15 July 2021
by Andrew Nikonov

Low Code, No Code, Pro Code - which approach to choose?

Surviving a fast-paced market, where new competitors emerge every day and we need to meet and exceed customer expectations, is not easy. Agility is the key to success.

Industry analysts highlighted the potential value of Low-Code for business agility. The demand for new software has skyrocketed. By 2023, more than 500 million digital apps and services will be developed and deployed - the same number that has been developed over the past 40 years.

Unfortunately, the number of new developers who can help create these applications has not increased. In the United States alone, for example, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that 1.4 million IT jobs will be available in 2020, but only 400,000 college graduates will be able to fill those positions. Enterprises can't find a way to solve this problem on their own, so IT teams need a better way to quickly build powerful applications. This is where No-Code and Low-Code development platforms come in.

The idea behind Low-Code development is simple: build business applications by configuring, not writing code. In this approach, applications are created by defining the data models that they process, defining the steps of the process, including business logic and workflows, and creating a user interface. The user interface is created by arranging the ready-made objects in the Drag-and-Drop styles editor.

Is custom development a thing of the past? Let's see.

Why do you need custom development

The reason custom code will always be needed is simple: every new application needs custom logic at some point. Among the possible types of applications and solutions, there are an infinite number of conditions that apply in an infinite number of scenarios, and although there are many repetitive patterns, none of them is universal. There is simply no template that would cover absolutely all scenarios for creating a Drag-and-Drop component.

There are tasks that only professionals can solve. For example, developing a secure, scalable cloud or authentication infrastructure with rich user interfaces. The role of the low-code platform is then to take care of the stack so you can get on with the logic. The stack includes all layers of software, including hosting, container framework, database servers, microservices, workflow objects, client applications, and all the artifacts, libraries, security, and APIs that make it work.

Low-Code vs. Custom Development

How to choose a development approach? If you want to create a complex solution or application to expand the reach of a newly created startup, then it is better to use custom development and hire an experienced team that can create complex but unique applications and portals.

These teams can create customized digital solutions according to your specific requirements. In addition, they will definitely draw up a plan for your product before development, so that you know how to develop in the future.

For example, in terms of web development, you can hire professionals who are proficient in various programming languages ​​and tools like Ruby, Python, PHP, etc. to make your web portal scalable and efficient at the same time.

In addition, professional programmers follow an agile development approach that helps them successfully collaborate with each other and use iteration to quickly develop the final product.

But the low-code approach, of course, has many advantages, too. First of all, the technical barrier is significantly reduced. People without a professional background in software development — citizen developers — can now create applications without the involvement of the IT department. However, even though Low-Code development platforms do make it easier to automate workflows and usually offer various integrations with other systems, the business logic that can be reflected in such applications is quite limited. And this is where the problems begin.

Most likely, you won't be able to solve them without writing custom code. At the same time, it is the use of Low-Code in combination with Pro Code that will fully unleash the potential of both the team and the product that it is developing and accelerate its delivery.

No-Code and Low-Code

There is a common misconception that Low-Code and No-Code are interchangeable terms, but this is not the case.

No-Code platforms are designed for business users with no coding knowledge. In traditional application development systems, code is instructions that tell platforms how to implement the desired functionality. When using No-Code, the creator of the application defines what the application does, not how it does it.

Low-Code platforms can also be used by non-technical specialists, however at some point the developer will need to pick up the development and get the job done, i.e. write the code and set up everything else. For example, when using Firebase, a non-technical specialist can describe the main entities in the database, but to configure the interaction between the frontend and backend, you will have to resort to the help of developers.

The main misconception associated with No-Code platforms is that they are only for simple apps. This is not true. In the fast-paced technological age, tools have become very sophisticated, supporting broad functionality across all applications and meeting business needs. Now you can create many enterprise applications using the No-Code platform (take Bubble for instance).

It is also important to note that the terms low-code and no-code are used for more than just development platforms. Other technical solutions are starting to position themselves as low-code and/or no-code.

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No-Code and Low-Code: When and What to Use

No-Code and Low-Code platforms are built with the same thing in mind: speed. But how do you know when to use one and not the other?

Low-code is good for developing stand-alone mobile and web applications and portals that may require integration with other systems and multiple data sources. In fact, it can be used for almost anything other than complex systems that integrate with multiple server modules and external data sources. In contrast, No-Code tools are typically used to create the front-end. For example, you can build a marketing site on a no-code platform (for example, Webflow), and the platform itself is already on a low-code solution (for example, on Firebase).

So, unless you are developing only the simplest applications and do not need a lot of customization (for which No-Code is good), low-code is probably the best option. And since low-code does require some coding knowledge, you can be sure that the people who build your applications will do it right, and new applications will not cause security and compatibility issues.

Are low-code and no-code platforms the future for app development?

The short answer to this question is yes. Low-code and no-code tools are increasingly playing a critical role in speeding up the launch of applications. Gartner predicts that over 50% of medium and large enterprises will adopt low-code or no-code as one of their main development platforms by 2023, and that low-code will be used in more than 65% of applications by 2024.

The need to create digital solutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be one of the reasons for the accelerated adoption of low-code and no-code. Another reason is that only the largest and richest companies have access to the best developers and the most advanced development tools. Low-code and no-code tools level the playing field, enabling organizations of all sizes to get more from existing resources.

But in the long run, none of these approaches is a future, at least not by themselves. Even the combination of No-Code and Low-Code tools falls short of expectations. Of course, these tools give you the ability to quickly create the 1.0 version of a simple, say, mobile application. But they are not designed to offer easy enterprise-wide deployments, can overwhelm the backlog and increase technical debt, and are not designed to add the updates and changes required for future releases.

Custom development is inevitable if the product requires a high level of customization and safety, particularly when flexibility and reliability are your top priorities. This is also true if you require third-party integration and support for legacy software, and have a large infrastructure and many employees working in multiple locations and countries.

For this reason, when looking for the right solution for your goals, you should look for a platform that combines visual low-code development with high performance and capabilities that will help you build applications not only faster, but also correctly and with an eye to the future.

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