There’s no denying it: We’re hooked on digital apps. In our personal lives, we use them for shopping online, ordering food, raising complaints, booking appointments, conducting surveys, and the list goes on. On an enterprise level, we use them to manage hiring and onboarding, automate payrolls and performances, resolve disputes, streamline workflows, etc.
And that’s not all. Have you ever wondered how a layman creates a website and deploys it in a matter of a couple of hours, complete with the integrations with payment gateways and various social media platforms? Or how organizations implement a whole new workflow management system in a matter of days?
This digital transformation has become possible due to the low-code and, more recently, no-code app development platforms. One does not need to learn to code, rely on IT, or hire an expensive team of developers to create apps. The low-code and no-code platforms provide a flexible and intuitive design space that is easily understood by business users. They can use this space and translate their requirements into scalable apps. In turn, these low-code / no-code apps can be integrated with existing apps and systems, such as ERPs or CRMs, to eliminate repetitive tasks and boost efficiency and productivity.
And this approach is here to stay. According to Gartner, the low-code/no-code app development market is expected to reach $13.8 billion in 2021 and these platforms will account for 65 percent of all app development by 2024. Understanding how they work is key to making the most of them.
What are low-code / no-code platforms?
The concept of Low-Code Application Development platforms is not new. Their history can be traced back to the 4th generation programming languages (4GLs) and the rapid application development (RAD) tools of 1990’s and early 2000’s, which reduced the complexity of programming languages and increased app development speed. In 2014, analyst firm Forrester coined the term “low code.”
Low-code/no-code platforms are enterprise-level app development platforms that use high-level programming abstractions and metadata-based programming languages. They support scalability, disaster recovery, in-built security, service level agreements (SLAs), resource usage tracking, technical support from the provider, and API access to and from local and cloud services. Noteworthy, the businesses that develop apps using low-code/no-code platforms become the owners of those apps.
These enterprise-level platforms employ the RAD methodology, which essentially means that one can quickly create and launch prototypes, get feedback, and iterate further. They use visual components and drag-and-drop features that allow for easy app creation, as well as pre-built modules and easy-to-use API integrations that make the job even easier. Typically, low-code/no-code app development platforms consist of three components:
- Graphical User Interface (GUI) for programming, which is a drag-and-drop interface that allows users to define their inputs and outputs, create business logic, add app components to create the end-user experience without writing lines and lines of code.
- External Integrations, which allow users to interact with external databases via secure SOAP and REST-based web services visually integrated into the app.
- Application Manager, which comes with tools to build, debug, deploy, and easily maintain apps.
In other words, they allow business users to configure apps with little or no technical knowledge and deploy them with a single click.
Currently, both low-code and no-code platforms are clubbed together under Low-Code Development Platforms (LCDP). However, the recent rise of the No-Code Development Platforms (NCDP) is paving the way to a new, standalone NCDP market category.
Low-code vs. no-code platforms: how are they different?
No code is the evolution of low code. Even though the lines between the two types of platforms are currently somewhat blurred, there are a few distinctions that set them apart:
The fundamental difference between a low-code and a no-code platform is the level of programming experience needed to successfully create apps. The former lets you fiddle with the source code. It provides editor components to make modifications in the source code and hence technical know-how related to Java, Java scripts, CSS, html etc. is required. The assistance of IT is also often required to make and troubleshoot code changes and is prone to manual coding errors.
The latter – as the name suggests – requires no coding at all, thus further increasing the speed of app development and delivery. With no-code platforms, users configure apps based on the features and templates provided in the application framework. They put together various blocks of pre-built templates and functionalities and this configuration is automatically converted to code. The user never sees the source code.
Low-code platforms were initially aimed at increasing the productivity of developers by moving them away from traditional hand-written coding. Though these platforms are increasingly targeting business users, they still require a good understanding of certain coding languages. Scripting languages may vary. Some platforms allow commonly used language, others may provide their proprietary language that requires learning. Arguably, these platforms are ideal for skilled developers with coding knowledge.
No-code platforms, on the other hand, are ideal for both developers and business users – also known as citizen developers – who do not have any coding experience. Anyone well versed in business logic and decision-making can configure apps using a no-code platform. The focus is on rapid and flexible development by putting business users in charge of their own apps.
Ease of Use
Since no code is involved, the learning process associated with no-code platforms is shorter than that of low-code platforms, where users need to spend time on learning the associated language. This also reduces the implementation time of no-code apps as compared to apps developed on low-code platforms. In addition, business users can integrate the apps with existing systems without doing any scripting.
Level of Customization
Low-code platforms provide users with the ability to add and modify code, to make changes to their apps. The downside to this approach is that in case of technology upgrades, the app code might need to be adjusted.
No-code platforms, on the other hand, provide customizable pre-built modules or templates in the platform itself. They also ensure that the business logic of the apps that users build is separate from technology upgrades and shifts.
It’s time to get aboard the no-code train
Application development using traditional coding takes a long time, needs skilled developers, and incurs huge costs from deployment to maintenance to continuous upgrades. The current legacy infrastructures are outdated and costly to maintain and require an army of developers to make necessary changes. The added level of unpredictability that this decade has already brought makes it critical for companies to be able to respond quickly to market needs.
Clearly, no-code platforms bring great benefits, one of them being the ability to change and adapt fast. In spite of this, though, there are some misconceptions that persist.
For example, it is widely believed that they are only useful for creating standalone apps that do not scale well. This, however, is not true. No code is not just a movement for business users building and defining apps. The menu-driven setup process that is characteristic of no-code app development is incorporated into other enterprise functions too, such as data warehousing, processing, modeling, and workflows.
With no-code platforms, organizations are able to create enterprise-wide, database-enabled, integrated solutions. So it’s time to leave all the misconceptions around no-code behind and embrace it.
Enterprises gain a competitive advantage when they are enabled to deliver faster, coherent, and comprehensive solutions. A unified, no-code platform with a flexible and scalable architecture like Optymyze allows for rapid deployment of multi-faceted solutions with ease. It empowers citizen developers to quickly and directly respond to their most pressing problems and to achieve self-sufficiency in creating and deploying apps that drive digital transformation.
To get a glimpse into how a no-code platform can benefit your organization, learn how Optymyze’s no-code data processing solved retailer’s challenges with complex points of sales data.