No code

Last year at Phillips we created a new division of the business with the goal to sell art in the middle market. Limited editions of works that could be easily purchased without auction. There’s a pickle of systems in auction businesses and building an ecom platform from scratch or deeply integrating one would have delayed go to market time beyond feasibility. We championed for Shopify, lightly integrated with existing payment services. More interestingly, we constrained the design of the experience to only using Shopify’s core theme Dawn, no-code and no front-end engineers. This prevented the project taking Engineer time away from critical auction projects, zeroed out any contractor costs and allowed the Experience Design & Research team to move fast autonomously. You can visit the shop here.

This planted the seed for me to finally visit WordPress no code for my self-initiated projects. For the last few years I’d been ignoring WordPress updates. I’m very much stuck in time when it comes to making webpages. This current site is all designed in Figma and then I spend way too long trying to achieve the designs using my outdated front end knowledge and ACF layouts. I’m always scared that if I open the door to modern techniques I will spend all my time experimenting and learning without publishing anything remotely close to the designs.

I created a new press over at and I’ve been watching the talented Jamie Marshall on his channel to wrap my head around the model, controls and workflow to build and design what I want. I came across Jamie via Matt Mullenweg’s blog post where Jamie rebuilds TechCrunch in 30 minutes using the no code approach. My plan is to keep putting the time into the styles and templates to the point I can transfer over a no code build to this primary url.

It’ll be extraordinary to see where no code solutions get to in the next few years. The market competition and feature set is really strong, blogging and self hosting is growing again each year and I do start to wonder how much the code side of my skills really matter now. Perhaps, its knowing just enough that I can add those few lines of modifications each time that I get exactly what I intended but with only managing snippets not tens of code files.

Finally, it gets me wondering, when this url is running no code, what will I be trying out in my playground subdomain area?


Written by
Lawrence Brown on 23rd January 2024

Make it more uncomfortable

Recently, I’ve been thinking about when is the best time to get someones attention. How could your message be interpreted and received by editing simple variables?

I walk past this campaign / idea / initiative(?) every day

It’s very pretty. Well done Design team. Pretty stuff is the big idea of the Westfield mall. However, I can’t help feeling there are two huge opportunities missed here, and perhaps a vacant mall unit is not the place for this…

  1. Why are there no actual signs of homelessness here — just this sign?
  2. Why isn’t this positioned where dwell time meets audiences consideration — paying for your parking, walking out of the mall, next to the actual pavement?

I’m going to take a bet why.

Because it’s too uncomfortable for these brands to have these reminders next to your shopping session, the brief was about being pretty next to the other pretty retailers +use RFID please.

How effective is this thing if it’s not actually stopping people?

The space should be used to rotate a real story, a real person and real objects, that you have to really deal with as you pass through.

Make it more uncomfortable.

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 16th July 2019

Design challenges: Why ‘how’s it going?’ is the worst question to ask

When you have a design or business problem to solve, what steps do you take?

  • Do you get your head down and sketch out ideas?
  • Do you turn to the internet for inspiration?
  • Do you talk to anyone who will listen?

Before you do anything, firstly, see if you’re thinking about the entire ‘thing’.

A buddy taught me a problem solving model he uses daily:
[Problems, Plan, Progress], shorthand — PPP. He’s a doctor working in A&E. Emergency wards are fast paced, critical and stressful environments. The conversations he has with patients and his colleagues must be responsive, structured and analytical.

By contrast, problem solving a design solution allows open, ambient and sometimes irrelevant communication. Shooting the shit. Which is fine, if we’re getting closer to the answer and we’re remembering to question the problem. It’s doubtful anyone’s life is on the line in a design review*.

The PPP model might feel specific to doctors, but it’s transferable and helps force you into holistic thinking.

Broken down:

  1. What do you think is the problem? Why are you right?
  2. Using your experience and expertise, what is your plan for solving this and what have you done so far?
  3. Are you right? Is the problem solved or are we seeing an improvement?

Why is the model robust?

  • It forces you to describe the full picture in 3 sentences, not just focusing on your amazing (proposed) plan
  • It communicates time and status
  • It opens discussion for improvement
  • It is transferrable to colleagues, no lone rangers here
  • It is not subjective

Too often when we focus on problem solving we have a bias to the activity of just ‘doing’. PPP forces you to continuously monitor not only your evaluation of the problem but the efficiency of your answer.

Asking ‘how’s it going?’ often won’t tell you much about what’s actually going on.

*Some designers will tell you they have been close

Written by
Lawrence Brown on 13th January 2017