What is low-code and no-code? How to build apps using low-code and no-code tools? What are the pros and cons of this increasingly popular way of application development? What are practical examples of low-code and no-code in use? You will find all the answers below.
What is no-code?
No-code is an approach to building applications without coding.
This can be done by using no-code development platforms (NCDP) that allow users with no coding skills to create applications.
Non-programmers, or so-called novice developers, can make applications using visual elements like drag and drop features within intuitive user interfaces. Those are often business users who know business requirements and want to build an application that meets needs and demands quickly and at a low cost.
No-code development is a similar process to low-code development. What is the difference between low-code and no-code?
What is low-code?
Low-code is a software development approach which only partly involves writing code.
It means that using low-code development platforms (LCDP), non-programmers work closely with professional developers at some stages of the app development process.
Similarly to no-code platforms, many low-code platforms offer a user-friendly interface for non-programmers with UI components and coding segments for software developers.
Low-code platforms help deliver custom software faster by minimizing the amount of coding. Thanks to low-code solutions, there is no need to build the application entirely in code from scratch. Instead, you can modify and adapt it to your needs by delegating the coding to development teams.
How to choose between low-code and no-code?
The terms low-code and no-code are often confused. Above, we explained the low code basics and the main difference between those two approaches. We can briefly summarize it as follows:
- no-code – no coding is required.
- low-code – some coding is required.
Even if it sounds obvious, when faced with picking one of these platforms, it’s worth looking at their capabilities in more detail.
But first, let’s answer six basic questions that might help you decide.
- Do you have any coding knowledge?
- What is the purpose of your application?
- How advanced do you want your application to be?
- How quickly do you want the application to be developed?
- What budget do you have?
- Do you plan to expand the application in the future?
A no-code development platform is a perfect solution to create basic business apps. While opting for no-code app builders, you must be well aware of the purpose of building it in the long run.
This is because no-code platforms have limited development capabilities. Keep in mind that you will not be able to access the code base of your app and therefore customize it.
If your chosen no-code platform has met all the needs of your app, and you are sure that you will not develop it with advanced features in the future, then it will be a good choice.
What is more, no-code solutions are the best option to pick if you care about the fastest and cheapest application development process. However, you need to take time to acquire the fundamental knowledge of application design and functionality.
On the other hand, low-code is the right choice when you are opting for more complex applications (i.e. no-code SaaS builder). At some level, you will be able to modify the code and personalize your application and add unique features with the help of professional developers.
If your app has to process a big amount of data, a low code platform is superior to no-code.
No-code and low-code tools – examples of use
To illustrate what no/low-code tools are, we’ll take a look at simple tools you probably use every day. Next, we will list no-code/low-code platforms dedicated specifically to application development.
Basic no-code/low-code everyday tools
The simplest example of a no-code software that anyone can access for free is Google Forms.
This tool allows you to design and customize your own questionnaires, such us an application forms for events or employee surveys, etc.
In this context, the form is a no-code application.
You can choose an answer format, use a drag and drop option, set the order of questions, specify which ones are obligatory and add many more features. In other words, you lay out a certain logic within your application.
Now imagine you need to customize your form. You want to sort or filter your responses in a way that is not available in the Google Form tool. For this purpose, you would have to write a line of code. If Google Forms had this feature and allowed you to modify the form with a code, we could call it a low-code tool.
To describe how low-code works on a real example, let’s take a look at another tool you may have used – Excel.
Is Excel a no-code tool? Basic use of Excel does not require programming knowledge or experience, but still allows you to create databases. In this sense, Excel is a no-code tool.
However, if you want to introduce advanced functions, then Excel can be referred to as low-code. In other words, the more complicated the formulas, the more it resembles programming.
Another interesting example that you may be familiar with is WordPress – a free and open-source content management system (CMS).
Is WordPress a no-code or low-code tool?
At a basic level, WordPress is a no-code tool. With some basic knowledge, anyone is able to build an easy website. But imagine that a client who owns a website you built on WordPress wants to introduce some more advanced features or modify it in a way the tool cannot. Fortunately, WordPress allows you to access the code base and customize it. In this case, WordPress is both a low-code and no-code tool.
