When it comes to making your business more efficient, automation is an incredibly useful thing to make use of. Those time-intensive, boring and tedious tasks that you’ve become used to doing manually can suddenly be achieved instantly without a human in sight. Here’s the lowdown on no-code automation builders.
An automation essentially connects two pieces of software. Think: an analytics platform and a spreadsheet tool, or a customer relationship management (CRM) system and an email platform. It basically consists of a “trigger” and an “action.” The trigger might be something like a customer signing up for an email list; the action, a customer getting an email response immediately, happens automatically.
The world of automation can do more than that though – you can link multiple automations and multiple pieces of software to create complex automated workflows. In the example above, you could set up additional automations to add that customer’s details to your CRM or enter the email sign-up data into a customer behaviour analytics system.
The business case for automation is clear: it helps you do more, faster, using far less manpower. Until quite recently, automation required coding by hand — and expensive engineering talent — to set up. No-code automation builders have made it possible to set up your own automated workflows incredibly easily.
The problem is choosing which tool to use. You need to be able to choose the automation tool that connects to the types of software you use, allows you to set up the workflows you need, and is priced in a range your business can afford. This guide is here to help you understand what each tool does and evaluate whether it might be a good addition to your business.
2. Why create automations for your business with no-code
Automation does what people do, but faster and more accurately, freeing up your team’s precious time. Pretty much any time one piece of software interacts with another piece of software is an opportunity for automation. It makes sense to automate frequent or repetitive tasks that don’t require human judgment and any task that involves managing databases or moving data from one place to another.
You save time and money
Creating automations that handle common repetitive tasks, frees up your team’s time and saves your business money. Automating your employee’s most time-consuming work can reduce labour costs and ensure their time is spent on the more business-critical tasks you’ve hired them for. Automated workflows can even replace some of the paid software your business uses.
It improves employee job satisfaction
The tasks that are the best candidates for automation are the ones that are often the least fun to do. Automating those frustrating or boring tasks makes employees more productive and can improve job satisfaction. You want your employees to spend their time on stuff that requires human creativity, skill, and judgement.
It increases your data accuracy
Automation is faster and more accurate than human execution. If a human is copying data from one place to another, there’s always the opportunity for errors. Automation doesn’t have that problem. That means analytics, databases, and spreadsheets are perfect for automation.
You can create the tools you actually need
Encouraging your team to get comfortable with no-code automation builders means that employees can basically improve their work at every level. From company-wide automated workflows to team-specific automations to automations that help an individual’s daily work.
Once team members get comfortable with automation tools, they can create workflows that make their own tasks and daily work more efficient. They can build automations to manage their inboxes, set reminders for themselves, and whatever other work is on their plates.
3. What to consider when choosing an automation builder
There are plenty of automation tools available, and they often operate differently or create very different types of automations. When choosing, you need to evaluate whether it will integrate with the tools you use, create the types of automations you need, and fit your skillset and budget. The right automation builder for your needs may even be a combination of two or more tools.
What specific use cases is it designed for?
Comparing automation tools can be like comparing apples to oranges. Since automation is based so much on tools and integration, a lot of no-code automation builders are very dissimilar in function. Some, like Zapier, are capable of connecting to almost any kind of software. Others do just one specific thing, like spreadsheet or database management, extremely well.
Your business may want to consider using multiple automation solutions for specific tasks. Some of the unique tasks a tool might handle include:
Smart device connectivity
Which integrations does it offer?
Which integrations an automation tool offers is a critical feature to consider. Not all tools offer a wide range of integrations. When selecting an automation builder, look for one that integrates with the tools you’re already using. If you already have apps for spreadsheets, email, analytics, customer management, and social media accounts, you need to make sure your automations can use those tools.
Automations usually work by connecting different tools to each other to make them more powerful than they would be alone. The more integrations your automation builder supports, the more options you’ll have for building automated workflows that will be useful for you.
