Dev

What is Low Code? The Ultimate Guide to Low Code Development

3 minute read
Trace Trantow
February 3, 2021

How many revolutionary apps do you suspect never saw the light of day because their creators lacked the technical skills or financial resources to build it?

Coding is a long, arduous, and expensive process at the best of times.

Scratch the surface of development and the technical steps it takes to produce a sophisticated, reliable, and secure application are overwhelming.

Such are the difficulties of developing in-house that 61% of business stakeholders say less than half of their IT ideas are implemented.

In response, an alternative means of development has been steadily growing. One which allows organizations to build business applications free from the demands of traditional coding methods.

This alternative is low-code development.

What is Low-Code Development?

Low-code development removes the need for extensive coding knowledge by adopting a visual approach to software development. 

Rather than coding an application line-by-line, low-code development utilizes graphical interfaces and drag-and-drop features to ‘draw’ an application, much like a flowchart. 

Low-code development removes the need for extensive coding knowledge by adopting a visual approach to software development. 

Low-code platforms have become increasingly popular as a quick and easy alternative to traditional, labor-intensive software development - eradicating the traditional silos of business and IT. 

Advantages of Low-Code Development 

This rise in the popularity of low-code and no-code development has largely been due to its affordability and ease of use

By simplifying the development process to a visual-medium, low-code development platforms enable users with no prior formal knowledge of coding, to create applications quickly and intuitively.

The advantages of low-code extend far beyond cost and speed. 

And as the capabilities of low-code technology continue to advance, so too do the benefits: 

Out-of-the-box functionality 

Low-code development platforms offer an ecosystem of:

  • ready-made and intuitive visual builders, 
  • code snippets, 
  • form and report templates, and 
  • built-in connectors. 

This eliminates the need to build core modules from the ground up.

Drag-and-Drop Interfaces

Drag-and-drop interfaces provide a more intuitive way to build applications, while a model-driven development process removes the need for technical knowledge. 

And because the development environment is simple, users can learn much quicker. 

Reusability

Low-code platforms deliver a reusable architecture for developers, with pre-configured modules compatible across multiple apps

Having a library of reusable components allows developers to utilize pre-existing assets which increases developer productivity.

Cross-Platform Accessibility

Cross-platform and multi-device compatibility is natively built into low-code platforms. With less effort, enterprises can build robust applications compatible with all platforms and devices. 

Teams can then access these apps remotely, from any destination or platform.

Scalability

A cloud-based architecture facilitates both dev-time and run-time scalability. 

Applications built using low-code are capable of handling large volumes of users while maintaining reliability and quality of user experience. Plus, multiple developers can work collaboratively at once.

Reporting and Monitoring 

Intuitive dashboards provide real-time insight into the health and usage of each deployed application. Meaning teams can gather feedback and use this to make strategic decisions regarding resources and availability. 

Lower Costs

With the ability to build more apps in less time, economies of scale can be reached quicker and costs reduced. 

Low-code development also removes the need for additional developers, which in turn, reduces hiring costs.

Disadvantages of Low-Code Development 

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to coding, and low-code is not without its own limitations. 

Thankfully, these shortcomings are often minimal and can usually be mitigated, provided they’re acknowledged in advance and planned for during development. 

Lack of Customization

While a drag-and-drop builder facilitates quick and easy app development, the modular nature of low-code components lacks customization options, often leading to hegemony of design. 

Should a company decide that it wants something a little more original or specific to its own needs, it will likely need to bring in a professional developer.

Security and Reliability

Developing an application through low-code predicates reliance on a third party. Because developers are not in complete control, low-code can expose an organization to potential risk.

Empowering less technically-minded people to develop can expose businesses to new vulnerabilities in the form of Shadow IT, similarly, integration points can present potential areas of concern. 

Limited Freedom to Change Platforms 

Although low-code platforms deliver unparalleled ease of development, that ease can come at a cost. By building apps using proprietary low-code tools, developers can find themselves beholden to platform vendors.

Not all low-code development platforms are created equally. 

Some generate convoluted code that’s difficult to maintain outside of that platform, while others won’t let you edit your applications once you stop using the tool.

Limited Integration Possibilities 

Businesses that rely too heavily on low-code platforms can find themselves running into integration problems, especially when organizations seek to migrate legacy systems and applications into a new low-code framework. 

For systems that are core to business process management, trading the ability to custom integrate them for speed of development is unwise. 

What Types of Projects are Best Suited for Low-Code Development?

