What is low-code development?
Low-code development is what developers use to quickly design applications with very little manual coding time needed.
The logic behind low-code is straightforward and, when put into practice, uses a simple and intuitive user interface (UI). Developers can customize components with code from the UI, but low-code's overall goal is to spend less time writing custom code.
For most development teams, the ratio between visual coding and manual coding is typically 80:20 when using low-code tools. This means developers typically spend 80% of their time in a low-coding application using the low-code UI, while the other 20% will be time spent hand-coded.
What is no-code development?
No-code also uses a handy drag-and-drop feature and visual deployment. However, while low-code platforms usually cater to somewhat-knowledgeable programmers, no-code is aimed at those who don't understand programming languages.
No-code platforms are widely targeted to internal business departments who would like to build an application for a specific use case but don't have the programming knowledge or capabilities to build an app from scratch. It allows organizations to give teams what they need for application creation without rolling out any coding training.
Typical examples of no-code platforms include those that are often used for blogging purposes, such as WordPress and Canva. They have a simple and intuitive interface that is easy to use and takes away the need for a trained developer.
Low-code vs no-code: What are the differences?
Low-code and no-code platforms share the purpose of speeding up the application creation process, but are different in how they approach their goal.
The first difference is their target users, with low-code appealing to users with semi-technical knowledge and no-code appealing to those with little to no technical knowledge. Another major difference is the design of each platform. No-code platforms will usually use model-driven workflows and give users set templates. Low-code platforms, however, still form their software architecture from hard code.
The UI of low-code platforms tend to have more flexibility. This allows trained developers to manually add additional code to components they wish to change or advance. In contrast, no-code platform users have limited freedom with their abilities, which is commonly called the lock-in approach.
Features to expect from a low-code development platform
There are three main components of low-code development, and the first is a visual integrated development environment (IDE). It uses a drag-and-drop interface for developers to model workflows. Developers will usually create the majority of an app with the IDE.
The other components are connectors and application lifecycle managers.
Connectors are used across some low-code platforms to plug the platform into databases, back-end services, and APIs. They improve functionality and add a layer of extensibility to increase a platform's capabilities.
Application lifecycle management is the component in low-code development that manages the continuation of an application from beginning to end. It uses a range of tools for general code debugging, maintenance in testing, staging, production, and deployment.
One of the major benefits of low-code development is its composability. By using the visual IDE to create a component, it can then be used again in different situations. Having these reusable and pre-built features will further reduce time spent with manual hand-coding for future application projects, improving efficiency.
In many cases, apps that use a low-code platform can be built with cross-platform accessibility. Your internal developers and other staff users can access the interface from wherever they are based, whether in the office or at home.
Features to expect from a no-code development platform
Similar to low-code, no-code platforms also use drag-and-drop interfaces to build simple and easy-to-use software applications. This is the main reason why no-code has become so popular, as app creators with no previous knowledge or experience can simply choose the function they want to build into their app and drop it in.
In most cases, a no-code platform will come with predetermined connectors. These plug into a separate database that essentially keeps an application running.
If you are hoping to build a blog and don't understand coding, you would likely benefit from a no-code platform. You'll still get to set up your application yourself, but you won't have to go into the great detail required when building an app from scratch.
Pros and cons of low-code development
- Improved speed – Low-code allows you to make solutions across a range of platforms at once to demonstrate a functioning minimum viable product (MVP) to stakeholders in a short amount of time.
- Saves resources – Because low-code is so easy to use, app creators don't have to wait for expert coders to help. Instead, they can save time and valuable resources by getting things done quickly and lower costs.
- Simple deployment – App creators can easily roll back changes when the product is launched if there are any issues. Bugs can be quickly fixed with just a few simple clicks.
- Limited functionality – Low-code platforms have a limited number of functions, meaning the app creator doesn't have complete freedom or flexibility with what other functions they might want to bring in.
- Unaccommodating for complex business logic – Once you pass the prototyping stage, the business logic of your product increases in complexity. This is where hand-coding is needed, as things can only continue to develop with the knowledge and skills of expert programmers.
- Security limitations – Pre-built low-code platforms have some pre-existing security protocols, but these are limited. For additional security measures that suit your unique needs, you would need to invest in standalone development technologies.
Pros and cons of no-code development
- Increased productivity – No-code platforms allow users to build apps much faster. This means your IT employees can spend their valuable time elsewhere.
- Reduced cost – Because no-code is easy to use, you don't need to spend money employing an internal developer, allowing you to build apps at a reduced rate.
- Better agility – The drag-and-drop interface used across no-code platforms is easy to use, which improves its overall agility. Any testing stages are completed automatically, which reduces time spent on manual development.
- Template limitations – No-code platforms only offer rigid templates because all the coding is complete. They can't be amended, so you won't have the creative freedom to set up your app and add additional logic.
- Unknown source code – Not knowing or understanding the source code of your original platform can cause problems later on, especially if you eventually choose to move away from no-code development platforms. Should you ever come across a problem that can't be fixed by test automation[HS3] , you would need to go directly to the platform vendor for their help.
- Limited use cases – The constraints of tools across no-code platforms are unlikely to suit the ever-changing and advancing requirements of a user, especially when their needs might develop past the abilities of no-code.
No-code can also play into shadow IT, which happens when software is used and created without the knowledge and approval of developers. This can lead to security problems and compliance issues.
When to use low-code and no-code
While both low-code and no-code platforms share the intention of speed, they are often used in different ways.
Low-coding platforms tend to be better suited for singular web and mobile applications that require other data sources and systems. If you work with sophisticated systems that integrate with other data sources, and a variety of back-ends, you will likely benefit from low-code.
In contrast, no-coding platforms should only be used for the more simplistic front-end use cases. These are basic applications that don't require additional coding, so are better suited to businesses that need to build applications quickly and without the need for customization.
Both low-code and no-code platforms share the similarity of replacing traditional code with visual elements, making them easier for the average person to use.
There are cases where low-code/no-code wouldn't be applicable, such as complex business processes. Use cases like this usually involve multiple changing facets that aren't easy to accommodate.
However, there are at least two viable reasons to use low-code/no-code, and those are workflow automation and customer services.
For workflow automation
Generally, low-code/no-code tools make automatic actions, easily connecting web applications. Because they are so intuitive, they are popular for workflow automation. Areas like workflow need to be automated to ensure business projects run smoothly and efficiently, especially in cases where a company doesn't have internal development resources.
Zapier, for example, is a low-code solution that pushes leads and accommodates workflow automation. If a user on their website starts on a digital form, they can push the lead to their main marketing platform.
For customer services
Many low-code platforms can be used to enhance a user's customer service offering. Before the advancement of recent technologies, if a customer sent a request or question through a platform, developers would need to manage and review them manually.
Now, thanks to low-code front-end development, the process of managing customer service questions can be completely automated. This means they can be categorized into specific criteria and be reviewed by the right people.
A good example of how low-code can help with customer service is Zendesk, which allows users to create a customer support system with self-management tools without doing any hand-coding. Tools like these can be integrated with web experience platforms to enhance customer services.