Ease of use vs. complexity and design freedom
Some automation tools are easy to learn and come with simple, straightforward interfaces. Others may have a more complex interface that’s harder to build automations on. And some might be categorised as low-code rather than no-code and actually require the user to have some technical background to use them.
If your team is fairly non-technical, you may want to choose an easier-to-use automation builder. Lots of tools offer templates that make it very simple to create an automation workflow in a single click. Of course, automations with a single trigger/action will be easier to make.
You may want to build automations that contain multiple tools, triggers, and actions. You may also need to include some logic to make your automations more sophisticated. If you’re going to want to build these more specialised workflows, it may be worth taking the time to train your team on how to use a more complex tool.
How much will it cost to run the automation you need?
Automation tools have a wide range of pricing structures and capabilities. Some tools are inexpensive or even offer a free plan that may be enough for a simple use case. Other tools are expensive or offer more expensive tiers for added functionality. If you want to integrate multiple tools, have many automations run frequently, or have multiple user access, you can expect to pay more.
4. The best no-code automation builders
Here we go: our roundup of the best automation builders for businesses, including breakdowns that’ll help you evaluate which is the right tool for you.
Zapier is the best-known and most capable automation tool on the market right now. It has an easy-to-use interface, great support, a huge ecosystem of experts, and a long list of integrations and automations (called “Zaps”).
Unfortunately, it’s also pretty overpriced compared to the competition. Zapier workflows are also less customisable. You can’t design whatever logic you like since Zapier workflows are limited to linear connections between tools.
Lots of automations available
Provides automation templates
Fácil de usar
Less customisation in logic
It’s best for…
Anyone with a budget who needs to create automations with lots of options for integrations and workflows.
Make (formerly known as Integromat) is one of Zapier’s closest competitors. It has a more complicated interface and pricing model but often ends up cheaper overall and has more customisability in the logic you’re able to use. For someone struggling to make something custom work in Zapier, Make can be the solution. The company offers fewer experts and tutorials to help its users figure out integration, which can make it less friendly for beginners.
More customisable logic
Can be cheaper than Zapier for an equivalent product
Fewer tutorials and customer support
Slightly more complex interface
It’s best for…
Those who have some technical skill and need a high level of customisation and functionality.
Parabola allows you to transform huge quantities of data. It works a little differently than most of the tools on this list. Most automation tools work on a trigger basis to perform an action with a single piece of data (eg, when a user signs up, you use Zapier to add them to your database). Parabola instead lets you manipulate large quantities of data at scale. It’s a powerful tool, able to build complex logic situations and process hundreds of thousands of lines of data.
Parabola has a simple interface, a small but thriving ecosystem of integrations, and lots of user support. It’s on the lower end of pricing compared to some of the tools on this list but has a very functional free tier.
Only tool capable of manipulating large quantities of data
Good user support
Easy to use for a beginner
Not good for creating simple automated triggers
Hard to master
It’s best for…
Those who need to automate large quantities of data with complex logic.
Actiondesk is an automation tool specifically designed for spreadsheets. It allows you to add and manipulate data with automations in an Excel-style interface. A common use case for Actiondesk might be pulling Shopify sales data into a spreadsheet to work with. The tool is fairly simple to use, though it is limited to spreadsheet automation, and the pricing is steep.
Excellent tool for automating spreadsheets
Fácil de usar
Limited to a specific functionality
It’s best for…
Automating spreadsheets and manipulating data for those with a generous budget to spare.
Processica Apps (part of the larger Processica platform) is an automation tool which has deep integrations with Microsoft products, making it a great choice for businesses tied into the Microsoft ecosystem. It connects within the Microsoft Teams environment to automate SMS messages, notifications, and newsletters.
It’s not a great option for anyone outside of that specific use case. It’s not as powerful as Zapier, has few integrations beyond the Microsoft ecosystem, and its website and support are confusing and difficult to navigate.
