No code application development
No code platforms provide easy to use tools that enable non-developers to create custom software experiences quickly without coding. They generally enable people to create data models, workflows, pages and other configurable components to quickly put together custom applications. Some of these products are geared towards enterprise level customers, whilst others are better suited to smaller businesses.
A key question when considering no-code solutions is whether it can sit in the provider’s cloud environment (usually on a SaaS basis), or whether it will need deploying within a private cloud environment. Obviously it’s also important to assess whether the platform can meet the functional requirements of the intended application.
Low code application development
Low code development platforms have a similar aim to no code ones, but are often designed for use by more technically capable users, including developers in some cases. They may incorporate no code elements as well or be purely code based. Either way they deliver tools to speed up the coding of custom applications. Again these can be SaaS based or deployable, so deployment requirements need to be considered.
Low code / No code app development
The options for low code / no code mobile app development are currently more limited, both in number of providers and results. Currently only fairly formulaic apps can be created, however this can serve well for standard in-house uses.
Bear in mind though that you can create a fully bespoke mobile app experience and still speed up development time but utilising an MBaaS solution (see below).
Mobile back-end as a service
As with all of these rapid application development tools, MBaaS solutions have their limitations and aren’t suitable for all projects. However, where requirements make it possible, MBaaS solutions can enable app projects to be delivered at much greater speed, at least to a proof-of-concept or MVP (Minimum Viable Product) level. Generally once an app is proven it’s still best to build a bespoke back-end to handle scaling and more specific business needs and integrations.
Pro’s and Con’s
At first glance low code or no code solutions seem like a no-brainer; although not all solutions can be created using such tools, for the ones that can, why wouldn’t you? The pro’s are obvious; vastly reduced application development cost and time to completion. They also often give greater certainty around best-practice implementation of security and trouble-free deployment, though again these factors just come back to cost since with sufficient budget the same standards can be built into a custom application.
Before leaping in though it’s worth considering the con’s, some of which are obvious and some of which aren’t. The obvious negative is ongoing licensing cost; for many of the top solutions we’ve worked out that our average customer would spend $30K – $100K per annum on license fees. For reasonable sized mid-market companies this might seem affordable, but it’s worth considering what you’ll have spent after 10yrs and that you’ll still own NOTHING in terms of IP or a solution you can continue using without having to keep paying and paying. As an IT consultant recently said to us, “low code solutions; there’s legacy technical debt right there”. Additionally one has to consider the potential impact of being tied to someone else’s technology roadmap which, in extreme cases, can even include switching the entire platform off as happened with Adobe Business Catalyst, the no-code websites system. Then when you consider that you may have had to compromise a lot in terms of the ideal UX of your product to go the low code way, it’s even more difficult to say this approach is a no-brainer.
It’s not that there’s a definite right or wrong; just that custom vs low code / no code needs careful evaluation and the right pathway will vary based on situational and product factors.
Whilst fully custom coded application development is going to be around for a long time to come, especially for external products, we are heading towards a world where most internal business applications will be based on no code or low code platforms, and extended from there to meet more bespoke requirements. This is an emerging space that Applicable has spent considerable time researching; see our Hyperniche branded OutSystems focused website for more info on what, in our opinion, is the most powerful and flexible of these.