Are Low/No-Code tools living up to their disruptive promise?

You may be wondering why software development is a slow and expensive exercise. Its complexity and the need for technical resources may be hard to find or very expensive to hire. Due to this, low/no-code tools have become increasingly popular among developers today. In this article, we explore low/no-code development, the advantages/disadvantages, and try to understand if it is disrupting the software industry today with data-driven facts.

What is low/no-code tools software?

Low/no-code tools are visual software development platforms. Unlike traditional software development, which involves programmers writing lines of code, the low-code/no-code platforms encapsulate all this behind the tool.

As per the State of the Developer Nation 22nd Edition – Q1 2022 report,  46% of professional developers use low/no-code tools for some portion of their development work.

The difference between Low-code and No-code development platforms

Before we proceed further, hope you know the difference between low-code and no-code software.

Low-code platforms require technical knowledge and it helps the developers to code faster. The main benefit is that these platforms have powerful tools that speed up technical software development activities and are built for coders. 

No-code platforms are built for standard business users. There are no options for manually editing code and rather focus on the user experience aspect in creating functionality and abstracting the technical details away from the user. 

Despite some level of automation in low-code platforms, coding is still core to the development process. Openness is a key difference between low-code platforms and no-code ones. As a developer, you can modify existing code or add new ones to change the application. The ability to add code provides flexibility with more use cases and customization possibilities. However, it limits backward compatibility.

Any new version changes to the low-code platform may affect custom code developed and may need a proper review before an upgrade. That means whenever there is a launch of a new version of the low-code platform, customers will need to test if their customized code functionality works well after the upgrade. 

In the case of no-code versions, customers do not have to worry about any functionality or breaking changes due to the platform being a closed system.

Low-code platforms offer easy integration capabilities. Unlike No-code which can lead to users creating programs without proper scrutiny with risks like security concerns, integration, and regulatory challenges besides increasing technical debt.

How do you use low/no-code tools and software?

As a user, you visually select and connect reusable components representing the steps in a process. You then link them to create the desired workflow. The code is very much present behind the steps, which drives the functionality.

Low-code/no-code tools enable non-technical staff at workplaces or anyone to develop business workflow applications. Moreover, low-code/no-code platforms allow easy integration with other business applications. For example, a sales staff could use a low-code/no-code application to develop qualified leads or opportunities into a database. They could then set triggers to send out targeted communications based on the occurrence of specified events.

Advantages and disadvantages of low code/no-code software.

Low-code/no-code platforms have both advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of them.

Lower costs & faster development: Time is money, and you can reduce your costs when you create more applications faster that automate and help improve productivity. You save costs on recruiting additional developers as applications that took a few months can be completed in a few days leading to faster availability of business applications.

Integration feasibility & challenges: Today’s application programming interfaces, or APIs, enable a high level of integration between applications. Integration works seamlessly in many cases. However, when we look at scalability and speed, custom integration is preferred for critical enterprise business applications.

Creating APIs is not easy and requires a better understanding of the IT landscape and related applications. Hence creating significant and sizeable applications will require experienced developers rather than non-technical hands-on low code/no-code software.

Time to market gains: As low code/no-code software replaces conventional hard coding with drag and drop functionality, reusable components, ready-to-use templates, and minimal coding, organizations can deliver applications faster to the market. It, therefore, helps organizations gain a competitive edge and improve productivity.

Performance: The standard view on low code/no-code software is that it focuses on saving time and is effective and successful. However, low code/no-code software platforms are not designed for performance and limit the number of functions one can implement. Moreover, adding new features to an application built using low code/no-code software can get challenging.

Privacy and Security Issues: With low-code/no-code software, there are limitations to configuring data protection and privacy aspects. You do not have access to all the source code, making it challenging to detect any security gaps.

The future of software development

Low-code/no-code software platforms offer many advantages in creating business applications faster. There are some disadvantages to its limitations in coding functions and features. What is the ground situation today with low-code/no-code software platforms?

The State of the Developer Nation 22nd Edition – Q1 2022 report has some interesting insights on the actual usage of low-code/no-code software platforms. Here are some findings:

Who is using low-code/no-code tools?

  • 46% of professional developers use low-code/no-code (LCNC) tools for some portion of their development work.
  • Experienced developers, particularly those with more than ten years of experience, are the least likely to use LCNC tools.
  • Most developers that use LCNC tools do so for less than a quarter of their development work.
  • The Greater China area has the highest LCNC tool adoption rate. 69% of developers in this region report using LCNC tools, compared to the global average of 46%.
  • 19% of developers in North America use LCNC products for more than half of their coding work – almost twice the global average of 10%. This provides strong evidence that these tools can supplant traditional development approaches

Wrapping up

Low-code/No-code tools have great potential and disrupt the traditional software industry but at a slower rate. State of the Developer Nation 22nd Edition – Q1 2022 report shows us fascinating insights.

Experienced developers with ten or more years of experience are less likely to use low-code/no-code tools. It could probably be due to the flexibility that coding offers the experienced developers and their comfort with it. It may also have an angle related to the job security of software developers and the risks of automated LCNC tools taking away significant parts of programming activity. Experienced developers work on complex tasks and the low-code tools are more suited for simple programming tasks, which the experienced hands may find easy to do.

On the other hand, North American developers seem to be progressive in using LCNC products for half of their coding (twice the global average of 10%), showing massive potential for LCNC tools to supplement software development activities. A lot of initiative in using LCNC tools also rests with the software organizations leading initiatives and implementing these solutions. Younger developers may find it easier to automate some parts of coding using LCNC tools and speed up their development activities. 

The adapted LCNC approach each programmer takes to code and develop a feature can come from their learning experience. A younger developer may prefer to use LCNC for about 25% of their development work as they are familiar with using the tools and it is a way of working. An experienced developer may shun the tools as he has always been building applications from scratch by coding and no LCNC tools. 

As technology advances, and pressure to have business solutions quicker build up, organizations will need to use the latest LCNC tools. Developing robust functional and secure software solutions faster to get competitive gains will be a mandate amid the rapid pace of digital transformation. Today LCNC tools are progressing successfully in that direction and programmers irrespective of their experience need to adapt LCNC tools where an opportunity to improve productivity exists.