What is low-code?

As time passes, software development becomes more abstracted from the developer. The latest step in this evolution is what’s called “low-code.”

Low-code is a type of software development methodology that leverages minimal, automated solutions using (among other things) pre-built templates, components, and visual drag-and-drop features.

Low-code development is gaining traction and many consider it to be the future of software development. Gartner estimates that low-code adoption will be up by 70 percent by 2026.

In this post, we’ll look at low-code and how it can help make application development quicker and easier.

Differences between no-code and low-code

No-code and low-code platforms both allow users to create software applications without having to write large amounts of code. However, they differ in some crucial respects.

No-code platforms

No-code platforms don't require any coding skills. They usually have drag-and-drop visual interfaces, where users can click to initiate deployments. With a no-code platform, users can quickly iterate, test, and bring new ideas to market without depending on the coding experience of a development team. 

No-code platforms are suited to the design of simple, customer-facing interfaces like forms, surveys, and workflows. Ideal candidates for no-code platforms also include apps that retrieve and analyze data from various sources. Teams can also use no-code platforms to build prototypes that illustrate how a product might work before they commit more resources to the project. 

Low-code platforms

Low-code platforms offer more customization and control than no-code options, making them more suited for moderately complex projects. Low-code tools incorporate some amount of coding into the process, hence the difference in the name.

Low-code is useful for developing various application types, especially those intended to streamline and automate internal business processes, for example, such as workflow management, CRMs, human resources, and supply chain management. 

The low-code approach, just like no-code, also enables non-technical users to participate in the development process.

Visual of a laptop with graphical user interface

How does low-code work?

Low-code platforms combine pre-built components and modules that integrate with other systems and tools. Let’s explore the typical features of low-code platforms.

Drag-and-drop interfaces

A drag-and-drop interface is a common feature of low-code apps. Users manually arrange the components of their application on an infinite canvas.

Let’s say you want to create a data pipeline. The first step is to create a connection to your data source (a database, cloud vendor, or third-party API). Next, the drag-and-drop interface lets you extract the data, and transform it into the desired form. Then, define the data flow by dragging and dropping components like filters, joins, and aggregations. 

Now, the pipeline has been defined and needs to be scheduled and run. The user can schedule the pipeline or trigger it manually. Monitoring the pipeline’s status, error logs, and performance can also be done through the visual interface.

Pre-built components

Pre-built components are blocks of functionality that users can drop into an application. They are configurable and designed to perform a specific function, such as data input. Examples of pre-built components on a low-code platform are:

  • Data connectors: Connect to various data sources, like databases, cloud storage, or third-party APIs.

  • Forms: Create forms for data input and validation.

  • Reports: Create and generate reports based on data in an application.

  • Workflows: Define and automate business processes, such as approvals or task assignments.

  • Charts and visualizations: Present data in a visual format, such as bar charts, line charts, pie charts, etc.

Integration

Low-code platforms can connect to services like Slack or Google Workspace, so the app can receive notifications, trigger other systems, and automate processes. For example, an integration might send emails when a specific event occurs.

Configuration and testing tools

Many low-code platforms include tools for manual testing and automated testing, where the platform tests the application using predefined scenarios. 

Visual representation of code

Benefits of low-code

There are many benefits of using low-code for app development:

  • Increased efficiency: Low-code platforms help automate activities. This reduces the effort required to create applications that aren’t business-critical.

  • Lower technical barrier to entry: Less technical users can be more involved in development.

  • Built-in security: Low-code platforms often include built-in security features, such as data encryption and user authentication.

  • Faster iteration and testing

  • Access to pre-built components

Potential drawbacks of low-code

Low-code platforms offer many benefits. However, they’re not the best choice for all business needs and have some drawbacks.

As low-code platforms are still relatively new, there’s a limited selection of platforms available. Organizations may struggle to find a platform that meets their specific needs.

Moreover, low-code platforms frequently demand significant time and resources. It can be difficult to switch to a different platform once an organization has invested in a specific solution.

For these reasons, organizations should consider their specific needs and requirements carefully before deciding on a low-code platform.

Wrapping up

Faced with the challenges of finding professional developers, it's no surprise that many companies are betting on low-code. As platforms grow, they become more sophisticated, with more features and capabilities, and become suitable for complex, enterprise-level projects.

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