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What is low-code



June 24th, 2019 Software development

What is low code development?

Enterprises increasingly claim that they need customized software to solve their business problems, from sales management to invoicing, from warehouse management to logistics, from HR-management to payroll. However, in building custom applications using traditional coding with programming languages, frameworks, and middleware, enterprises face certain challenges, they claim that it is difficult to meet business requirements on time and it takes too long to update apps. Traditional development methods simply cannot keep up with modern pace of business. Therefore, organizations are looking for alternative ways to design customizable apps faster.

Software market constantly offers new solutions that allow enterprizes to keep up. One of such solutions is reducing the amount of code which needs to be written and building applications on low-code and no-code platforms that have addressed and significantly improved the listed issues.

What is low-code?

A low-code platform is software designed to create applications through graphical user interface and configuration. It is developed as a means to allow for quick creation and use of working applications that can address the specific needs of the organization. It has created a stiff competition for traditional software applications due to the fact that it is SaaS-based, workflow-capable and more agile.

Within low-code development environment users drag-and-drop application components, connect them together and create a ready-made solution. This environment allows developers to design and build powerful applications that can scale for any organization - without having to spend hours coding.

Creating an app without code?

Another alternative to traditional coding is a no-code platform that works in a similar way and allows to build secure, complex, enterprise-grade applications. However, an app can only behave in a ways foreseen by developers, which narrows down app functionality.

With no-code development platform, users don't need prior coding knowledge to create apps. But it’s important to understand that creating an app without code doesn’t mean that no expertise is required. While no-code platforms have been targeted at business users without programming skills, building a quality application still requires effort and knowledge. Even selecting items from menus or dragging and dropping modules requires users to have a general sense of how to build an application. Without an understanding of the basic concepts that are being abstracted away by the visual tool, when something goes wrong, no-code developer may not understand what is going on and may not be able to fix the issue.

Unlike no-code users, low-code users have more development skills and augment graphical development tooling with scripting or more sophisticated model types such as entity relationship diagrams, business process model and notation, and decision model and notation.

Same same

These new ways of making applications inspired organizations to involve non-professional developers into creating software for business use which led to the emergence of shadow IT and growing popularity of citizen developers, i.e., users who create new business applications using development tools sanctioned, configured and supported by IT.

Over the last several years, low-code and no-code have taken on an increasingly important role in enterprises and government organizations that, as Gartner states, will only continue to grow in the years to come. Gartner predicts that market demand for app development will grow at least five times faster than IT’s capacity to deliver it through 2021. No wonder, businesses tend to choose new approaches since low-code and no-code platforms can make app development up to 10 times faster. What takes years with traditional coding can now be done within days.

Both application development platforms minimize or eliminate the amount of hand-written code needed to develop an application by using visual, declarative techniques, reusable components, drag-and-drop tools, and process modeling instead of traditional lines of code. But the difference is that a low-code platform utilizes a constrained language mechanism to provide business logic, complex application flows and data operations, as well as external service access, whereas a no-code platform offers limited configuration options for representing business logic, simple application flows, or accessing external services.

In practice, the line between low-code and no-code development continues to blur. Low-code platforms become easier to use and no-code platforms become more powerful and versatile, therefore the distinction between the two becomes more and more subtle.

Same same but different

Now that we described what is low-code and no-code like to create apps with we still need to put it straight what low-code development is so that you can decide whether it is a suitable option for your enterprise.

Firstly, as was stated before, low-code development platform enables accelerated delivery of business applications which are created using graphical interface elements instead of writing code. This idea makes managers very excited and leads them to thinking they can create apps without having to involve an IT department of an organization.

Even though managers implement low-code tools for the needs of their organization quite eagerly, one has to understand that low-code platform reduces the amount of traditional hand coding, but does not eliminate the need to write it. Low-code app development may still require additional coding for specific situations. This is when you need professional developers to step in.

It is important to note that developers tend to be slightly more skeptical about low-code and no-code than managers. One possible explanation is that developers currently see these tools as targeting non-technical users and not as a potential part of their own development stack. Also, they show concern over the code quality, application security and usability, as well as the necessity to adjust their usual development process.

So, low code makes application development process more simple, fast and cheap. It reduces the time needed to familiarize oneself with technical aspects of coding on a new platform as well as overall time of delivering application. In spite of the simplicity of this approach, low-code programming still requires developers with at least basic technical knowledge to create custom applications. And as the demand for delivering applications only keeps growing, applying low code methodology to app design is a solution to consider.