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, software companies introduces various computer-assisted software engineering (CASE) tools, fourth-generation programming languages (4GL), and rapid application development (RAD) tools, with varying degrees of success.
Such tools aimed to hasten the speed of software development, in part by lessening the amount of manual coding needed. It's this thinking that would eventually lead to the creation of low-code platforms or low level code.
What is low-code development?
So what is low-code? 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 visual software development method in which developers use drag-and-drop components. It uses less ‘coding’ than traditional programming, instead focusing on the reuse of code. Low-code has pretty much the same capabilities of hand-coding, including upgrading legacy systems and building web-based apps, mobile apps, and IoT-enabled smart apps.
Reuse of code
Developers use code to create components which can then be reused in future development projects. This means development times have the potential to get exponentially faster
Tackling the developer shortage
Rapid application development tools like low-code platforms do their part to help combat the developer shortage by lowering the overall code complexity
Enables frequent prototyping
Low-code platforms enable frequent prototypes. This iterative process enables the use of more modern software development lifecycles, such as rapid application development or agile
Why do we have low-code?
Though our appetite for software is growing constantly, 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.”
The main benefits of using rapid application development tools like low-code platform are the savings in time and cost. Increased speed means that prototypes can be provided quickly and more frequently. This leads to savings in cost as it means business and customer feedback can be implemented sooner, rather than development teams having to begin the whole project from scratch if changes are required. Moreover, a reduction in manual coding means there's less scope for errors, again saving cost in the long run.
“As an IT department, or as a business, you just want everything faster. It's all about speed.”
Chris Obdam, CEO at Betty Blocks
Who uses low-code development platforms?
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.
The image below shows how low-code platforms are closer to traditional programming in terms of usability. No-code platforms are further along on the scale because, as the name suggests, much less coding is required.
The difference between low-code and no-code platforms
That brings us to no-code app development. In terms of speeding up the development process for experienced developers, no-code platforms win every time. Rather than just focusing on low level code, no-code provides business users with development tools that don't require any coding at all.
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.
Low-code development platforms still require coding
Excludes no-coders and citizen developers
Addresses some symptoms of the developer shortage, but isn't a long term solution
Developers need very little programming knowledge to begin building applications with no-code platforms. This opens up a whole new pool of potential developers.
No-code and low-code: where does Betty Blocks fit?
You may have also heard the term ‘restrictive no-code’. With these platforms, the implication is that pro-coders don’t have the same level of coding freedom they do with low-code development. Whilst no-coders and citizen developers are involved, the pro-coder is restricted.
The image below shows where Betty Blocks sits in terms of so-called restrictive no-code and low-code. You’ll see that we’re positioned slightly off-centre, closer to low-code than a restrictive no-code platform. This is because, whilst Betty Blocks is a no-code platform, it is anything but restrictive. With our ‘escape hatch’, pro-coders are able to develop and customize with manual coding just as they would with low-code or traditional programming. The key is that Betty Blocks enables every type of developer to be involved in the development process, whilst still offering pro-coders the freedom they need.
Low-code platforms definitely have their place. But, if you truly want to align business and IT, and implement a citizen development strategy within your organization, then no-code is the way to go. For examples of how businesses are already using no-code to gain a significant advantage over the competition, check out our customer cases.
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