Get to know Low-Code and No-Code: A guide to development platforms

January 19, 2022
8
min read
Get to know Low-Code and No-Code: A guide to development platforms
Severine Hierso
by
Severine Hierso

You could be forgiven for confusing low-code and no-code development. Aside from the fact that they sound incredibly similar, they are both development tools that exist primarily as PaaS, (platform as a service), and are both seeing increasing usage. In fact, it is predicted that by 2024 more than 65% of application development will be done through a low-code development platform. 

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Not only this but the global low-code/no-code market is expected to be worth over $80 billion by 2027. 

But what exactly are no-code and low-code development platforms? What are the differences between them, and which method should be used and when? Let’s take a look at the basics of development platforms, and answer all these questions and more.

What is No-Code?

No-code platforms provide a way for anybody to build a functional app, regardless of their level of development experience. They offer simple, visual interfaces, where icons that represent different chunks of code can be dragged and dropped in order to create a new application.

They are built with the intention of being used by amateur developers with little to no experience, so the features they offer are basic. This also means that any applications created using them will also be quite simple, but could still be suitable for simple tasks such as LIFO stock tracking.

What can be created with a no-code platform is dependent on the framework provided by the developers. This means that there will be very little room for customization. This has the potential to be a problem, as it can lead to issues with security and compliance.

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Integration also becomes more difficult. Because the products created with no-code platforms are so generic, they can often be difficult to integrate into systems and applications which are already in use. In instances where no-code developed apps are to be integrated into business-wide systems, special consideration should be given to architectural flexibility, and exactly how these apps will connect to legacy systems.

Because no-code platforms are used primarily by inexperienced coders, there is often little understanding of what is going on behind the scenes to run the final product. This means that any issues which may arise are unlikely to be easily fixed. As with any instance of software development, testing should be implemented wherever possible to try and lessen the risk.

No-code platforms can contribute to the problem of shadow IT, where systems and applications are used without the approval, or even the knowledge, of the IT department. This can pose all kinds of risks when coupled with other potential holes in security and can lead to potentially disastrous IT errors.

However, there are also numerous benefits to using no-code platforms, which have contributed to making them so popular despite their shortcomings. For example, no-code platforms enable almost anybody with a basic knowledge of computers to build a working app quickly. This means that any single department issue which needs a quick fix can be solved without diverting precious time and resources away from the IT teams.

No-code platforms are incredibly helpful to start-up businesses that need to quickly get a product to market or established companies that want to expand their business through schemes such as growth marketing. They enable small teams to solve problems and create products quickly and relatively inexpensively.

What is Low-Code?

Low-code platforms are very similar to no-code platforms in many ways. They both use the concept of creating workflows out of visual blocks of pre-existing code. Where low-code differs, however, is that these blocks exist as a starting point, and only replace the most frequently used code.

This means that low-code offers more chances for customization, as they’re open, and allow for manual coding and scripting. In this regard, low-code platforms act as a kind of mid-point between no-code platforms and totally manual coding.

The main benefit of low-code platforms is that they remove the need for the repetitive process of constantly replicating base code. By omitting the need to code every aspect of an application, low-code platforms make development easier for more skilled developers. They can devote more time and attention to coding what makes their product unique.

Low-code development is still much faster than fully-fledged manual coding, and so retains the same time-saving benefits of no-code development. Although it’s not as fast as no-code development due to the need to code some elements manually, it is still very helpful in saving time.

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Because low-code is more readily customized, it can be more easily implemented into existing systems and can be scaled for deployment in a variety of scenarios. This makes integration much more manageable than with no-code and helps reduce security concerns. 

For example, a live chat app to provide customer support could be linked into customer and order history databases when developed through a low-code platform. However, it should be mentioned that low-code still falls short in terms of compatibility when compared with coding completely from scratch.

Low-code platforms allow for the development of more complex applications with more varied uses. However, the downside of this is that some technical proficiency with coding is required to utilize them. The good news is that only a basic understanding of coding is often required, which can be easily taught to employees without too much of a time or cost commitment.

Because low-code offers a mid-point between the flexibility of coding from scratch and the speed of no-code development, it often provides an excellent return on investment for low risk. The time saved during development helps reduce costs, as well as allowing for the deployment of IT resources to other projects. All this with the added benefit of a completed product that is more flexible and more marketable.

No-Code or Low-Code: Which should I use?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. What works best for your company will depend largely on your own unique circumstances, and which factors you are prioritizing during development. 

Both no-code and low-code platforms are designed with speed and ease of use in mind. This means that either method will benefit time-sensitive projects, where a solution to a problem or a product is needed in short order. 

The real difference between the two platforms is the complexity of what can be produced. No-code development is only really suitable for developing the most basic of applications. Although development is fast, the final product may not be of a high enough standard. 

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Low-code platforms, on the other hand, can offer more options to produce more complex results. Although, this means that they’re often less accessible than the no-code alternative, meaning that not just any employee can use them effectively, and so the final product may not be of any higher standard. 

When deciding which approach to take, your available employee resources will help inform your decision. Total novices will have an easier time with no-code platforms, although even new web developers should make time to familiarize themselves with the basics before getting stuck in. Those with some coding experience, on the other hand, will likely find low-code platforms more user-friendly.

One risk of no-code development is appearing as shadow IT to the existing IT department. Apps that are developed outside the normal pipeline can quickly grow beyond your organization’s ability to support them. 

Not only this, but apps that have been developed without total integration in mind could produce security risks, which can put pressure on IT teams should a problem arise. In order to minimize the risks of issues occurring, testing in production should be implemented wherever possible.

If time is your main constraint, then no-code development could be the way to go. Its simplified structure means it offers the fastest turnaround time, so is perfect for quickly producing a solution to a specific problem. If you can afford to wait a little longer for a more robust product, then low-code development could be a wiser investment of your time.

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In order to decide which route to take with development, it’s a good idea to carry out a thorough evaluation of the assets available to you, and the pros and cons of both development platforms. Consulting with existing IT teams is beneficial where it is possible, as collaboration and sharing expertise could mitigate any potential problems before they arise, saving time for everybody. This can be easily achieved even when developers are working remotely, through web meetings or other virtual conferencing options.

Final thoughts

So there we have it, your crash course in low-code and no-code development platforms. Hopefully, now you feel informed enough to know the pros and cons of each system, and which is right for you and your business. 

Depending on how knowledgeable your teams are, both low-code and no-code development platforms can help save a great deal of time by eliminating the most time-consuming aspects of coding. This can go a long way towards helping you reduce development costs, and could save a great deal of money in the long run.

It’s worth remembering that, although both platforms are designed with speed in mind, a decision made hastily could result in more delays further down the line. Consult with the relevant teams within your organization and make sure your plans are well communicated, (technologies such as the ability to screenshare can help with this).

Finally, although low-code and no-code platforms are seeing increasing use, they’ll never fully remove the need for manual coding. 

Applications and software will always need updating and improving in order to stay relevant. In this regard, the ability to integrate and adapt your applications will always need to be considered. Saving time and money in the present is always beneficial, as long as you remain mindful of the future.

About the author:

Severine Hierso is EMEA Senior Product Marketing Manager for RingCentral Office, the leader in cloud communications solutions, and is passionate about creating value, differentiation and messaging, ensuring a better experience for customers and partners. She has gained extensive international Product Marketing, Virtual PBX System, Market Research, Sales Enablement and Business development experience across SaaS, Telecommunications, Video Conferencing and Technology sectors within companies such as Sony, Cisco, Cogeco Peer 1 and Dimension Data/NTT.

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