What Are Low-Code/No-Code Platforms?
Gone are the days when you needed coding skills to create an elegant website or app. Low-code and no-code development platforms make it possible for even the technically illiterate to develop eye-catching applications.
And that power of creation is going a long way in the business world. Gartner's Harness the Disruptive Powers of Low-Code report predicts that by 2025, 70% of new applications developed by organizations will use low-code or no-code technologies — up from less than 25% in 2020.
What are low- and no-code, and what do they mean for the future of the development process?
Low-Code vs. No-Code Development Platforms
Put simply, low-code and no-code platforms allow non-technical developers to build and deploy business applications through visual drag-and-drop interfaces.
Let’s dig a little deeper into both technologies:
What Is Low Code?
The term “low code” comes from research led by Digital FastForward CEO Clay Richardson with his former Forrester colleague, John Rymer.
“After interviewing dozens of companies,” Richardson said, “we identified a pattern around less technical developers building sophisticated business applications. We opted for the term ‘low-code’ vs. ‘no-code’ because we found that many of these applications did require some level of coding, even if minimal.”
Jason Wong, a distinguished VP analyst, research & advisory at Gartner covering no-code and low-code development platforms, said there’s a spectrum of what can be considered low-code. Essentially, however, it’s the abstracting away of code.
“Normally, when we talk about low-code, we look at and evaluate tools that are visual in nature. So, it’s graphical to build the screens, the page layouts, it’s graphical to model the workflow and some of the integration. So, you’re not really writing code, right?”
The low code comes in when you need custom code or custom solutions. “Then, you can write some scripting or write some code to customize it to suit you,” he said.
What Is No Code?
You can probably get away with using low-code development without knowing how to code — but you might not get the most out of them. No-code platforms, on the other hand, require zero coding skills.
“No code products are saying, ‘We don’t even want you to write any code or scripting. We want everything to be done with point and click, with drag and drop, with configuration that’s already set up in the tool,’” said Wong.
No-code solutions are suitable for people who want to expand their development abilities without learning to code. It’s also ideal for small business owners that don’t have the trained staff or resources to build the new applications they need.
Related Article: How Digital Transformation Is Driving Low-Code/No-Code Growth
What’s the Difference Between Low-Code and No-Code?
According to Richardson, the terms “low-code” and “no-code” are used interchangeably today, though the distinction comes down to who the platform is targeting.
“‘Low-code’ tends to target pro-developers who need the flexibility of some coding to build more sophisticated applications by configuring business rules, logic and integration,” Richardson said.
Data from Gartner backs this up: 42% of low-code vendors polled target developers who report to IT or lead application development.
No-code, on the other hand, tends to target citizen developers, people who don’t require as much flexibility and need to configure simpler applications, Richardson said.
How Do No- and Low-Code Platforms Work?
The low-code movement, which encompasses all low-code technology, aims to elevate coding from a textual skill to a visual one. As such, low-code development platforms use visual interfaces — often with basic drag-and-drop building tools — and configurations that make it easy for citizen developers to simplify development business processes, like app and website building.
Business users can create whole, operational applications with low-code platforms or accelerate the delivery of business applications that still require additional, custom code for specific situations or objectives.
No code development is very similar. The only difference is that a no-code development platform does not offer the ability to add custom coding.
Related Article: What's Behind the Explosion of Low-Code and No-Code Applications
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The Benefits of Low-Code/No-Code
The ability to create digital applications without needing to understand code or other technical knowledge is an empowering concept. One that comes with a lot of benefits to business users.
Those benefits include:
Democratized Development, Upskilled Workers
Today’s companies don’t have enough people (especially those with coding knowledge) or enough time to finish tasks. “Low-code and no-code platforms expand the pool of employees in organizations who can participate in development," Richardson said. "Low-code democratizes development and empowers anyone in the organization to develop new applications.”
Not only do low-code and no-code benefit the company, with more workers able to participate in development projects, but employees also gain the chance to learn new skills and work on new tasks as citizen developers, thereby increasing engagement.
Freed up Developer Time
Wong and Richardson were both clear: low-code and no-code applications won’t replace developers. However, they could assist developers by taking over tasks and freeing up time.
Low-code development will automate some of the tasks that skilled developers focus on as part of DevOps and deployment, said Richardson. “This will free pro developers up to focus more time on designing and architecting great applications, instead of spending time on low-value dev tasks, such as preparing builds, QA and release planning.”
Innovation in Customer Experience
Richardson believes low-code development will have the greatest impact on industries highly dependent on delivering outstanding CX, such as the financial services and healthcare sectors.
“Both of these industries are highly regulated and experiencing tremendous disruption,” he said. “Low-code and no-code platforms allow leaders in these industries to quickly innovate and deliver new digital solutions that directly improve customer and employee experience.”
Related Article: How Low-Code Development Is Transforming Organizations' Approach to Tech
What Are the Disadvantages of Low-Code/No-Code
Low-code and no-code offer a lot to business users at organizations of all sizes. But that’s not to say these tools are perfect. “Abstracting away complexity,” said Wong, “means adding something that potentially is brittle, is potentially something that accrues what’s called technical debt.”
Over time, he said, the performance, reliability and security of that abstraction layer can build up and become weak, especially as things around that layer change. And instead of going into the application and changing a problematic piece of code, for example — something a traditional developer could do — low-code and no-code users must rely on the platform provider, opening up the developer to vulnerabilities.
Professional developers, said Richardson, often have a hard time trusting low-code and no-code applications because they want to maintain the development mindset ingrained within them. “‘Maintain maximum control over the applications you build.’”
“It can take a long time for pro developers to let go of traditional developer culture and practices in favor of new low-code practices that prioritize design-thinking, customer playback sessions and minimum loveable products (MLPs).”
Are Low-Code and No-Code the Future?
Low-code and no-code tools are already popular in the workplace. And next year alone, Gartner predicts the global low-code development technologies market will grow another 20%.
These tools empower people with little-to-no technical knowledge to create applications, help close the skills gap and point toward a future of code-free innovation.
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