Customer built software
In his article, David explains that the recent acceleration of no-code tools in the B2B software space is pushing a new trend that he calls “customer built software”.
The idea behind this term is that B2B software has evolved over time from on premise software to cloud based software and its latest iteration is to enable users to build themselves the tools they need instead of consuming finished products which are the same for every user.
Being able to build your own internal tools was something previously accessible only to developers. But the rise of no-code software in an increasing number of categories means that more and more employees, from marketers to customer support teams, can create the tools they want, tailored to their specific needs. Hence the term “customer-built” software.
A parallel between no-code software and no-code video games
A similar movement has existed in the video-game industry for decades.This type of games is called sandbox video games and they enable players to create their own experience by providing them with building blocks that they can rearrange themselves. The most successful examples that most people know are Second life, Minecraft or Roblox. These games don’t provide a defined story or a rigid gameplay but rather tools that players use to create their own unique experience. In a sense it’s similar to what B2B no-code tools offer to employees, except to build your own software.
And I believe that there’s an interesting parallel to draw between the two.
1- The hierarchy of builders. One thing is clear, is that not everyone is a builder. Many players are repealed by sandbox video games because they prefer to follow a written story and achieve clear goals. Creating your own experience takes a special mindset, and similar to many areas, it follows a pareto type of distribution with a minority of players who are builders and contribute to create things. The more creative and advanced, the fewer they are.
I believe it’s the same thing with no-code tools. You have a minority of users who are “power builders” and the vast majority will create very basic stuff or use the tools created by the power users.
2- Easy to learn, hard to master. Following the previous point, there’s a common rule that sandbox video games follow and it’s the “Easy to learn but hard to master”. It means that it should be super easy to get started and everyone can create things quickly, but at the same time the game should offer enough depth to let the advanced builders build very complex stuff. If it stays at the surface, it will not appeal to the power builders.
Again I believe that this rule also applies to no-code tools. They need to offer products which are easy to get started with, but at the same time let users build advanced stuff if they need to.
3- Community and reward. If you look at the most successful “pure sandbox games” such as Roblox, Minecraft or even second life, you’ll notice that these are multiplayer games. Most of the time, the power builders are not motivated solely by the act of building, but rather by the fact that they can share what they create with other users. And very often these users are the ones who don’t like to build. So you have a self reinforcing loop where the more normal users you have, the more power builders will be motivated to create and share amazing experiences, which in turn will attract more normal users. Solo player sandbox games do exist, but they are much more niche.
Again, I believe that it’s the same thing with no-code B2B software. The most powerful ones are the no-code tools that let builders share the tools they create with their colleagues or with the community. This is why Airtable or Notion templates are so popular. The biggest reward for builders is to see other people use their creation, so the reward mechanism is extremely important for B2B no-code tools too.