How does the average person imagine app development? Usually, it’s a collaboration with a team that provides software development service to implement different algorithms with help of ready-made software modules and frameworks. However, even despite the use of such advanced tools, the need to write code still remains, although some of it is automatically generated by the frameworks.
That’s why, in recent years, so-called low-code (LC) development has become increasingly popular. LC involves the use of alternative tools for developers with a graphical interface that allows them to quickly create applications and automate business processes with almost no coding.
Initially, LC solutions appeared to make web development services or mobile app development services more affordable to startups and small businesses. In turn, today these solutions are actively used in projects where high development speed is required, or the scope of work is too large to manually write program code for literally all components. Below we’ll discuss all the advantages and disadvantages of this approach, as well as consider special cases of its use.
So, what is low-code? It’s an approach to designing and developing software using intuitive graphical tools and built-in features that reduce the professional requirements of developers to write code. At the same time, these tools don’t eliminate the need to write program code in general; however, they simplify the creation of most of it.
Initially, such solutions were created to reduce the cost and speed up the development process, but today they’re also actively used in the creation of narrowly focused mobile and web projects that require the involvement of industry specialists who don’t have programming skills, but who know the specifics of the niche for which they create a project.
In recent years, the term “low-code tools” covers a fairly wide range of solutions—from the simplest ones that allow users to create the necessary forms using templates, to full-fledged development environments with visual programming languages. The following types of low-code platforms exist:
As for the entry threshold, low-code app development platforms (LCDPs) do require some basic programming skills, so you won’t be able to cope with completely zero knowledge here.
Let’s take a look at the statistics:
As you can see, in the coming years, low-code tools will no longer be used only for simple mobile and web projects or projects that require an early launch on the market —the low-code approach will become a global programming trend. By the way, if you’re interested in web development trends, you can check this article.
So how do you know if such tools will be useful to you in the implementation of your project? Let’s figure it out.
Often, a low-code platform consists of three components.
Together, these three components form a universal set of tools for specialists with different skill levels. However, even though they seem to be comprehensive, the functionality of such platforms is much more limited than of traditional IDEs.
Actually, the low-code approach to software development is by no means new. About thirty years ago, the IT world was shocked by innovative tools for rapid application development (RAD), which either automated the procedure for writing program code or provided programmers with a set of highly specialized tools with a very limited set of basic logic blocks.
At the same time, to make even minor changes to the architecture of an application created using RAD tools, developers needed to re-generate the code, which means that all manual changes must have been made again. In addition, RAD tools were presented mainly in desktop and server formats, while now the vast majority of businesses are focused on developing web and mobile applications. In fact, low-code solutions were invented for this.
They allowed developers to replace the cumbersome generated code that is typical for RAD tools with a universal system with limited scalability. This eliminates the need to re-make changes to the code if the application structure needs to be adjusted. This approach greatly simplifies the development of new functionality, providing access to already implemented components.
Thus, low-code still requires the creation of program code, but already generated, and not written by hand. As a result, it’s more stable, predictable, and cleaner.
The fact that low-code tools have managed to become a real IT trend is directly determined by the numerous benefits they bring to projects. Here are just a few of them:
Though it seems universal, low-code web app development in fact isn’t—and it’s not suitable for all projects.
On the one hand, low-code tools are attractive because they help you build software in a visual editor without programming, which is cheap and fast.
However, low-code technology often doesn’t allow teams to overcome the problem of increasing complexity of the software they create, as it can increase much faster than the speed of optimizing this software for new business requirements. As a result, the project may become poorly structured, which at some point will make its further scalability impossible.
In a more primitive way, low-code programming justifies itself in the long run only with simple projects that don’t require further major improvements. Conversely, in the case of projects that are constantly expanded and replenished with new functionality, low-code software development can limit the team’s capabilities and, as a result, lead to the need to refactor code.
In particular, here are the typical problems that many teams face when they mistakenly choose low-code web application development for complex, large-scale projects:
Thus, we can conclude that changes to a solution based on a low-code platform can be much more resource-intensive than the initial choice of a traditional approach to software development (for example, with IDE).
As you can already understand, the main target audience for low-code solutions are startups and small businesses that need to use software products to solve particular problems that don’t require significant improvement in the future.
However, low-code development may also be of interest to large companies. The fact is that the more global the organization, the more often deeper adaptation from the development team is required. Applications that are built to automate workflows in such organizations usually have a lot of specific operations, and to perform them, developers will have to spend a lot of time on training and analysis. In this case, low-code platforms can come to the aid of such companies.
In particular, low-code web development platforms will allow them to avoid such substantial time costs and at the same time provide sufficient flexibility in setting up processes. Also, company employees won’t need to plan architecture, create prototypes, analyze, or develop the UI, since it’s assumed that this is all implemented in the platform itself.
Ultimately, since the company’s IT professionals using low-code platforms won’t have to write a lot of code, the need for developer competencies will decrease and their ability to create software solutions from ready-made components will be a priority.
To conclude our review of this approach to software development, we propose you consider some worthwhile examples of low-code mobile app development platforms.
Back4App is a one-stop low-code solution for simple and flexible app development. It provides an easy way to create, host, and deploy applications on a single platform. It’s a centralized API and backend platform.
Backendless is an advanced low-code application development platform for persistent data storage. It combines a user interface builder, database, and API management functionality. Developers can either use the Codeless Logic Builder or customize applications with written codes to create applications.
An analytics and business transformation company, Zoho is a cross-platform software that offers low-code solutions to enterprises through Zoho Creator. Zoho Creator comes with a set of personalized tools, including an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. Developers can use this low-code platform to gather information, run workflows, evaluate data, and effectively collaborate with application users. Zoho Creator applies industry-standard security measures to keep your data safe and regularly backed up.
Low-code development is considered a low-cost approach to the implementation of software solutions and will be effective for testing hypotheses, conducting experiments, and implementing simple tasks.
As for large-scale software solutions that require regular scaling and/or compliance with specific requirements such as increased load or security, these are best created using traditional programming that doesn’t entail any unexpected costs for updates. If you’re looking for a team of specialists who can tailor the best approach to your project, feel free to contact us.
Yevhenii has more than a decade of experience in the software engineering industry and dozens of completed projects under his belt. He has a knack for building cost-effective solutions and processes, and is confident there is nothing impossible with the right approach.
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