Works well in Microsoft Teams
Effective communication-specific automations
Only works within Microsoft Teams
It’s best for…
Large organisations using Microsoft Teams who need communications automation.
Microsoft offers its own automation tool with Microsoft Power Automate. It’s a fully-free tool with lots of customer support, templates, and additional features like bot creation and even AI features. It integrates seamlessly with the Microsoft suite.
The downside is Power Automate is designed for the largest of enterprise businesses and is priced to match. Like Microsoft’s Power Apps, it’s challenging to use and should probably be classified as a low-code tool rather than a true no-code. You will get better results from this tool if you have some technical expertise on your team.
Integrates with the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem
Powerful automations with lots of customisation
It may require technical skill to use
It’s best for…
Businesses with large budgets and technically skilled teams.
IFTTT is like Zapier but with specific “Internet of Things” (IoT) device connections. It can connect to smart devices of all kinds, such as Alexa, Apple Watch, Sonos, or even home appliances like iRobot Roombas or Philips Hue lightbulbs. There are lots of useful automations you can create for work and life by connecting these devices. While IFTTT is much less powerful for automations overall, it has the advantage of being incredibly inexpensive.
Cheap. Very, very cheap
The only tool that focuses on connecting to smart devices
Less business-focused – more useful for consumer activities like automating lights or getting weather info
It’s best for…
Anyone who uses smart devices and wants to extend their capabilities by connecting them to automations.
n8n is very similar to Zapier and Make/Integromat, but with fewer automations, a smaller ecosystem (only offering 363 integrations vs. Zapier’s 5,000+), and less support. Why do we mention it? Because it’s open source, which allows you a much greater degree of freedom while using it. It’s also self-hosted, so you have more control over the tool, and it’s a much cheaper option than most of the tools on this list.
Can be self-hosted
It’s best for…
Those who have a limited budget and limited needs.
Axiom is an honorary mention here. It’s what’s known as a “robotic process automation” platform rather than a traditional automation platform. What that means is that Axiom’s “bot” imitates how a human interacts with digital systems and software. A bot is harder to set up than a standard Zapier automation, though Axiom itself is a fairly easy platform to use.
The advantage of a bot is that it can handle tedious or repetitive tasks – stuff that a human would ordinarily have to perform – much faster and without getting bored. Axiom’s website has a great intro to bots, explaining what they are and how they can be helpful. Axiom can be used to create bots for manual form entry, entering records into a CRM, producing content, monitoring prices, and more.
Easy to learn
Has “bot” capabilities that extend functionality
Not a true automation platform
It’s best for…
Businesses that need to use bots to automate processes in a human-like way.
It’s more than likely there are a couple of questions you still need answering.
• What is a Zap/Trigger/Applet/Flow/Operation?
A lot of automation tools create a name for a single automation that makes it easier to talk about. No-code is new enough that we’re still developing a shared language around its tools.
In Zapier, an automation (consisting of a trigger and an action) is a “Zap.” Other tools like Microsoft Power Automate and Parabola call them “Flows.” They all essentially mean the same thing. If you see an unfamiliar word in discussions of a particular tool, check out its FAQ. It may be one of the company’s proprietary vocab words.
• Can I make apps with no-code automation tools?
Yes! There’s a lot of crossover between automation builders and no-code app builders. Zapier is such a widely flexible app that many people include it in the same discussions as a type of app builder. Take the time to explore all the capabilities of whatever no-code tool you choose. You’ll often find it can build more helpful things for your business than you expected.
• What kinds of tools can you connect with automations?
Automation can connect almost any software to almost any other software. If there’s a piece of software your business uses regularly, there is a good chance an automation tool can make it more useful. Here are just a few common examples:
Payment processing programs
Record keeping apps
Form builders and survey tools
What is a Zap/Trigger/Applet/Flow/Operation?
Can I make apps with no-code automation tools?
What kinds of tools can you connect with automations?