The difference between low-code and no-code platforms
Digital transformation is a hot topic for businesses across multiple industries. The reason is obvious – modern technologies have become a critical factor in enterprise profitability, operational efficiency, and customer service. That’s why business owners strive to implement various digital tools fast and on a moderate budget to have an upper hand over competitors.
However, traditional, high-code, development requires much time and finance. Not to mention the lack of professionals on the market which prolongs the process even more. According to recent Statista research, 62% of global organizations consider the shortage of IT talent a threat to their growth.
Here low-code and no-code approaches come to the rescue. These development paradigms lower the entry threshold for citizen developers to build software of any complexity. At the same time, most decision-makers have a hard time choosing which path to take to reach their particular business goals. In this article, we are going to define what is low-code and no-code, how they differ, and what are their particular use cases to help you decide if it is a suitable approach for your business.
What is low-code?
Low-code is a development approach for rapid application development (RAD). Low-code way combines visual development functionalities with manual code and scripting. It means that developers can build the core of their app visually as well as customize application writing code for unique features and integrations. Simply put, low-code is a middle ground between high-code and no-code development. Therefore, low-code platforms, to be used at a full blast, require professional development skills.
Low-code development platforms (LCDPs) are gainfully employed by middle businesses and enterprises that look for complex mobile/web apps, integrations, process automation tools, and core business systems. At the same time, low-code suits for legacy app modernization, cloud migration, and sophisticated process automation with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning). Most of the LCDPs are Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) products and are based in the cloud.
What is no-code?
No-code is also a rapid development approach that is centered solely around visual app development. In contrast to low-code, no-code platforms don’t support manual coding. The entire app development process consists of dragging and dropping pre-defined components on a strictly or loosely positioned development canvas. The simplicity of the user interface makes no-code an ideal option for citizen developers and regular company staff.
The variety of applications you can create with no code is more restricted than with low-code. Moreover, no-code apps are simpler and serve one particular purpose. You can build internal tools, spreadsheets, one-task automation tools, single-page web applications, simple integrations, etc.
Low-code and no-code automation
Low-code platforms always include visual development functionalities like drag-and-drop UI, ready-made components, out-of-box API connectors, and even app templates. These features automate plenty of development processes and allow developers to focus on last-mile tasks.
At the same time, the advanced functionalities and all customization require manual coding along with professional development skills. But coding in a low-code environment has lots of benefits compared to a high-code. Low-code platforms have IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) that facilitate CI/CD pipeline, allowing developers to focus on the essentials of the process.
Low-code IDEs are embedded with automation tools for code testing, . Visual process modeling, workflow automation, and business rules provided by low-code development environments ease up the process, converting everything into code under the hood. You can see a quick example of low-code flow creation in the video below.
As for no-code automation, it is represented only by visual drag-and-drop UIs. All code is generated by point-and-click actions and placement on an interface canvas. Automation capabilities of no-code development platforms (NCDPs) suit citizen developers’ needs and don’t match pro-level development.
Basic feature differences between Low-code and No-code
Low-code and no-code are very similar approaches to software development so it’s easy to confuse them. Both methods aim to accelerate software delivery and make it accessible for citizen developers. You can employ low-code as well as no-code to develop web or mobile apps, and workflow automatization tools. Yet, this is where the similarities end.
No-code platforms are quite simple: they don’t have much variety in function and application areas. No-code app creation process centered around dragging and dropping graphic elements, clicking, and drawing the connections.
Let’s compare the differences and see how the complexity distinction reveals itself in the following dimensions.
Integrations are an essential part of low-code and no-code applications as they often serve as supplements to core business systems. The number of integrations available and needed differs dramatically.
No-code platforms offer only out-of-box integrations that are easily put in place when needed. It can be a DB integration, APIs, and 3’d party services. Database integrations are the most widespread among no-code apps.