While low-code shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for every business development project, there are instances where it can deliver a game-changing advancement in capabilities. Especially so for the following:

Start-ups and Small Businesses

The traditional process of developing and delivering apps can be complex and expensive, not to mention time-consuming. And many smaller organizations simply lack the IT infrastructure to develop in-house, or the budget to employ a team or outsource work. 

The lower costs of low-code, together with easy to understand drag-and-drop interfaces, enable existing staff to create sophisticated, high functioning, and cost-effective apps for a variety of business purposes.

Prototypes

Speed and adaptability are key drivers of the product development phase. Low-code and no-code development platforms can be used to develop and iterate quickly for faster deployment

During the idea validation stage, simple applications with limited functionality can be created using low-code platforms for internal usage and testing. 

Out-of-the-box functionality allows teams to rapidly prototype and test concept validity, while scalability allows these prototypes to grow symbiotically with demand.

Temporary Sites During Custom Construction 

Custom construction of a site can be a difficult and time-consuming process. And can delay an organization’s ability to bring an offering to market. 

Low-code can provide a quick and easy temporary solution. Having a temporary site available, means a company can test concepts and gather useful feedback

A temporary site can be constructed quickly using low-code, while sophisticated reporting and monitoring systems can be used to inform the construction of custom applications and sites.

Top Platforms for Low-Code Solutions

There’s no denying that the demand for low-code solutions is on the rise.  

Enterprise low-code application platforms have recognized this demand and the market has subsequently swelled.

While all fundamentally offer the same basic services, the subtle differences between each are definitely worth knowing. 

Zoho Creator 

Zoho Creator delivers a no-nonsense approach to low-code app development. With a straightforward and minimalist style, it makes codeless mobile app creation a breeze.

Such ease-of-use does come at the expense of customization options though.

Zoho requires the use of proprietary scripting language for app customization and automation, while their pre-built template selection isn’t as advanced as some other tools. 

Zoho represents an affordable solution for those looking to get started with low-code and who don’t require extensive customization features. 

Appian

Having been around since 1999, Appian has had plenty of time to refine its offering. A market veteran, Appian delivers a true low and no-code platform solution.

Appian separates out the drag-and-drop design process from heavy database work. Doing so allows regular business users and more savvy IT folks to focus on distinct processes, which can then be integrated into a single, collaborative application.

Appian is one of the more expensive offerings on this list. But for organizations willing to invest in the platform, Appian transforms app development into a social, collaborative, and productive experience.

PowerApps

With the technical might of Microsoft behind it, PowerApps is a trusty option. 

A robust feature set and extensive integration options make for one of the most powerful low-code solutions currently available. 

Such capabilities do make PowerApps a little intimidating at first, and it has a steeper learning curve than the other options, meaning it may be less suitable for the not-so-technically inclined. 

PowerApps represents one of the best-value solutions on the market. Combining this with its array of capabilities and multitude of UI options and templates, it’s little surprise that many are flocking to it. 

Mendix

Mendix delivers a feature-rich low-code development platform capable of tackling the entire software lifecycle

Heavy-duty project tracking, with developer and IT testing tools, help business teams collaborate and build at speed while maintaining compliance with desktop, tablet, and mobile applications. 

Much like PowerApps, Mendex is more developer and IT-focused than some alternatives, meaning it requires some base knowledge and may not be best suited to novice developers.

Although Mendex offers a free version to get started with, prices quickly ramp up. But if an enterprise is willing to invest both time and expense, Mendex provides one of the most powerful and complete solutions on the market.

App Maker

Google’s App Maker is arguably the most user-friendly low-code solution available

A clean, responsive user experience is paired with an intuitive UI builder to deliver fast and effective development.

What’s more, the App Maker offers built-in integration across all other Google apps and services.

Being a Google product, App Maker is only available for G Suite Businesses, and such ease of use does come at the expense of fewer templates and resources to choose from. 

Is Low-Code Right for You?

By reimagining the development workflow as a visual medium, the low-code market has simplified app development in such a way that businesses (of any size) can create effective and affordable application solutions in-house.

While low-code should not be seen as a  replacement for custom development, in the right circumstances it can offer a game-changing tool for businesses. 

If you’re thinking of getting started with low-code development, but are still unsure how, then Thinklogic can help. 

With a team of 3 dozen developers based locally in Southern California, Thinklogic can help deliver the right solution for your team, no matter how complex.


To find out more, get in touch today.

Trace Trantow

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