Taking Web Design to the Next Level with No-Code Tools

krista image
WordPress Web Designer

Krista Aoki

We met Krista in Chiang Mai in a co-working space. Over our co-working sessions we discovered that Krista is a passionate web designer and runs her own agency. Yet she admits that she is not a coder or a developer and doesn’t have a Computer Science degree. We chatted with Krista and learned more about how she started her business and what advice she would give to people who are just starting out, what no-code tools she is using and what she thinks about the no-code movement.

Hey Krista, it’s great to have you here. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Hi, I’m Krista, I’m a WordPress website designer, and I use Elementor to build websites for coaches, bloggers, and social enterprises.

And how did you get into web design? Were you always interested in designing websites or did you sort of stumble upon it? 

It started in the early 2000s on Neopets. With Neopets you could customize the shop pages, Guild pages and pet pages, that’s where I first learned about HTML and CSS. Then my family moved to the mainland US [from Hawaii], and we kind of moved around a lot. And the way that I made friends at my new schools was by designing cool MySpace layouts for everyone. So you can say I’ve always been interested in web design. {laughs} 

But I didn’t really take this anywhere further until I started a blog a couple of years ago, which was a millennial lifestyle blog. My main goal with it was to empower millennial women to say yes to more opportunities. I was going through a period of my life where I was making really abrupt career and life decisions. People were telling me I was stupid for doing it and were questioning my decisions. So I wanted to encourage people to do this kind of stuff and the blog was my way of talking back to people.

Then my readers and friends started asking me how to make changes on their WordPress blogs and offered to pay me for it. So eventually I was like, alright, I’m ready to start building websites! I sold my first website for like $400. So, that was the start of it. 

And then a mentor took me under her wing and taught me everything that she knew. And there I was, working for her agency, designing websites and absorbing as much information as I could from her. So that’s how I got started in website design. 

What no-code tools do you use in your business? And why did you decide to use those? 

I use Elementor to build WordPress websites and use stock photography websites like Pexels and Unsplash to find images. It definitely makes my life easier to not have to code everything from scratch. 

I also really like that Elementor, for example, has a really intuitive interface, which is great both for myself and for the clients when I pass them their websites, so they can make edits in the future if needed.

I also love the template features that make it easy for you to select a pre-made design, say of a navigation bar or the footer which are fairly standard a lot of the times, and then really customize the theme to look how I want without needing to play with the code. 

So, do you know how to code?

I just know a little bit of HTML and CSS. For the CSS that I use most often, I keep a Trello board with the code so I can just refer to it when I need to.

Do you ever run into limitations when not knowing how to code?

Yes, actually this project I’m working on right now is a website for a board game lounge. One of the features they want is a directory of the board games that they own, but they want to integrate it with an API. I have no idea how to do that integration, and there isn’t a WordPress plugin available for it. So I am working with a developer on this project to customize that board game directory. And there are other limitations I’ve run into using Elementor with other projects. But as a WordPress designer, I try my best to get creative with finding a solution.

So if I run into limitations, I either get creative with finding a solution, I let the client know about the limitations of the plugins, or I outsource it to developer, like I am doing right now. But it’s definitely more cost effective to use the no-code tools rather than hiring a developer to do everything for your business. 

Do you think you can have a fully functional business only using no-code tools? 

I think that you can definitely build a fully functioning business without needing a developer. There are so many different types of tools out there. For example, you can use Zapier to automate pretty much anything. And there are so many WordPress plugins available you can do a lot with. It just depends on what the goal of the business is.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business online but doesn’t know how to code? 

I don’t think you need a developer or to be a developer to validate ideas. I think anyone can figure it out on their own. 

A good example is Pieter Levels with his website NomadList which started out as just a spreadsheet. And I see this a lot actually. That people in order to validate a need for something, they will start out with something simple, like a spreadsheet or a question on Twitter. And that’s a really good way to see if people are interested in talking about it.

Depending on what the idea is, you could create a landing page (with a lead magnet, for example, which is simply a free downloadable piece of information), put some copy on the page and encourage people to sign up for a mailing list (using an email software like Mailchimp). Seeing the conversion rates on that landing page will help you decide whether or not it’s a viable idea. 

Or you could pre-sell an ebook or an online course before you put time into it, just to see if it’s an idea that people are willing to pay for.

I feel like that’s the new approach to business. Whereas before you had to write a business plan, rent an office, hire people and only then you go to market. Now you first put together a minimal version of your future business, and then you see if there’s actually interest. That way you can know if the people are interested in what you are offering, if you are able to get people to sign up for your list or to join the waitlist, or get pre-orders on your product.

So the point is – you don’t need to have this super thought out business plan in order to see if something is going to work and you can avoid wasting a lot of time or money. This helps you to kind of organically see if people care about what you’re putting out there. 

So what would be the first step for someone who wants to start a business? 

I would encourage people to figure out creative ways to put their ideas out there. A lot of times we think our ideas can only be put out there when they are perfect, or when we have a really beautiful and complex website. But I think there’s a lot to be said for taking small steps, maybe validating your idea on Twitter (if you have a Twitter audience), Reddit, a Slack community or a Facebook group. Just summarize what you are offering and see if there is interest and kind of keep going from there. 

As for building the actual page, I recommend using a simple one page builder, like Carrd (another great no-code tool). It doesn’t have to be super complicated. I think the most important thing is to get your idea out there.

What kind of advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?

When it comes to web design, the one thing that I would tell myself is to stay organized no matter how short I think the project will be. If you want to be consistent with what you’re designing, take really meticulous notes on things like padding or the width of pages or the size of the images, etc. I think it’s really important to take meticulous notes, even if you think, oh, well, this is a short project, or I’ll remember this. It always saves a lot of time when you just take notes as you’re doing it. I take those notes on Trello – I just always have it open. 

What do you think is the future of web development? Do people still need to learn how to code or can all of the coding be replaced by the no-code tools?

That’s such a good question. I think it’s definitely hard to say because the world is so rapidly changing, but I think that the barrier to entry into the tech world for non-developers is much lower now. It’s hard to predict what could happen, for example, the rise of the no-code tools could make the skill of coding and building more complicated or custom websites more valuable in the long run. It could affect the workforce as well, like creating more no-coding jobs. We see a lot more demand for people who are not coders but are proficient in no-code tools, like, drag-and-drop editors or Zapier automations. So there’s definitely a shift there as well.

Thank you for being here, Krista! Where can people connect with you?

No-code tools and resources mentioned:

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