Low-code platforms have pre-built connectors too, but allow users to create their own with code. You can connect a low-code app with any type of API (REST, SOAP, WDSL, etc.), Database (SQL, NoSQL, etc.), 3’d party service, and BPM or BI systems.
When planning to use a low-code platform for the first time many developers ask the same question: is low-code difficult? The answer is not so simple.
Low-code platforms are available for citizen developers, who learned the basics of the visual app-building process of the platform. But to get the most out of them, programming expertise in platform-specific language and low-code development logic understanding is a must.
The answer is – low-code development requires professional coding skills and experience above the basic low-code concept knowledge. The latter opens a low-code visual development for citizen developers.
Note: Most of the low-code platform owners include training courses and support in their user packages.
No-code platforms, in contrast to low-code ones, do not require coding experience. Nevertheless, employees new to the approach will need an introduction to an NSDP to start using it properly.
Low-code approach serves projects of any scale and technology. With low-code, businesses can create:
- Mobile apps for both Android and iOS and publish them on the AppStore right from the platform.
- Complex web apps, integrated with one or more databases, APIs, and 3’d party services.
- Cloud-native applications and storage.
- Modernise or supplement legacy apps and business systems.
- Create internal process automatization tools that use AI/ML and RPA technologies.
No-code can’t boast such a broad application area. Regardless of it, the no-code software has a shorter development implementation time. These are the most common examples of no-code development use.
- Web-based info portals connected to a database;
- Internal tools for simple calculations and signaling;
- Single task automatization tools;
- Web marketplaces.
Low-code platforms are used by professional developers to automate basic code generation and focus on the more complex aspects of the software. The features of LCDPs make the coding process easier with its collaboration tools, built-in QA automation tools, and version control.
No-code development platforms, on the contrary, aim to allow industry specialists with no or little development knowledge to build simple apps for their immediate needs. Typical business users of NCDPs are HR, sales, legal, and other non-technical staff. In fact, any person can use a low-code platform to build a website.
When to use Low-code vs. when to use No-code
Low-code applications can enhance multiple processes in any industry. Financial organizations, e-commerce giants, hospitals, manufacturers, educational institutions, and other businesses are already using LCDPs to reduce software development costs and delivery time. According to Gartner, the low-code development platforms’ market is projected to spike a whopping 25% and reach 10 billion.
So where do all these businesses apply the low-code approach? Here are the most common domains along with app examples.
- Enterprise-level software development
Business core systems, sophisticated web applications, mobile applications, and cloud-native applications, etc.
- Customer service
User mobile applications, smart customer support, knowledge portals, client bases, etc.
- Process automation
AI/ML-powered routine task automation, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools, automatic calculation apps.
- Data analysis and management
AI-powered data analysis, data evaluation algorithms, data management, and protection measures.
- Internal process optimization
Complex internal apps, business intelligence supplementation.
As you may suggest, the no-code list of use cases is significantly shorter. However, no-code platforms are accessible to a broader audience.
- Website development
SPA (Single-page web apps),
- Customer service
Customer knowledge portals, customer data management apps
- Internal process optimization
Internal knowledge bases,
- Process automatization
One-task automatization tools.
Both low-code and no-code are valid ways to build software faster and spend less money on the process. The choice depends on the project scale and the goals you want to achieve.
Low-code offers vast possibilities in terms of software complexity and integrations that suit big business demands. At the same time, you have to approach low-code development projects involving professional developers to build the software.
No-code has a limited application area but it is way simpler to use than a low-code platform. Opt for no-code if you are starting your business or need to develop a simple app quickly and you don’t have programming skills.
What low-code cannot do?
Low-code has a presumptive app structure which means that low-code apps have certain application type limits. Low-code developers can follow the out-of-box app architectures like select-and-report, summarize-and-report, and match-and-process.
What are the benefits of low-code and no-code?
Low-code and no-code platforms speed up software development and reduce development costs. Low-code apps are easier to maintain even for citizen developers which lower system maintenance costs and IT department dependency.