Expert insight into the pros and cons of low code/no code development.

Application development used to be the sole domain of skilled software coders. To build a software application, you needed to have deep knowledge of programming languages, understand wide ranging functionalities, and become skilled in deployment and testing processes. Yet even as software complexity has increased, coding has grown more accessible. 

These days, nontechnical people can build capabilities without thoroughly understanding business apps and their development environments. There is an existing library of tools that people can draw upon. Plus, low-code/no-code platforms allow people to create complex applications with minimal or no knowledge of overall software development practices. 

This type of development enables businesses to quickly build applications and experiment with new ideas. Yet, there are drawbacks to this type of accessible development. We often get clients coming to us after taking the low code/no code route, and it’s not always as simple as it looks.

What is Low Code/No Code
Sometimes called point-and-click development, low code/no code development uses a graphical user interface (GUI) to let users drag and drop pre-built components to configure an app. Each component is configured via the GUI to do what the user needs; so, the individual is not required to write any code. The GUI then allows the user to wire those components together to perform work.

This type of development approach means that entrepreneurs and business owners no longer need to be skilled developers to create a digital product. They simply select components in the low-code/no-code environment and connect them to accomplish their intended workflow. Low-code/no-code tools, which in the background contain the actual code, enable users to experiment, prototype, test, and deploy applications. 

What is the Difference Between the Two?
Low-code platforms use GUI visuals and automation to expedite the development process. They are intended for people with at least some coding knowledge. Professional developers might use low-code tools to handle mundane programming tasks while they focus on more complex coding work.

No-code platforms offer users with no technical background an augmented environment to build applications and workflows. They can select and connect reusable components without ever writing any code. 

Considering the Low Code/No Code Option
Low code/no code lets anyone with an idea for software to build a first version. Everyday people can quickly prototype an application without any real understanding of the code involved. Thus, if there’s a problem that can be solved with an app, a solution can be developed quickly and tested with real users.

A good low-code/no-code scenario would be when your team needs an internal tool but do not want to use development resources on an internal product. 

The Pros and Cons of Low Code/No Code
However, rapid app development is not always the full solution. For one thing, low-code/no-code platforms may only get your app so far toward realizing your business vision. The marketing message is that you can get your app up and out the door over a weekend. That’s great! But, that’s just version 1.0. 

The allure of these platforms is that they give you power confined within guardrails. But, as you build, you’ll be limited to the specific application options that the platform offers. They don’t let you go outside of the box. If the platform you’re using to build your app doesn’t support the functionality you’re looking for, you’re stuck. You may be able to leverage some of the concepts you developed already. But, in most cases, you will need to scrap everything you’ve done in the low-code/no-code environment and start all over again. That’s wasting resources.

The biggest problem we see with the low code/no code approach is the risk to momentum. For instance, you build an app on a platform that can’t scale the way you need. You are completely dependent on that platform’s infrastructure and developers to support your future growth. If you develop the next TikTok or BeReal, they may not be able to, or want to, dramatically scale with you. So, now you’ve got the prototype (and a successful one at that), but no runway. You will likely need to rebuild the application from scratch in order to grow, which crushes the momentum you spent so much time and energy generating.

Additional Low Code/No Code Concerns
In 2022, everyone is building their business on someone else’s business. When you do that with Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud, you’re selecting a platform that supports millions of customers. When building in a low-code/no-code environment you’re effectively playing the odds. You don’t own your code. So, if the platform you’re using goes bust, or is bought out and changes direction, you could lose your business along with it. 

Your destiny is in the hands of your low-code/no-code platform. That means potential security concerns too. In the low-code/no-code environment, you can’t see underneath the hood. You are fully dependent on them to manage and monitor security. You just have to trust they’re doing it well.

Cyber vulnerabilities can happen to anybody, but at least if you are working with developers who know the code, you can put as much or as little emphasis on security as you want. If you have a trained software development team with full access to the entirety of your code, they can see how databases, logs, containers, and virtual servers are configured, and ensure those standards meet your level of risk tolerance.

Why Traditional Development Remains Our Top Choice
To be sure, there is no one right or wrong way to approach application development. There are always trade-offs. It’s not uncommon to begin with something that gets started on a low-code/no-code platform and take that as a jumping off point. Still, it’s not the same as starting from the beginning with the expertise of a trained software developer.

A traditional developer brings their skills and expertise over a number of years across a variety of different use cases to your project. Rather than having to rebuild something when it’s time to scale, or trying to extend something that was built on a shaky foundation, you can get started with full control over your idea’s online destiny.

Your business is your passion, and your product is the culmination of your ideas and experiences. You want to be able to deliver on your promises to your investors, your markets, and yourself.  The low code/no code platform is a viable option for prototyping new ideas, but you will need to own and control the code to scale.