When Does Low-Code Development Actually Work?
Software development tools constantly evolve and we now see lots of automation happening. The reason for that is the need for speed: companies want to roll out new versions of the product every month (or even every week). And since manual development at a high velocity can be quite costly, low-code development tools are becoming a new trend in software development.
Promoted as user-friendly and requiring zero technical knowledge, these tools are aimed at closing the gap between the IT department and business. This is why businesses love them: low-code tools are a quick and affordable way to build digital products. Or are they?
What is low-code development?
As the name hints, low-code development means creating a software product with less coding than normally. So instead of writing every line of code from scratch, a user will mostly be doing drag-and-drop of ready elements around the user interface. The simplicity of the process together with a relatively easy UI are the main reasons why low-code platforms became so popular.
Despite a common misconception, low-code tools do require a certain level of technical knowledge so it’s wrong to say that anyone can work with a platform like Mendix or Bitrix without any training. In fact, all low-code products require specific training from their users so businesses need to keep that in mind when deciding to try low-code as an alternative to traditional coding.
Low-code tools and their examples
The most common form of a low-code tool is a low-code development platform like Mendix, Appian, or Quixy. All these platforms are united by a set of common features:
- Visual development through the user interface and drag-and-drop approach;
- Easy creation of app’s components;
- Easy creation of microflows and nanoflows;
- A basic set of needed functions for app creation and design.
And obviously, these tools are designed for the Agile methodology and cooperation which adds to their usability and value. So what else is so special about low-code development tools that make businesses lose their heads?
Why you might want to choose low-code development tools
The main advantage that low-code promotes is its accessibility to regular users without a heavy technical background. Another big advantage of low-code is that it offers you all the app’s components out of the box - you just have to assemble them as needed. These were the two big benefits and now let’s have a look at the remaining ones.
Ease of use
The biggest bottleneck for many businesses is the need to assemble a whole team of experienced software engineers so they can create a product from scratch. Naturally, any change to the product will require a significant amount of time which is always a scarce resource. No wonder business users have been dreaming of a magic wand - a solution that would allow them to tweak the product in a fast and easy manner without the need to do any coding.
Low-code tools provide you with this option. Once you start working with a low-code platform (after completing the training, of course), it shouldn’t be a trouble for you to tweak your product, design it from scratch, and add/remove components from it. And all that is done via a drag-and-drop interface that is intuitively easy to understand.
Low cost and high accessibility
Another bottleneck that stops businesses from addressing software providers is their cost of services. Software development remains quite expensive, especially the development of custom digital products. On the contrary, there are low-code tools that offer a license fee starting with $50/month and are packed with out-of-the-box features. Obviously, this may be a significant advantage for many business owners, especially small ones.
All basic functionality is present
Even though low-code tools do not offer you extensive customization (we’ll talk about it a bit later), they still offer all the needed features to successfully launch an app or manage your business. Another notable feature is support for various integrations and API accessibility: low-code tools can help bring together and streamline different parts of your business in no time.
Reasons why custom development is still a more reliable option
By now, low-code development seems like a cure-all: it allows you to avoid hiring a dev team, it empowers your business users with an easy and efficient solution, and it comes at a lower price than alternatives. What can possibly go wrong?
Limited functionality expansion of low-code products
Working with a low-code tool is easy until your product remains within a certain size. But as it grows, it will become just as confusing as managing a software product created by a traditional development approach. Plus, the addition of new features will be complex and more expensive for low-code tools and they will lose their ease of use and intuitive approach with functionality expansion.
Custom development, on the contrary, offers you limitless possibilities - the only limit is your budget. Don’t get stressed about the budget though: most development companies have experienced business analysts who can offer a mix of quality and affordability.
Low-code might be mundane and slow
Surprising as it sounds, low-code development may indeed be slow. If you have dozens (if not more) blocks to manage in a low-code development platform, it might take much more time to set them up and connect them than write a dozen lines of code manually.
And don’t forget about the time one needs to get acquainted with the low-code development tool. In many cases, it might really be better to leave the coding to knowledgeable experts and receive the results on a stated deadline, without missing it. In addition, developers know their way around code and also use automation and optimization tools that help them code faster.
With custom development, security is usually excellent because of several reasons. First, when a development team creates a product from scratch, developers can easily perform necessary security checks and integrate patches upon the need. With low-code tools, you have to wait until the provider decides to update the program so you have no control over security in this case.
Second, custom development implies that security is integrated on all levels. Developers usually know the biggest risk areas and know how to mitigate and avoid the most common threats that are specific to certain industries. With low-code, you get a universal product that applies general security measures and nothing on top of that.
And finally, custom development allows you to reach any level of security that’s needed. Low-code has built-in security but it’s limited and this might pose a serious threat in the future.
There is no need for explaining the possible customization options that custom software development offers. From the start, you decide on the tiniest details of your product and can change anything throughout the development process at any time. In this way, custom development makes your brand consistent and recognizable and perfectly adjusts the software product to your brand’s identity.
With low-code tools though you get a minimum set of features and you can’t really go far beyond that. The idea of customization is not really envisaged in low-coding as its primary goal is to let you create software products on your own and in a fast manner, without looking back at the IT department.
Who might need low-code tools?
Low-code has its pros and cons so the question is what kinds of businesses might benefit from using this development method? While technically any business can try low-code development, here are the best use cases:
- Minimal viable product (MVP) development: MVP calls for quick development and fast time-to-market and has a limited set of features. Hence, low-code development will allow you to quickly create a functioning MVP product in a short amount of time.
- Prototyping: same as MVP development, product prototyping requires speed and ease of development which low-code development offers.
- Basic and simple products with no intent for massive growth: since low-code platforms are not intended for growth and expansion, they are highly suitable when you need a simple product for performing specific operations.
Because modern development places the main focus on speed and efficiency, development tools are designed correspondingly and low-code development is no exception. It promotes automation and speed but at the same time, as Mendix admits, “developers are needed now more than ever”.
That means that custom software development is here to stay and it remains the best option for enterprises and businesses that plan to grow in the future. Low-code development, in turn, is a valuable development asset. But when it comes to a complex project, low-code is a good starting point but not the ultimate option.
Irina is a professional copywriter with over 7 years of experience in this domain. She loves creating compelling and informative copy that provides readers with all the needed information. Irina is also a frequent contributor to different blogs and websites across different domains.View all articles by this author.