No-Code, Low-Code, Pro-Code

The future of software development no longer consists of strictly labor-intensive conventional coding. Simpler methods of building software have been emerging into the spotlight and picking up steam. The addition of no-/low-code software development has created a spectrum of options which offer more variety (and power) in tools that can be used to drive efficiency and meet the needs of your users.

The big question now is this: Which level of code is best for the needs of your application?

What Is “No-Code”?

Essentially, no-code development is a form of declarative programming in which applications are created using drag-and-drop user interfaces as opposed to hand coding. This approach is intended for speed and efficiency where extensive and intricate coding is not necessary; simple, repetitive applications based on common use patterns can be created very effectively with typical no-code platforms.

This is the primary reason for the rise of no-code development: reaching the desired destination as simply as possible.    If you were able to travel the gravel path instead of the  one littered with  growth and  wildlife,  you’d  choose the gravel to get to where you were going  – that’s exactly what no-code developers are doing.

Where Do Organizations Use No-code Development?

No-code development, like most things, is only useful when it is applied to the right situation.    You wouldn’t use a fork to open a can and likewise, use of no-code tools for highly specialized software needed to meet huge scale is not a winning approach.

No-code  is  typically  best suited for straightforward  and  conventional solutions  that follow highly common uses cases.    It  is  often used to help  knowledge workers  who  aren’t  schooled or  fluent  with formal  programming languages but  are highly analytical and  need to develop  an application for a specific use.    Even when full professional software developers are available  within an organization,  the  business may  opt  to save money by avoiding use of  a  full programing team to build their application.

A prime example of “citizen developers” using no-code  is the use of  Microsoft Forms  to create a  survey  and a simple  Power Automate  Flow to route form submissions  based on simple logic.    Neither  no-code element  uses  traditional time-consuming  coding, just simple drag and drop software  to achieve the business need.

Microsoft Power Automate - Low Code No Code
Figure 1: Example of no-code automation with Microsoft Power Automate

Google  gets in the no-code game with  AppSheet,  a  no-code  development platform that  allows users to create mobile, tablet and web applications.    It can be  employed for  a  range  of business cases  including project management, customer relationship management, field inspections and personalized reporting.

App Sheet interface - Low Code No Code
Figure 2: No-code development with Google AppSheet

Popular Platforms

While once a niche, there are now a plethora of no-code platforms.   The following are a collection of leaders in the space:

  • OutSystems:  A  low-code platform which provides the tools for companies to develop, deploy and manage omnichannel enterprise applications.
  • Airtable:  A  spreadsheet-database hybrid  for  building collaborative apps, highly flexible and  chock full of popular integrations.
  • Microsoft  Power Platform: Empowers knowledge workers to easily build apps that leverage a large selection of connectors including Microsoft Office cloud ecosystem.
  • Appian:  A  cloud computing and enterprise software company  that sells a platform as a   service for  business process management  and case management.
  • BettyBlocks: A platform for users to develop their own web applications  and a laser focus on the citizen developer.

Pros of “No-Code”

No-code  is being used where traditional software development  used to be  and  has become a popular method of software development for  several  reasons:

  1. Reduced Cost:  Using  no-code, users can bypass the expense of  a team of developers
  2. Increased Productivity:  With  no-code, apps are built at a much faster pace, which means less people waiting for work to be done
  3. Simple to Change:  With  professional  coding  you  can’t  independently  change a  software  feature; with  no-code you can simply  implement new logic and be done in a matter of hours

Cons of “No-Code”

Though no-code  is  often  more efficient  and much simpler than traditional software development, it also has  it’s  weaknesses:

  1. Pre-Defined  Templates:  No-code platforms  offer  a range of  templates to their users  but barring professional immersion, this  can  limit  the boundaries of your application
  2. Security Issues:  Control over your application is  now shared between knowledge workers and the  no-code providers;  lack of  enterprise  compliance is lost and  can  lead to  security risk
  3. Clear Understanding of  Requirements:  As each  no-code platform  comes with a  unique  set of  limitations,  users must determine if their needs fit the constraints of the  particular  tool

Low-Code Software Development

No-code is not the only option when it comes to  simpler and more efficient software development.    Low-code software development  reduces cost  as well as  development time span  but keep in mind:  low-code  raises the price of entry.

What Is “Low-Code”?

Low-code  platforms, like  no-code platforms, also use a graphical interface  for building an application  but  opens up  possibilities for “light” coding additions.    Since  low-code  approaches  require minimal hand coding, developers can focus on creating  the 10% that makes their  application different  while leaving the  standard  pieces to  no-code-like packaged  pieces.    Saving time and money,  while also  providing the power to  tailor to your requirements,  low-code  may be  best method  for your  application.

Low-Code vs. No-Code

Though they may be similar  in regard to  their  efficiency, graphical interfaces and minimal hand-coding,  low-code and  no-code are not the same.    Low-code allows  greater  customization  and is  superior  for  developing standalone mobile and web applications; no-code is generally superior  for  use-cases  that extend  systems  that the user  already  touches and sees, such as a new screen within an intranet or CRM system.

Unlike  no-code,  low-code still requires some knowledge of coding  so  IT departments need to ensure that they  can trust that  those developing  their  applications will do so properly.   Creators of low-code solutions are more likely to have  somewhat  of a  background  in programming  and thus will be able to use the  platforms to develop software that is a bit more critical to a business’s core functions.

Pro-Code Software Development

All the way at  the  other end of the spectrum we have  professional, or “pro-code”,  software development.    As the  conventional professional form of software development  form, it is  very  different  in nature and complexity  than no/low code.    Pro-code costs  more and  is typically  much more time consuming  than the lower-code approaches, but it  provides an incredibly  higher level of customization,  security  and scale.

As a custom software development agency we are definitely very “pro” on “pro-code” (you can  learn more  here) but there are solidly many cases where we recommend or implement lower-code solutions for clients.    No-/low-code  has  become so popular and useful because  professional developers are in  very  high demand.

Where Is “Pro-Code” Essential?

Pro-code is superior  to no-/low-code  with its  strength  in  handling  complex workflows  and becomes essential when developing  systems that literally  power  a company’s  operations and/or  require massive  scale.    As an example, use of pro-code  is essential to power  complicated  pricing computations, track  vast quantities and varieties  of  products  and perform real-time routing and fulfillment of orders  to  an assortment of customers.    While no-/low-code  applications would  have the ability to handle small pieces of such a system, they do  not have the  complexity to handle such an expansive  workflow  and  therefore pro-code would be the superior choice.

Pro-, low-  and no-code  are all different forms of software development which create a spectrum of  options  for users and programmers alike.    No-code and low-code may be simpler and less costly, but this  doesn’t  always mean they’re the best choice for every application; users  have the responsibility of  deciding which form works best for their individual needs and limitations.


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Vector workstation graphic - Low Code No Code

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