The tech industry is now getting excited about low-code and no-code application development that offers some pretty exciting alternatives to traditional software development.
Both low-code and no-code follow the idea of abstracting away from code in order to provide users with the benefits of visual modeling. However, these two concepts shouldn't be used interchangeably. One fundamental difference between them relates to the scale and type of applications that you can build with low-code and no-code.
So, what exactly are low-code and no-code development platforms, and how do these two different from each other? Keep on reading for a more detailed comparison and some tips for choosing the right platform to match your unique business needs.
Table of contents:
- What you need to know about low-code and no-code development
- Similarities between low-code vs. no-code
- What to choose: low-code or no-code?
- Low-code and no-code solutions wrap up
What you need to know about low-code and no-code development
Let's start by defining the two technologies at hand here.
What exactly is no-code?
To begin with, a no-code development platform is simpler than low-code. They're basically drag and drop, visually-based platforms that allow users to create basic but functional applications. AirTable, AppSheet or Quixy are examples of no-code applications.
Overhauling legacy systems isn't a risk here, but prepare for scaling the application significantly. You will also be dealing with limitations as far as the platform's integration capabilities go.
No-code application development works best for teams that have specific needs within a limited scope.
The ease of use of such platforms is a huge benefit but also presents a problem. That's because a lot of the framework you get will be determined by the team that created it. That's why you might not get enough customization options – or at least not as many as you would like. This might leave potential problems related to security or compliance.
What if you can't work this application into your wider enterprise architecture easily? A no-code application might also end up contributing to shadow IT in your organization, that is the use of IT systems without explicit IT department approval.
Pros of no-code
Now you must be asking yourself: If no-code poses so many limitations, why is this platform still around and becoming even more popular?
Here's the answer: no-code is easy to use to create apps by people who have no coding skills or experience. It's especially valuable for those who don't want to wait for internal IT departments to create something for them.
Non-technical business people can now create prototypes for their business ideas using no-code platforms. This allows them to test out new software and improve their business processes without bringing their ideas to IT teams or code developers. No-code development platforms offer a great way for organizations to build new software at the department level since it is incredibly easy to use, simple, and rigid.
Cons of no-code
However, scaling it to the enterprise level will present several challenges such as architectural problems and increased risk of monolithic application architecture. They both derive from the lack of experience with application architecture patterns. Most no-code platforms will require deployment to a public cloud and might not give you the flexibility to deploy to a private cloud or on-premises infrastructure.
Another set of issues related to governance. Because of the standalone nature of applications created with no-code, data governance might become problematic. In this case, you might find multiple versions of truth scattered across the organization as well as different unmanaged data structures. Just consider customer record management or GDPR, and you'll get the idea of how complex this might become.
Application extensibility is a problem as well. Since no-code platforms prefer operational efficiency use cases, they might not have enough capabilities to focus on user experience. Connecting them to legacy systems might be impossible. And the vendor might not support creating custom integrations for third-party solutions or any homegrown systems.
And what is low-code?
Low-code platforms are more customizable and function as a kind of middle ground between no-code and full manual coding. Just like no-code platforms, low-code can be visually based and include drag and drop elements. Just to give you an idea, here are a few examples of low-code apps: Zoho Creator, Mendix, and Google App Maker.
Pros of low-code
Low-code can also be open, extensible, and enable manual coding or scripting. That way, it offers developers the best of both worlds – it accelerates their development process because devs don't have to continuously replicate basic code bits.
Moreover, low-code platforms open the doors to scalable architectures and APIs that allow reuse and flexibility with public cloud or on-premises deployment.
Teams can also control application testing and quality or performance tooling. Apart from all of these benefits, low-code also gives developers the opportunity to extend the platform's capabilities using their own code. That way, they can create or modify advanced and complex applications that would otherwise require more team members or specialized knowledge.
Low-code platforms have an all-purpose nature. That's why they lend themselves really well to various use cases, including those created with next-generation technologies. They often come with an extensive component library created by tech leaders. That way, developers can take advantage of third-party cloud services like AI, machine learning, voice and facial recognition, blockchain, and a wealth of open source community tools.
Thanks to the pre-build user interface templates, teams can quickly develop applications to address different needs – from productivity and efficiency to mobile customer service or modernizing legacy systems.
That's why low-code platforms are generally used to create more sophisticated applications and handle a wider range of use cases thanks to their general-purpose nature.
Cons of low-code
The workflow in low-code platforms is familiar to all developers but might come with a deeper learning curve for business people. However, a curious businessperson can still easily pick up on using most low-code platforms on the market.
Note that low-code platforms are attractive for developers and non-technical people, opening the doors to potential collaborations. One of the most innovative things about low-code platforms is that these two groups usually find it really hard to communicate with each other, but now they can come together and create an application that meets IT requirements for security and compliance while realizing the key business goals and needs.
Similarities between low-code vs. no-code
Both low-code and no-code development provide a method for building software applications without the need to write the code on your own.
Instead of having a developer learn and practice traditional programming language, low-code and no-codes provide a visual approach to development. This makes it accessible to a greater number of people – for example, tech-savvy business people.
Both development platforms promise to help technical folk build applications more efficiently and increase their productivity. Almost always offered as Platform as a Service, they also cut the load of standing up environments and maintaining the infrastructure.
What to choose: low-code or no-code?
Which one is a better choice for your project: a no-code or low-code development platform?
As you can probably tell from what I wrote above, no-code platforms are often considered as too simplistic to support more complex use cases. Whereas low-code development platforms are too complex for tech-savvy but non-professional developers.
Here are some other challenges to consider:
- Let's say that you implemented a no-code solution. The solution will become a shadow IT project in your organization. And what happens when you're beyond your ability to support it? All the efficiency and cost savings are now going to be diminished because you'll have to get in touch with professional developers to rescue you.
- And what about low-code solutions? By implementing one, you will accelerate the work of software developers because they get to code faster. But a low-code platform isn't going to increase the accuracy of the solution in relation to its business requirements and goals.
As a result, you'll have to consider whether time-to-value shrinks when developers have to rework and fix solutions because the business aspect is outside the application development lifecycle.
How much does it cost you to develop an app faster but with the risk that it's not fully aligned with your business goals?
Deciding which platform to choose is more than just making a decision about the technology stack. Like any strategy for developing an application, you need to understand how deliverables will align with what your users actually need and want.
That's why partnering with skilled IT teams and key business domain experts is essential. This type of collaboration and pooling of expertise will lead you to success, especially when developing more sophisticated applications. It will also make the process more efficient and accurate, resulting in applications that are perfectly optimized for the business outcome.
When asking yourself whether to pick a low-code or no-code platform, ask these questions to make sure that the interest of both business and IT departments are met in the process:
- How does the solution promote and facilitate the collaboration between business and IT?
- Is that collaboration integrated into the solution?
- Does the software support both business and professional developers?
- Do you need a specialist to boost the solution and deliver a custom design or code in a reusable format to business stakeholders?
Low-code and no-code solutions wrap up
As organizations increase their digital capabilities to become more competitive on the market, they put more and more time and money into creating new applications.
The use of low-code and no-code solutions is only going to grow because of professional skill shortages in most markets and the inability of IT departments to address all of the business requirements fast enough for the stakeholders.
We hope that this article helped you understand the differences between low-code and no-code platforms and choose the best option for your business to build a strong competitive advantage based on brand-new pieces of software.
Are you planning to use one of these approaches in your project? Have you done that already and have some thoughts you'd like to share? Drop us a line in the comments; we look forward to hearing more about how no-code and low-code are used in the industry today.