Long gone are the days when you would have to spend years learning how to code in order to build a complex piece of software or app. Both individuals and companies are increasingly relying on what are called low-code/no-code (LC/NC) platforms to do most of the legwork. These sites use visual drag-and-drop interfaces and pre-built templates to enable users to design, develop, and deploy their own projects.
What’s the difference between the two?
Whereas low-code platforms require some coding knowledge and allow users to write code to customise and extend their applications, no-code platforms don’t involve any coding skills and rely solely on pre-built components and templates.
Both offer a faster and more efficient way to build programs, making them an attractive option for us at NOBA to create and launch solutions quickly.
In this article (the first of a 4-part series), we’ll dive into both LC and NC development and provide tips and best practices for getting started.
A brief history
The idea to arm programmers with tools that lighten the coding burden dates back to before many of us at NOBA were even born. The development of fourth-generation programming language (4GL) and rapid application development (RAD) in the 1980s and 1990s led to low-code development platforms (LCDP) such as Visual Basic, which was Microsoft in 1991 and allowed users to build Windows applications using a graphical user interface and drag-and-drop components.
The following decades saw the emergence of several services that allowed users — not coders — to take a backseat. Think tools like cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS), and even the world wide web itself. But it wasn’t until 2014 that the term “low code” was coined by Forrester Research, along with “no code” to refer to no-code development platforms (NCDPs).
Since then, more and more intuitive and user-friendly LC/NC platforms have emerged, such as Zapier, AirTable, Bubble and Salesforce’s Lightning Platform, among others you might be familiar with. This movement has also been driven by the rise of everyday non-technical individuals who use these platforms to build custom solutions for their businesses and organisations without the need for extensive coding knowledge.
The benefits of LC/NC
The growing need for quick and flexible software development in the digital age has made low-code and no-code platforms crucial for businesses, startups, and individuals. Some of the main benefits include:
- Boost speed and efficiency: LC/NC platforms allow users to build and deploy software applications faster than traditional coding methods because they provide pre-built components and templates that can be easily customised and integrated. This can help your organisation save time and resources and get your solutions to market faster.
- Lower dev costs: LC/NC platforms can be used by a wider range of individuals and organisations, beyond just coders and including those with limited budgets or resources. This can help organisations save money on hiring and training developers and reduce the overall cost of software development.
- Improved collaboration and teamwork: LC/NC platforms often provide features that enable users to collaborate and work together in real time, which can improve teamwork and communication within organisations.
- Agile workflow: LC/NC platforms allow users to quickly iterate and update their software applications as needed, which can help organisations stay on their toes and respond to changing business needs.
- Enhanced UX: LC/NC platforms often provide intuitive and user-friendly interfaces that make it easy for users to build and customise software applications, which can improve the overall user experience.
The drawbacks of LC/NC
Low-code and no-code platforms are by no means perfect either. Some of their main limitations include:
- Limited customization: LC/NC platforms provide a range of customization options but they may not offer the same level of flexibility and customization as traditional coding methods. This can be a roadblock for users who need to build highly customised and complex software applications.
- Template constraints: LC/NC platforms rely on pre-built components and templates, which means that users are limited to the options and features provided by the platform. Users who need to build specialised features or functionality might need to look beyond these platforms to create their unique and custom solutions.
- Scalability issues: LC/NC platforms may not scale as well as traditional coding methods, which can hinder projects that require large and complex software applications.
- Integration challenges: LC/NC platforms may not successfully integrate with other systems and applications that the entire project relies on.
- Limited control: LC/NC platforms control most of the functionality for users, which is a benefit for non-coders but a drawback for users with complex or custom solutions or who want to have more control over the codebase of their applications.
To code or not to code
Low-code and no-code platforms may seem like they’ve recently gained momentum, yet they’re grounded in a decades-long effort to make building software applications faster and more efficient. While LC/NC platforms offer numerous benefits, their rigid templates and other constraints can make it difficult for complex applications to literally get with the program.
Make sure you carefully consider your project’s needs and goals before you decide whether LC/NC development is the right approach for your project.