How Workspaces Unleashes the Power of No-Code

Why Workspaces is Like LEGOs

Unqork UX Designer Michael Lin explains how the development and promise of Workspaces, a new mental wayfinding system for organizing no-code apps in an inherently collaborative ecosystem of configurable, reusable elements.

 

Unqork empowers organizations to build applications faster, with higher quality, and at lower costs compared to traditional approaches (which probably explains our platform’s sharp increase in popularity recently). 

Not only are a growing number of organizations tapping into the power of Unqork, but it’s interesting to note how organizations are using it. It’s not uncommon for an enterprise to begin using Unqork to develop a single app within a single business unit and then expand across the organization after realizing the benefits of no-code. (That’s how we get ‘cha.) Another important element is who is using it. The platform is—by design—meant to be tapped by a wide spectrum of users (or “Creators” as we refer to them), including those in non-IT roles. 

The speed and power of no-code come from assembling (or drag-and-dropping) repeatable elements to design applications. It’s not entirely different than building a project using LEGOs. 

Expanded use within an organization brings the potential for collaboration and acceleration, but also for complexity and disorganization. That’s why earlier this year, the Unqork Platform team began exploring designs to bring structure to team spaces and help our customers efficiently manage multiple projects, teams, and Creators while still maintaining the accessibility, flexibility, and speed. 

Design and Information Architecture at All Scales

The speed and power of no-code come from assembling (or drag-and-dropping) repeatable elements to design applications. It’s not entirely different than building a project using LEGOs. 

It can be a lot of fun to use pieces from all different LEGO sets together. If you’re not overly concerned about the final product, it doesn’t matter how you organize your pieces, really. However, let’s say that you are feeling particularly ambitious one day and want to, for example, build a Star Wars project featuring an individual scene from each canonical movie. (Ambitious, right?) 

Taking on this project when hundreds of pieces are mixed in different bins would be extremely difficult. You would waste a lot of time, just finding the pieces you need. Before even getting started building, you’re gonna have to get organized.

To start, you’ll need to claim a space in your play area that is for this project and this project alone, so get those Lincoln Logs and Hungry Hungry Hippos out of the way. Next, you need to organize all your LEGO pieces so you can easily find what you need. So you begin by gathering up all the pieces from your official Star Wars sets, along with any other pieces that conceivably might be useful. At the same time, you begin setting aside all the pieces that you definitely won’t be using (e.g., all those vampires, cowboys, and racecars can be placed to the side for now). Now you can easily find the pieces you want, which will make building your project easier and faster.

All your organizational work, however, will be for nothing if you aren’t able to maintain the order you created. Let’s say you enlist the help of all your siblings and cousins to help out with this ambitious project. If they’re going to help, then they need to keep the order, too! You don’t want them to lose your AT-AT Walker pieces by moving them out of your Star Wars work zone nor do you want them going rogue and bringing in non-canonic characters into the scenes. 

A clearly marked, easy-to-navigate organizational system defined by you and your team, allows everyone to build in an efficient manner. You, of course, don’t have the resources to oversee that the organization is maintained. (I’m going to ask for your indulgence as I stretch our metaphor out in this next part.) Now imagine your helpers will be accessing the workspace when you’re not around, maybe even on different shifts on a 24-hour schedule. All your friends will need an easy-to-understand system so they know where things can be found—and where they should be left—even when you’re not around. 

Demo: Watch Workspace in action.

Now that you were able to keep your Star Wars workspace and team neat and organized, you’ve eliminated needless complexity and headaches. As strange as it might seem, this is the same type of issue we were faced at Unqork, which we addressed with a similar solution.

The Flatness Problem

When it came to bringing order from the chaos on our platform powered by reusable elements, our approach wasn’t so different from those of our budding LEGO artist. Working within a collaborative assembly-based system can become chaotic unless you organize all your parts in a reliable way that makes sense to your team and helps them find what they need more easily.

When you’re talking about how elements are organized in a digital ecosystem, you’re talking about Information Architecture (IA), and when you’re talking about how people interact with those pieces you’re talking about User Experience (UX) Design. 

To begin our process of establishing order, we conducted a thorough audit so we could get an understanding of all the different types of stuff on our platform (modules, styles, data, etc) and how they were being used. After concluding our audit we were able to identify a fundamental IA issue on the platform: It was very flat. 

In an IA context, “flat” means there’s little organizational structure in place. A flat IA can be great for flexibility because any Creator can easily access any element, but it can also cause problems—because, well, any Creator can easily access any element. Productivity suffers when Creators are overwhelmed by too many elements that are scattered at the same level. 

From a UX perspective, there wasn’t a readily available way for administrators or Creators to oversee and “understand” all the elements that were being used in any individual app, which made it difficult to go about development in an organized fashion.

After a lot of hard work, we came up with creating virtual space that serves as a basecamp for teams to organize and manage the materials they need for any given project: Unqork Workspaces.

Workspaces to the Rescue

Unqork’s Workspaces experience provides a centralized hub for projects that administrators can use to easily (and visually) organize individual application elements as well as partition out parts of a complex project for easier management. 

There are many creative ways to use Workspaces to organize your work. For example, a single “workspace” may be used to contain a single app or multiple apps related to the same project. A workspace may also be used to organize one of many parts to a project. In that case, multiple workspaces come together to form the project. 

This is crucial for organizations that are using Unqork across multiple business areas. An Insurance Provider, for example, may use Unqork to design applications for completely different business areas, e.g. Auto Insurance, Marine Insurance, Health Insurance, and Life Insurance. 

By grouping relevant applications and app elements (modules, workflows, or reference data), teams can easily find what they need. To continue the insurance example above, using Workspaces, the Auto team will have easy access to all the relevant reusable elements (e.g., driver license number lookup) as well as more general elements used by all teams (e.g., the parent company’s logo). However, the Auto team would not necessarily need to have access to any elements that were not relevant to their business, e.g., dynamic HIPAA-compliance engine used by the Health team. 

Workspaces makes it easy for administrators to see what elements are associated with which teams and projects, and allows all Creators to see through a visual designation which elements are “shared.” 

By partitioning projects and teams, companies can take an organized approach to collaboration and reusability. For example, say the Marine insurance team designs a handy user-survey form, Workspaces will allow them to create a shared element that all teams can use to configure to their needs. 

One of the most exciting things about no-code in general, and Unqork in particular, is how it empowers individuals to build powerful tools even without years of experience. With Workspaces, we’ve found a way to harness the access and reach that comes from no-code-powered digital democratization for individuals while enabling self-organization amongst teams to help them collaborate more effectively.

Workspaces will be available for all users in the coming weeks. Keep a look out!

 

About the Author

Michael Lin

Michael is a Lead UX Designer with the Platform team at Unqork who pays close attention to people and pixels. He works with his team to create experiences that empower Unqork Creators.

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