These days most businesses are trying to determine ways to be more “automated” for a variety of reasons. They want to improve the quality of their service, to save costs, and to streamline their overall operations, among many others benefits.
Automation requires technology. That can take the form of hardware and / or software. For software that typically involves some type of application be it desktop, web, mobile or a combination of all three. There are many great SaaS cloud based solutions that can be used “out of the box” if they fit your business needs. But if they don’t you are going to be looking custom building a solution. To accomplish this traditionally has required a team of database experts, software developers, technical project managers, etc. That process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months to years.
There is an emerging class of technology defined as low code or no-code development tools that can significantly reduce development costs and development time to create business solutions.
What is low code and no-code technology?
A low-code/no-code development platform makes an ideal alternative to traditional development methods. A low-code/no-code development platform is a visual software development environment that enables citizen developers to drag and drop application components, link them together, and create a web-based or mobile application.
The term “citizen developer,” by the way, refers to the end-user who creates a new web or mobile application or a program from a collective or corporate code base, structure, or system. Generally speaking, the citizen developer is not a trained professional developer who uses codes in developing software – codes that are too esoteric to any layman.
Instead, the citizen developer is an “amateur” who is presented with the available tools to build applications that his team can or will use throughout the course of their work. Anyone can be a citizen developer in the low-code/no-code technology – small business owners, office administrators, business analysts, employees, and many others.
The modular nature and approach of the low-code/no-code technology allow professional developers and non-developers alike to create and build applications more quickly, without the need to write programming codes line after line.
The low-code/no-code technology relieves creators from having to know anything about conventional computer programming codes, machine codes, or the intricate development work that goes into creating the platform’s configurable elements.
Instead, creators will work with user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) and third-party application program interfaces (API) to be brought together and tested. Creators can arrange and rearrange the modules and test them repeatedly until the app works as desired.
Examples of low code and no-code solutions
Here are a laundry list of low code and no-code solutions you can check out:
- Appian – https://www.appian.com/
- Visual Lansa – https://lansa.com/
- Kissflow – https://kissflow.com/
- Mendix – https://www.mendix.com/
- OutSystems – https://www.outsystems.com/
- Salesforce Lightning – https://www.salesforce.com/products/platform/lightning/
And here are some options to consider for no-code solutions:
- Airtable – https://airtable.com/
- AppSheet – https://www.appsheet.com/
- Betty Blocks – https://www.bettyblocks.com/
- Nintex – https://www.nintex.com/
- Microsoft Power Apps – https://powerapps.microsoft.com/
NOTE: The line definitely blurs between the two groups and there are many other vendors you can consider.
How does low-code/no-code technology work?
In traditional app development, programmers or developers need to write lines of codes to build a computer program or application. The process of coding is can be a complex and lengthy affair, and it requires programmers or developers who have an in-depth and working knowledge of computer languages. These programmers and developers should also have a detailed and comprehensive understanding of development environments, testing protocols, deployment processes, as well as maintenance measures.
In the low-code/no-code development platform, all that intricate programming work has been significantly reduced. Instead, it introduces visual tools to creators so that they can quickly and easily create, rearrange, and manipulate build applications. Creators of varying skill levels to build web and mobile applications by using the drag-and-drop components and model-driven logic through GUI. These components are typically reusable, and the drag-and-drop tools represent specific steps or capabilities which the creator can connect in the platform to build the desired computerized workflow.
The low-code/no-code platform can be used for experimenting, developing, prototyping, testing, and deployment. Quite simply, it’s like creating a flowchart instead of writing codes line-by-line, for each desired capability and function.
After the app has been deployed, subsequent maintenance (such as app updates) can be done by just a few clicks.
Why is low-code/no-code beneficial to businesses?
The low-code/no-code platform can provide several advantages over traditional methods:
- A low code/no code development platform is a simpler, faster, and shorter process compared to traditional app development in nearly every way.
- It is easier to execute, thanks to the drag-and-drop features, making each app development stage simpler and less complicated instead of writing lengthy line-by-line codes.
- It requires fewer resources.
- It allows anyone, even non-developers and non-programmers, to create their own business software solutions.
- It reduces (or even eliminates) the need for skilled personnel required throughout development.
- It can be customized according to the needs of the user or business. The low-code/no-code platform is also highly flexible, which makes changing apps and adapting them to new requirements a lot easier compared to traditional app development methods.
These advantages of low-code/no-code translate to decreased operational costs, higher productivity, more effective risk management. It also allows businesses to provide an overall better customer experience.
Sounds perfect right? Of course, nothing is perfect. What are some of the disadvantages of these platforms?
- Your tied to one platform / vendor. You can’t easily move your code to a different platform and you have less control over the future of the platform and its ability to meet your needs. This is a fairly similar problem to SaaS solutions.
- No matter how great the solution, you still have to learn how to use the development / creator environment to successfully build the application.
- Due to the nature of how these solution work, there are going to be limits in how complex your application can really be. You have to work with in the constraints of what is possible unlike traditional software development.
- Because of the abstract nature of how these platforms work they may not be the most efficient or fastest applications and you may have limited optimization options.
- For issues like security and privacy and controlling your data you have very few options.
We will be exploring these solutions in more depth in our blog. Traditional development isn’t going away. Certainly some development that might have been done via custom coding can migrate to these type of solutions but more likely solutions that would not have been built previously due to cost can now be done with low code and no-code. It also allows for quick temporarily solutions to be built as well.