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21 December 2020 by Marek Mis

No-code (and low-code) platforms. What are they and why should you care?

No-code (and low-code) platforms. What are they and why should you care?

Covid-19 has accelerated the need for rapid development of apps and software to address new challenges and quickly changing environments.

But in the realms of uncertainty and lower than usual budgets, businesses are more reticent to spend money on bespoke software development.

Low-code/no-code platforms have come to the rescue. Promising ease of use by non-techy staff, speed of deployment and low cost, these solutions offer a viable alternative to traditional development practices. 

What is no-code?

Low code (or no code) is a development approach to application development that enables professional and nonprofessional developers to collaborate and rapidly build and deploy applications, usually through an easy drag and drop interface. No programming skills required.

What does it mean to business owners? It means not having to hire programmers. It means testing a potential solution quickly. And often for a fraction of the cost of bespoke design and development.

From the idea to deployment - fast. That’s the common denominator of all no-code platforms.

Examples of platforms (Garnter chart)

As you’d expect, there’s more than one platform to choose from, but the choice isn’t simple. The platforms vary in pricing model, offering, ability to connect to external systems and in ease of use. 

Some of them try to tackle every possible use case, others focus on niche-specific needs.

Obvious big players in the field are OutSystems, Mendix, Salesforce and SAP.

But is it really worth the hassle?

Over 11 years working in design and development of bespoke digital solutions, we’ve seen many of our clients asking for help in extending, altering or completely replacing their no-code platforms. A typical order of events for a business is starting with the no-code platform, reaching the limits of its capabilities after which the business looks for bespoke solutions. 

Every change of system is a cost. In extreme cases, trying to reverse engineer the setup created in the no-code platform is next to impossible and we’ve heard many business owners saying that they should have started with a simple bespoke solution from the very beginning.

To make the right decision in choosing the approach there’s plenty of factors to consider:

  • Total cost of ownership
  • Learning curve
  • Your staff capabilities
  • Level of customisation
  • Third party integrations
  • Idea to Deployment time
  • Security
  • Maintenance and support

Is no-code the future of coding?

No-code platforms are perfect for proofs of concept (POC) or minimum viable product (MVP) but once you get beyond that, custom development and robust platforms will likely be recrequired. 

No-code platforms vs bespoke development is an ongoing debate, with good arguments coming from the both sides. Make sure you fully understand your own requirements and future support needs before making your decision.