Low code/no code (LCNC) development platforms advertise themselves as being tools that anyone can use to build applications. This is appealing to people who can’t write code, but who are customer-facing, because they know what customers want applications to do and how.
LCNC offers the hope of bringing technology and end users in sync. After all, don’t you work with software and you sometimes wonder why the design is a bit quirky or why the logic of software doesn’t quite make sense from a human perspective? Some application developers tend to code in a way that makes sense to them, but doesn’t always replicate actual human interaction with the software.
Graphical user interface (GUI) application development has a lot of appeal for people who can’t code, but it falls short in one critical area: it lacks the knowledge and experience that can only be gained through a lot of time spent developing applications.
Application development and workflow automation is more than just dragging and dropping visual icons into a program. This easier and simpler method might suffice for a citizen programmer who wants to devise, launch, and quickly test a digital solution that will be sufficient to prove a concept and demonstrate the value of the solution. This is a valuable stage in the process of application development. But it is not the final stage.
A high-quality application that can scale to meet the larger need of an expanding user audience requires an interdisciplinary team of engineers, researchers, product specialists, and designers who operate at the intersection of your business and the intricate technological advances available to it.
Some people assume that LCNC platforms are suitable for automating mission-critical or enterprise-wide systems. They are not. Complex undertakings such as these still require technical expertise to scale, maintain, integrate, secure, and govern.
While LCNC platforms may bring technology innovation within reach for non-technical people, veteran application developers remain key to successful application development.
What is Low Code/No Code?
Low code/no code is the development of applications with minimal or no use of a coding language. Instead of writing line-by-line strings of code, the designer (novice or otherwise) drags and drops visual icons and components into a LCNC platform to create an application. LCNC platforms enable almost anyone to develop applications without having to know a programming language.
LCNC “point and click” development happens on platforms that use visual programming language (VPL). VPL is a term for any programming language that allows users to create applications and programs using graphical elements. Users can drag and drop the components of the application to create mobile or web applications.
The Difference Between Low-Code (LC) and No-Code (NC)
While both LC and NC require minimum IT know-how or experience, there is a slight difference between the two:
- Low-Code (LC) – Still requires some level of programming skills, provided by in-house professional developers or hybrid business/IT professionals.
- No-Code (NC) – Almost anyone can do it because no code-writing is involved; these platforms have modular features such as pull-down menus, and point-click or drag-drop manipulation tools.
The Benefits and Limitations of LCNC
Before LCNC, businesses had only two options when it came to automating business processes or building a software application tailored to their unique requirements.
1. Build in-house – Having an internal IT team build a custom system to automate business processes is a lengthy, expensive process that pulls IT resources from mission-critical activities. It may involve hiring and onboarding staff with niche skill sets that are difficult to outsource.
2. Purchase from a 3rd-party SaaS or COTS vendor – If a company wanted to use an external 3rd-party software, they were stuck with only two viable options: COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) software or SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). COTS software requires internal resources to install, configure, and manage and it falls short because it isn’t customizable or even configurable. SaaS is a slightly better solution because it is cloud-based, with no hosting or installation required, but it requires highly-trained internal or outsourced IT professionals to configure it appropriately to meet the business workflow.
Neither option is ideal. Businesses often find it easier to just change business processes to suit the software in place rather than build a new system in-house, settle for a non-configurable COTS solution, or customize a SaaS solution.
Now they have a third option. They can build their own system using a LCNC platform. This seems like an ideal solution. After all, LCNC development can be done in-house by non-IT staff at a fraction of the cost of building an in-house system or purchasing a COTS or SaaS solution from an external vendor.
So, what’s the drawback?
While LCNC development is great for some purposes, it’s not a magic bullet. LCNC is not the single-shot solution to custom workflow automation or complex custom application development.
What LCNC is Good at Doing
- Automating small-sized business transactional systems – LCNC platforms allow small businesses to build transactional systems (systems that handle common business processes, such as human resource management, reservation management, and quote creation).
- Creating simple workflow automations – Small to medium-sized businesses can use LCNC platforms to create small workflow automations for things such as training and email notifications for timesheets.
- Making visual analytics available to the non-data analyst – Businesses can use LCNC platforms to share milestones and strategies with their stakeholders without the need for an in-house data analyst.
- Bringing minimum viable product (MVP) applications to market quickly – LCNC shortens the development cycle for applications. Typically, when someone comes up with an idea for an application, they want to build it, launch it, and (potentially) sell it as quickly as possible. They don’t have time to learn to write code, nor do they have the time or even resources to hire someone who can. LCNC gives these entrepreneurs the ability to quickly get their minimum viable product (MVP) out to market so that they can begin building their business around it. Once the MVP gains traction, they can hire professional programmers to refine the MVP to make it more scalable, secure, and reliable.
When to Call in the Professionals
Although LCNC is empowering small and medium-sized businesses by bringing technical modernization within easy reach, it has significant drawbacks. Professional programmers are recommended when:
- Security matters – In custom application development, security controls must be implemented at every step of the development process. Most LCNC platforms fall short here. Bring in experts when user authentication, secure data transmission, content privacy, user access control, encryption of data, and anti-theft measures matter.
- You need to integrate the new application with other systems – Applications rarely operate independently of other applications, especially in a business environment. A software application operating within a silo provides very little benefit. This is why integration and interoperability are critical parts of application development. Many LCNC platforms can’t create applications that can integrate with other applications.
- You require ongoing customer support – Many LCNC platforms provide support while the application is in development, but do not offer ongoing support or maintenance after it is complete.
An interdisciplinary team of engineers, researchers, product specialists, and designers can meet these needs and more. They bring an MVP application to life, providing the insight needed to make the application scalable, reliable, secure, productive, and profitable. Professional UI and UX experts can ensure that the usability and interface of the application is tailored to meet the needs of the target audience.
The same professional team can efficiently and cost-effectively guide large businesses through the process of automating mission-critical or enterprise-wide systems to meet the company workflow priorities. After the initial development process, a professional team can then help scale and maintain the system(s), and also integrate them with other internal or external systems through API if needed. There are some development companies that go beyond writing code to make sure what is produced will succeed in the market.
If you have questions about whether LCNC application development is a good fit for your idea or organization, we’d be happy to chat. Please feel free to contact us at any time.