Examples of now-code and no-code development platforms
Now we will focus on low-and no-code tools that allow you to build apps, websites, SaaS apps, web services, databases without having to write code or with the option to modify code at a basic level.
Most low-code platforms and no-code solutions replace programming with visual development, i.e., drag-and-drop UI features. It makes it very easy for everyone to build custom apps. There are many platforms to choose from. They vary depending on its UX/UI and how intuitive the tool is.
Let’s list the most popular on the market.
Most popular no-code development platforms:
- HubSpot’s CRM
Most popular low-code development platforms:
- Salesforce Lighting Platform
- Microsoft Power Apps
- Zoho Creator
- Google App Maker
Advantages of no-code and low-code app development
The less time it takes to create apps, the cheaper it is.
Nowadays, it is getting more common for enterprises to order a custom application from software development companies. One of the first obstacles is high cost of developers and a complex development process.
Many entrepreneurs wonder: why does it have to be so expensive? The truth is that it doesn’t. For less advanced business applications, low-code and no-code will satisfy the demands.
Fast development process
Low-code and no-code platforms have some basic and generic functionalities that a programmer would have to develop from scratch each time.
There are certain fixed parts of the application that always need to be implemented with a basic code. A good example of such a function is a “Log in”, a feature that every application has. The same goes for logging events or an application menu.
The value of low-code and no-code is that you have these functions built-in right away. Morover, low/no code platforms have integration capabilities, so that you can quickly add new features. As a result, this solution accelerates business processes.
Easy use for business users
More and more companies are realizing that digital transformation is necessary for business process management. For this reason, they are looking for the fastest and cheapest technology solutions that are readily available.
Low-code/no-code platforms come to the rescue. With their help, non-technical people (also called citizen developers) can create complex apps for their business. App development is simpler and requires less technical expertise. This process is called democratization of programming or democratization of software development.
Solves the maintenance problem
Most low-code and no-code platforms are usually delivered as software as a service (SaaS). It means that an application owner does not have to worry about which server to install it on. Application resources are shared by multiple tenants. The infrastructure is ready and a multitenancy architecture improves performance, scalability as well as faciliates data management.
Disadvantages of no-code and low-code app development
App development limits
The biggest challenge for no-code and low-code is the limitations of application development. At the initial phase you don’t really know what direction it will take.
When you want to develop your app after some time and add new functionality to meet your business goals, you may quickly realize that your low-code platform does not offer such an option. It is worth taking this into account when choosing a platform.
Lack of flexibility and customization
No-code/low-code app builders have limited options when it comes to customization and more advanced features. Options in these platforms are often limited and restrictive, which at some point can inhibit the application’s development.
Suppose you want to introduce the ability to log in via social media to your application. When the platform you use does not have such an option, some of your development goals cannot be met.
Complexity of the platform
There is a high risk that at some point you will need the services of a developer or an expert specialized in a particular platform. For example, low-code platforms such as WordPress or Shopify are already so advanced that new technical specializations are emerging. These are, for example, WordPress Developer or Shopify Developer.
Low-code and now-code platforms are developed by an external party which means that users or admins don’t have an access to the source code. As a result, it’s difficult or even impossible to check if an application has security vulnerabilities.
What’s more, many low-code/no-code platform users express their concerns that there is no information how platforms are accessing and managing your data.
Another security risk of relying on applications built on low-code and no-code platforms is business disruption in case of a platform failure.
A common problem of large organizations is skipping the compliance department when creating a new application using no-code or low-code.
There are cases when one of the company’s many managers wants to create an application on a low-code/no-code platform quickly and at low cost, skipping procedures and not informing the compliance department about it. Even though the goal is to grow the business, they unknowingly expose their customers’ data, which is located on an external server of the application building tool.
This leads to shadow IT, i.e., a situation in which applications are created without IT deparment approval. Shadow IT increases data security risk in the organizations due to data leaks, compliance violations, etc.
Low-code and no-code – summary
No-code and low-code platforms are unquestionably revolutionary solution for quick and smooth application development. It does not replace high code and traditional programming languages, however it allows people with no coding experience to build apps that meet business needs. Although low-code and no-code platforms put some limitations on app development, it is definitely an optimal solution for companies that need quick and cheap business improvement.