June 2021

How the low-code revolution is changing product design

Loomery exists to help large organisations move with startup speed. One important way we’re doing that is by utilising a new generation of low-code tools which are slashing the time it takes to get digital products to market.

Modern low-code platforms provide visual editors, templated layouts and rapid deployment, which make it possible for us to measure the time to create products in hours and days. To find out more about the low-code revolution, check out ‘We’re all developers now’ by Loomery founder Tim.

It’s obvious that low and no-code tools change the way we build products, but not enough attention has been paid to the way these tools remake how great product design gets done.

Over my first 90 days at Loomery I’ve worked in teams shipping mobile apps, building advanced prototypes, and delivering updates to our own website. I’m working closer than I ever have to the final product, and I’ve found a world of exciting new possibilities for designers and for improving the design process.

The role of design in low-code creation

It’s a common misconception that low-code will replace or reduce the importance of designers.

I consider the role of a designer to be inspiring teams to solve problems people have, create highly usable experiences, and deliver satisfaction to customers, rather than simply being a person who creates interfaces. Therefore, low-code poses no threat to my job security!

In fact, what we are finding is that in a world where it’s suddenly much easier for anyone to create an app or website, it’s now more important than ever to carefully consider the customer, their needs and experience, lest we end up in a world of poorly considered, quickly shipped, unused (and unusable) digital products.

Rather than the designer being diminished, our focus shifts and the role we play changes.

The main reason this is a revelation to me, is because the low-code approach to product development allows designers more control and ownership over their work.

Here are the ways low-code tools are changing product design and designers’ roles forever:

1. Saving time spent on repetitive tasks

As designers, far too much of our time is spent on tasks that are low value. Tools such as Figma are already making life easier, and we’re realising similar efficiency benefits throughout the product delivery process as we shift to working with more low-code tools.

Many tools are highly theme-able meaning they can be styled according to your brand's style or design system, freeing us to focus on optimising the specific nuances of an interaction.

2. Increased focus on customer needs

A huge benefit of spending less time on lower value ‘heavy lifting’ tasks is that it frees us up to focus on the things that matter the most - understanding customers and creating things that really solve their needs.

As an example, on a fairly well set-up native app development project, 25% of a designer’s time might be spent speaking to customers and exploring features that fulfil their needs and the other 75% delivering them into production. With a recent project we delivered using native app platform Adalo, it was closer to 50/50.

3. Giving us a new intimacy with the end-product

As a creator, being able to get my hands on the code in a visual medium like Webflow presents an incredible opportunity because I’m able to craft and hone the details that make a difference for the customer experience.

In my experience, when a designer can experience their design in real-time, across all platforms and breakpoints they will focus on fine-tuning the design in ways they might not have discovered otherwise. For example, rather than extensively prototyping new versions of Loomery’s website, we iteratively design and build in Webflow’s editor.

4. Requiring us to understand the tools

Unlocking these new possibilities means getting comfortable with a multitude of new tools, and becoming well-versed in the possibilities and limitations of each of them.

This understanding makes us more powerful designers, and much more able to utilise features that would otherwise take a lot of development effort, such as parallax scroll or 3D transformations. I find this hugely rewarding because I’m delivering better products faster and expanding my own skillset as I go.

5. Making us conductors rather than soloists

It has always been true that the best product teams collaborate to make significant design decisions. But we’re finding that the instant, multiplayer nature of this new era of tools blurs the line between product requirement, design decision and implementation.

This collaboration brings a diversity of perspectives and skills to our projects, but requires a far more open mode of working as a designer. We are setting the pace, and driving priorities, but ultimately it is a collective effort. I find this approach requires us to get clear on a shared vision for the product and makes work infinitely more fulfilling.

6. Enabling us to learn from live experiences

At Loomery we know that the most powerful insight comes from users living with real products, therefore our aim is to put products in customers’ hands as soon as possible.

We have been known to ship during the discovery phase, unlike some lengthy research and discovery projects that rely on product theory rather than practical application. This is all made possible since low-code enables us to put realistic, or working products in the hands of customers and stakeholders earlier than ever before. Now insights are incorporated into the product faster, and even though it may feel a little uncomfortable, we learn and grow more rapidly as a result.

7. Allowing us to iterate in smaller increments

By flipping the traditional product design and development process on its head and focusing on shipping as the beginning of the journey, you can unlock potential value previously not realised.

By launching early, your product is constantly tested in the real world, in real contexts. For us as designers this means that, rightly, there isn’t ever a moment where we are ‘finished’. In this context it’s important not to miss celebrating big milestones as a team. However our eye is always on what we’re learning and how quickly we can improve the live product.

The low-code revolution is changing product design forever and for the better.

By saving time we can focus more on the customer. By making it easy for us to get our hands under the hood we can get closer to the product and work more collaboratively. By enabling us to ship earlier and iterate faster we can learn and improve products faster.

All of these changes present exciting new challenges and opportunities for us as designers. The low-code design process becomes a team sport, and the process becomes infinitely more creative and fulfilling. That's a big step forward and something I'm proud to be a part of since it improves customer satisfaction significantly.

In a future post I’ll explore some tips and approaches for making the most of this huge new opportunity and some pitfalls to avoid.

As well, I will be speaking to other designers to get their opinion on the low code revolution and how it’s changing how they work.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the future of design and low code, feel free to get in touch joni@loomery.com or tweet us @LoomeryTeam.

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