Since James Martin published his book, Application Development Without Programmers, in 1982, we’ve had a good idea of the direction in which software development is headed. In the years that followed the publication of Martin’s book, software companies attempted to introduce various computer-assisted software engineering (CASE) tools, fourth-generation programming languages (4GL), and rapid application development (RAD) tools. As we all know, these attempts failed to have a significant impact in the world of software development.
But, that doesn’t mean we weren’t on the right track. There are many reasons why the introduction of such technology may have failed to disrupt software development, but in the end, it simply wasn’t the right time. Fast forward to the 21st century and the basic idea behind Martin’s book is as relevant as it ever was, and low-code has his back.
Before we go any further, let's look at what low-code actually is. According to The Startup, “Low-code development platforms provide graphical tools for designing an application or system, along with its required inputs, outputs, business logic, and other aspects.”
To put it more simply: it’s a software development method that uses less ‘coding’ than traditional programming. The lengthiest part of a development project is coding. And not only does it take time, it’s also error-prone. It’s only human nature that mistakes can occur every now and then when we write lines upon lines of complex code. We’re not machines. And that’s just it: What if we could utilize the power of software to build software? Makes sense, right? We use it to make our lives easier in just about every other way, after all.
Experienced developers use code to build components which can be reused, leading to less code being required in future projects. Imagine building a house. You’d buy your bricks, doors, and windows, and you’d put it all together — can you tell I don’t build houses? But, the point is that you wouldn’t make your bricks, doors, and glass from scratch every time you build a new house.
There are two reasons, really. First is our ever-increasing demand for software. We got a taste for it and we haven’t stopped wanting more. We’re finding new uses for software all the time; every day our reliance on it grows. And we can safely say it’s a one-way trajectory.
The second reason is to do with the people that need to feed our appetite for software, the ones with the skills and experience to build it. The problem? There aren't nearly enough of these people. The talent — the professional developers — are few and far between. And by all accounts, the disparity between the demand for software and the supply of experienced developers is only set to increase.
According to Indeed, 86% of employers surveyed already find it challenging to find and hire technical talent. Moreover, “with companies desperate to achieve their hiring goals, they’re often settling for subpar candidates, with results showing over half (53%) of respondents have hired tech talent despite candidates not meeting the job description requirements.”
So, how did these two points lead to low-code platforms? The solution to these problems seems pretty logical: if pro developers can be faster in their work, the developer shortage will have less of an impact. But this only treats the symptoms of the problem; it isn’t a cure, as we’ll see later.
The major benefits of using a low-code platform are the savings in time and cost. Instead of having to find and hire experienced developers — which, as we know is no easy task — organizations with only one or two experienced developers can produce advanced applications.
Even if an organization is fortunate enough to have a full staff of experienced developers, low-code platforms can still be invaluable. Because of the ease of use and lack of code needed, experienced developers can build advanced applications to entire systems in a fraction of the time.
No organization should run into any new strategy blindly, and low-code is no different. It’s important to be aware that, although less coding means less human-error, it can also means there are no experienced developers (or not many) around to spot mistakes.
While a low-code platform will prevent technical, code related errors, it won’t help inexperienced developers in terms of knowing what will or won’t work. Many errors pop up throughout the development process and are spotted and fixed by experienced developers on an ad hoc basis. Therefore, it’s especially important for business users to be aware that problems can still arise, so it’s always helpful to have an experienced developer on hand.
The thing to note about low-code platforms is that, even though they require less code, they still require some code. This essentially means that developers still need to be of a professional level, with a significant amount of experience.
This below image shows how low-code platforms are closer to actual coding languages in terms of usability. No-code platforms are further along on the scale because, naturally, little to no coding is required.
Even though low-code platforms make the development process faster for experienced developers, other types of developers (or potential developers) are still excluded from the process. I’m referring to the no-code developer and the citizen developer. What does this mean?
It means that low-code platforms don’t tackle the issue of the developer shortage. They give some developers a little more time, but by no stretch of the imagination will that be enough to keep up with the growing demand for software. But it also means that business and IT remain separate. Projects are handed over to IT and worked on with minimal input from the business-side, meaning that when a prototype is delivered, it’s more likely fail to meet the business need it was developed for.
That brings us to no-code. In terms of speeding up the development process for experienced developers, no-code platforms win every time. It’s the ease and speed of low-code but multiplied by a hundred.
But no-code platforms are more than that. Developers need very little programming knowledge or experience to begin building applications with a no-code platform. This opens up an entirely new pool of potential developers to choose from. No-code: 1, developer shortage: 0.
If you imagine a scale, with 'low-code' at one end and 'restrictive no-code' at the other, Betty Blocks sits slightly closer to low-code. This is because, whilst the Betty Blocks platform is a no-code platform, it is anything but restrictive. Why? Because it comes with an escape hatch, a tool that experienced developers can use to customize any component to their own specifications. Read more in our article, What Kind of Applications Can you Build Without Coding?
No-code creates better alignment between business and IT, enabling business-side employees to be involved in the development process in a fully IT-sanctioned environment. And because no-code development is IT-sanctioned, shadow IT is kept to a minimum, if not removed entirely.
If you want to no more about no-code, we’ve got plenty of resources to help you out. Try starting with our whitepaper: The Ultimate Guide to No-Code.
Though low-code has its place, no-code is better placed to really address the increasing demand for software and the growing developer shortage. It gives us a whole new pool of potential talent: no-coders and citizen developers. It’s already transforming our ability to create new and innovative solutions to the problems we face. For examples of how businesses are already using no-code to gain a significant advantage over the competition, check out our customer cases.