High demand for apps and software has seen a corresponding increase in the cost of hiring developers. Often, this cost reaches beyond the budget of many businesses. However, no-code and low-code development platforms allow for a drag-and-drop style of application development, which bypasses the need for developers. This cost reduction has made application development viable and popular for many businesses.
However, as with all software development methods, there are advantages and disadvantages to taking this path. The initial investment is lower, but limitations and unforeseen costs can soon be encountered. Today we’re going to look at when a no-code and low-code development is a suitable option.
What is no-code/ low-code application development?
As the name implies, no-code/ low-code application development is the process of developing an app without or with a minimal amount of code. This can be achieved using what are called form or app builders, typically with a drag-and-drop style interface.
The platforms providing this interface will piece together the code for you under the hood. And the end result will be an app that can be released onto a given platform, i.e. web, mobile or desktop.
Benefits and limitations
There are some clear benefits and limitations to using the no-code/ low-code method.
Benefits include the following:
- This method doesn’t require a developer’s expertise, and with it the associated costs and effort.
- It’s quicker to make changes with.
- You will have less concern about hosting requirements, which is handled by your platform of choice.
- The elements in your app or form, such as input fields, layouts and styling, are limited to what the platform offers.
- It’s often difficult to integrate your app with other products that your business might use.
- Platform costs can ramp up quickly.
- You are entirely dependent on the platform, so there’s vendor lock.
When to consider it
The above considerations will impact your decision differently depending on your project requirements. Let’s take a look at when the no-code/ low-code method of application development may be a good option.
If you can accomplish what you need to using the no-code/ low-code development method and are aware of the longer-term repercussions discussed, then it is definitely an option worth considering. If your app requirements are simple, such as basic data collection and persistence, then your project likely falls into this category.
Allows you to test the waters
Probably the best quality of this method is that it allows you to get an app up and running and into the hands of your users quickly. If you have an idea that you want to test out, then you can do so with less initial investment compared to methods involving a development team.
Avenue to get funding
Although an app developed using traditional means might appear more impressive to investors, they will at least be looking to ensure that the concept itself works before making an investment. This is when a no-code/ low-code application may do what it takes to entice investors into your first round of funding. Once that funding comes in, you can look at implementing longer-term solutions.
Plan for the evolution
If your app concept is a success, then it may not be long before you start to encounter scalability bottlenecks in a no-code/ low-code app. At this point, and if you haven’t done so already, you will likely want to start planning the evolution of your app into a bespoke, developer-built version.
A purpose-built app, using modern software development methods and best practices, will ensure your product can thrive well into the future. These days, users won’t hang around long if they encounter poorly-designed apps with problematic user experiences or slow performance.
No-code/ low-code platforms are designed to cater for a broad set of customers. This one-size-fits-all approach means your app will contain compromises, and the best pathway in the long run would be to roll out your own design.
Common approaches to bespoke application development include web, cross-platform, native and progressive web apps. The approach most suitable to your needs will depend on your project requirements and goals. But at a high level, the following is where each approach might be used:
- Web — the application is primarily going to be used via web browsers, and, to some extent, also on mobile devices. The application itself doesn’t need to leverage any native mobile device functionality, such as camera, contacts and SMS.
- Cross-platform — the application will primarily be used on mobile devices, will make low-to-moderate use of native device features and must provide a good user experience. Suitable to small and medium-sized budgets.
- Native — the application will be used on mobile devices only, will make high use of native device features and will provide a great user experience. Suitable to large budgets.
- Progressive Web App (PWA) — the application will be used in both web browsers and on mobile devices. It will make low-to-moderate use of native device features.
Low-code/ no-code platforms
There are many low-code/ no-code platforms on the market. It’s important to do your research to compare the offerings and align them to your needs. Aspects to consider are ongoing costs and support, the areas where the platform excels over its competitors, and platform feature sets. For instance, if you’re looking for a more appealing design, you may go with one platform, but if you need more functionality and integration, you may prefer another.
Here are some of the biggest players in the low-code/ no-code space:
- OutSystems, which offers wide platform support geared towards enterprise.
- Ionic Studio, which is a powerful app builder that’s targeted more at development teams.
- Appian, which focuses on desktop applications with lower-cost plans available.
- ZoHo Creator, which offers mobile app support with low-cost plans.
Low-code/ no-code development is a fantastic tool for businesses and startups looking to reach their userbase faster and at a lower cost. The key benefits include reduced upfront expense, ease of use and strong platform support.
But, before committing to this form of development, it’s important to be aware of the long-term implications. Design limitations, scalability bottlenecks, and vendor lock-in are important factors to keep in mind when taking this route.
It’s prudent to have a clear path regarding the evolution of your product onto a more scalable framework such as web, cross-platform, native or PWA. Doing so will increase the chances of your products’ success and longevity.
Originally published at https://denimdev.com.au on November 14, 2020.