners," says the 30-year-old, revealing that she makes good money from the venture.

But how did she become an authority and a master of such a new field that is not taught in any Kenyan or global university?

Just like any other Kenyan youth, being cash strapped places you in a difficult financial situation, where you have to think outside the box to survive.

"I thought of an app to sell new quality bags. But then I did not know how to code. I started researching online and luckily I met a friend in the United Sates who taught me how to make apps without coding," Ms Achieng narrates, recalling that she had to let her apartment via Airbnb to raise fees to pay for the training.

She signed up for a six-month online course, waking up for the lessons at 3am and concentrating till 7.30am every Tuesday and 1pm to 1am every Saturday.

TOOLS USED

"We were 70 of us learning different app tools, and they were very engaging. I was the only one from Africa. We were trained on how to use tools like Bubble, Appsheet, Mighty Networks, Cloud Match, Sharetribe, Glide, Spark AR and Zapier," she explains.

She has been using a combination of these tools to develop apps and place them on Google Playstore and she reveals that depending on the complexity of an idea to create an app, it only takes between 20 minutes and two hours to complete simple ones and up to seven days for complicated solutions that need more integration.

"With no-code development, we have ready templates, where you only drag and drop, copy and paste. With low-code, there is some little coding to polish the projects but most of it requires no code."

While such tools have been developed by experienced Python developers, the world is moving towards easier ways of coding, where little knowledge is needed to launch an outstanding app.

To sign up to her training, you are required to purchase an e-book to prove your commitment and learn the tenets of no-code development.

"For integrated solutions, most developers charge upto Sh1 million and that takes them months to justify the price. Sadly, quality is not quaranteed. I charge much less," Ms Achieng says.

MORE DISRUPTION

Mr Savio Wambugu, founder of Mount Kenya Hub, and a developer says that low-code and no-code technology will make software itself even more ubiquitous in this decade.

"Every business that is interested in solving business problems, improving productivity and making impact will need these platforms in customizing and tailor making their own efficient business applications in the last innovation curve," he told the Nation.

He adds that businesses have been forced to fit into the expensive system they are purchasing. They have had to pay a lot of money for customization for the system to fit them.

"These softwares will close the existing gap between the available applications and the recommended applications by just giving the user the power to customize processes without coding skills," he says.

Mr Harry Mwailengo, the manager at Sote Hub in Voi expounds that no-code and low-code mostly uses visual development environments for beginners to quickly learn how to create apps and websites without having technical knowledge of coding.

"This has proven to the world that everyone can code, hence disrupting the industry that was dominated by geeks by reducing the cost of hiring developers. It has allowed many apps and websites to be developed and rapidly deployed. This should be scaled up in Kenya to boost innovation and creativity among the youth," he explains.

CLOSING THE GAP

According to Kesholabs chief marketing officer Ms Roselyne Wanjiru, no-code skills will bridge the gender gap in mobile programming, a field dominated by men.

"It is motivating to see a woman leading in a new disruption phase of computer programming.  While the gender gap wher only 30 percent of women are in technical careers, various milestones must be appreciated for their contribution to attracting more women to the tech industry," she says.

Community based initiatives in Kenya such as Akirachix and Tunapanda have worked to inspire, train and empower a new generation of students with technical and entrepreneurial skills, thereby increasing the number of role models for young women aspiring towards tech careers.

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