My company, Agile Dynamics, has spent decades automating workflows for clients in finance, aerospace and clinical research (where everything is subject to strict audits).
We have used almost every tool out there to find the ‘magic solution’. Full-stack traditional programming is very slow and expensive with only so-so results.
Spreadsheets with a small number of macros have been the fastest and cheapest and most flexible way to go. So, we thought the new NO-CODE tools would be even better! But alas, not so.
With spreadsheets, the users themselves can create and modify workflows as they have the business expertise AND the spreadsheet experience to be self-sufficient.
So we tried to introduce them to Bubble, AppGyver, Thunkable, Carrd, Webflow, Glide, and Airtable. But they did not find them useful - it turns out that the way spreadsheets work is ideal. Its the ability to build tables and worksheets, toss in some formulas, add a smidgen of macros - and get a quick workable solution with no bugs.
Something about the way formulas work and how tables can be edited by users was where the magic lay. The no-code tools we tried had GREAT user interface designers (pixel-perfect layouts etc), but the business logic was very hard to implement. And Airtable didnt allow the easy rich-text document-like information-rich content-management that is vital to these business processes.
But Notion WAS seen as a good solution. Tables and rich-text combined. Easy to build and modify workflows. They LOVED it! We couldn’t understand why at first.
They quickly discovered severe limitations in Notion:
- the formula language is horrible and very limited (these users are spreadsheet whizz-kids)
- the inputting of new records into the tables is not ‘locked-down’
so users can select the wrong templates and even create child-records that are not properly linked to the parent records etc (‘widows’ and ‘orphans’).
- there are NO automations like macros or buttons. even recent new features do not help.
So when we introduced them to Coda - they LOVED it. All the capabilities they needed AND it behaves like a cross between Word and Excel.
- the Coda Formula Language is a delight - easy to write and understand and has all the features
- all data input operations can be managed thru Dialogs and Forms with validation logic
- buttons are easy to add exactly where they are needed
- automations triggered by new rows, data-changes, time-of-day, day-of-month, external triggers
- unlike spreadsheet macros; Coda uses the same formula language for automations - brilliant!
So our spreadsheet whizz-kids can build the automations they require just as quickly as with spreadsheets+macros BUT the user-interface is WAY better than spreadsheets.
And we can integrate easily with Make.com and Zapier to extent the no-code paradigm farther.
So Coda became the one-and-only no-code (actually its low-code) platform for our clients and we are migrating spreadsheet-based workflows over to Coda.
One downside of Coda is the Mobile runtime which is extremely odd. But we found ways to manage that. It is possible (using tricks and gimmicks) to build a workable mobile version of your workflows. Not easy. But doable. For tablet users, we bypass the mobile app and use the desktop browser interface.
We have had several clients who were NOT spreadsheet whizz-kids and thus found the learning curve for Coda to be too steep - not worth the candle - so they have gone back to Notion.
So I see Notion as the kids-play-sand-pit where they are safe and comfortable (because you cant do very much) and I see Coda as the adults maker-lab with all the power tools and big-assed materials needed for serious projects.