For some time now, you have been hearing about low-code or no-code development (although it is not the same and we will see the differences later). The truth is that it is a way of working that has been in place longer than we think, only that there was no term that coined it. In 2014 this changed when two Forrester analysts “invented” the concept.
Although for several decades there were already computer programs with which we could program without having great knowledge, the truth is that now there are many tools with little code to work with without having (practically) any idea of programming. These low-code platforms serve us above all for the development of mobile and web applications.
What is a low-code development platform?
When we talk about low-code development, we are referring to tools that allow us to create applications very intuitively, with minimal code development, or even create applications without knowing how to program.
Low-code platforms have a very robust interface, with pre-configured components. So the user, practically, to create their low-code business software will only have to “drag and drop” , that is, drag and drop the different elements. Furthermore, they are designed in such a way that it can be integrated with other softwares with little extra configuration.
What low-level code is looking for is to democratize software development or, put another way, create applications without knowing (hardly) programming. Now any company employee, especially those who know the business best, will be able to work on developing mobile and web applications that meet the exact needs of their organization.
In any case, although they are very intuitive tools, almost all projects will have to make slight adjustments to customize the tool to its needs. So the help of a developer will be necessary to achieve a perfect “finish”.
If this were not necessary, we would talk about no-code tools, in which the hand of a developer is totally expendable. The no-code tools need absolutely no programming knowledge. The only thing we will have to do is unite the necessary components and, at most, we may have to connect to some external service, such as Google Drive or Dropbox and we would already have our app or software created.
Evolution of low-code platforms
As we mentioned before, low-code development is not something new. In fact, it can be considered an evolution of Rapid Application Development (RAD) tools, of which we already made a post. As we saw in that article, RAD tools also worked with visual drag and drop mechanics and the use of templates.
Little by little, these tools have evolved to the current low-code business software and now we have two very different aspects:
On the one hand, the creators of RAD software have further automated the application deployment processes. In this way, the participation of developers in the creation of applications will be minimal.
The most important SaaS companies have taken advantage of low-code for their clients to make customizations and extensions of their platforms.
So, right now we could affirm that only very complex applications, or with new functionalities that need very specialized development, will not be able to use low-code tools.
Features of a low-code tool
Currently we have countless low-code platforms. To choose one or the other, we must look at the different features that low-code development offers us:
Deployment: There will be three options to choose the deployment; on-premises, in the cloud or hybrid.
Developer type: We will have to know who will be the end user of the low-code tool. It is not the same if this is a professional developer interested in RAD, an employee with technical knowledge but not a programmer (such as a business analyst with IT knowledge), an employee without technical knowledge (which will require a no-code approach), or some combination of the above.
User experience: Depending on whether our applications are focused for B2C or B2B, they will require a different complexity and sophistication of the UX. B2C applications will need more development in UX than B2B ones.
Targeting a specific sector: We can find many low-code tools that are generic, while others focus on a specific activity (ERP, CRM, etc).
Partners: When choosing one or another low-code tool, special attention must be paid to the support that the partner gives us once their product has been purchased. Do we have qualified personnel to answer our questions? Is there a training or developer community around this tool?
Advantages and disadvantages of low-code development.
All software or development methodology has advantages and disadvantages. We have already mentioned some benefits, but let’s see clearly what are the advantages and disadvantages of low-code business software and why, in any case, low-code is important for companies
Let’s start with the advantages of low-code tools:
- Decreased development time: As we have seen before, being tools with much of the predesigned code, except for customization settings, the time is drastically reduced.
- Decreased maintenance times: As we have already discussed in previous posts, application maintenance is of utmost importance and with low-code it could not be less. But, with very little code, maintenance will also be very simple.
- Decrease in costs: This is logical, if the implementation and deployment time is very short, the cost will also be less.
- Increased productivity: Having a very simple product to implement, developers can focus on their creativity to get the most out of the software.
- Alignment of the IT team with other teams: By having a simple development environment, they will be able to involve other areas of the company that are more related to business development, to support the design and creation of the software.
- Now we are going to see the disadvantages of low-code development, since they will have to be taken into account also when choosing this type of tool.
- Limited integration: Today, there are countless software and products that can be combined to create your digital transformation strategy. But not all low-code tools can be integrated with any software. We will have to consider what softwares we are going to integrate in the future with our low-code tool, so as not to get upset afterwards, especially if they are tools designed for the core of the business.
- Insufficient customization: It is likely that when you purchase your low-code software you do not have a specific need that may arise in the medium / long term. Therefore, you will have to choose the tool with the most customization options, since it would not make sense to adapt your business to the limitations of the low-code tool.
- Guarantee and traceability: The difference between creating your own software and a low-code one is that we do not know some parts of it. So we will have to take slight risks due to the lack of control, which can cause us security and traceability problems.
How to use low-code development in digital transformation?
Developing applications with little code is not a substitute for the traditional way of developing applications and software. Now, what we will have to know is when we are interested in using them. If we rely on the digital transformation of the company, there will be some key moments when it will be very interesting and beneficial for this process.
For example, we can use low-code tools to do proofs of concept and thus implement an idea quickly, instead of working on a long and expensive development, only to test if it is what we needed. On the other hand, with the changes in business models that are currently emerging in such a “hasty” way, low-level code can help us to cover a new business need quickly. Taking into account that, perhaps, in the future, it will require a more personalized development. In conclusion, in any digital transformation strategy, both low-code business software and personalized tools will have a place. What we will have to do is analyse what the needs of our business are and have sufficient criteria to be able to make the right decision when to use one formula or another. Advice from an external company on its different digital transformation services can be very helpful.