The “low code platform” has become something of a buzzword, heard ever more frequently in the halls of businesses big and small. The likes of Google, Microsoft and Salesforce all made advances into this market in 2016, so it’s fair to say the rise of these app development platforms is no transient fashion. They’re here to stay, at least for now.
The reason low code and no code development tools are popular is principally because they empower companies to urgently tackle issues as they arise. This is in stark contrast to traditional IT development with its reputed need for specialist technical know-how and cumbersome time investment, as well as its potential for creating unmanageable backlogs or even false starts.
As with most new and emerging technologies, there’s some confusion around terminology. Exactly where do ‘low code’ and ‘no code’ (or ‘zero code’) development platforms stand in relation to one another? Are they the same thing? And if they’re different, how so?
While certain large analytics firms continue to struggle when distinguishing and categorising low-code and no-code terminology – lumping ‘low’ and ‘no code’ together without distinction or eschewing these terms altogether – we’re going try and clear things up.
Some background on low code platforms
The low code app development platform provides essentially what’s said on the tin. It allows you to develop and deploy purpose-built applications with a minimal amount of hand-coding involved.
Although they’ve been around for a while – and the concept and capabilities have evolved over the years – the contemporary expectation is that low code software can be deployed on an individual basis, or across an organisation, to speed up the entire app delivery process.
This is achievable because low-code platforms often provide all the necessary tools to create apps off-the-shelf, customised using intuitive drag-and-drop style interfaces. You can read our blog post for more information on low code development.
What is a ‘no code’ platform?
‘No code’ or ‘zero code’ platforms are relatively new terms given to software which is springing up in various forms across the sector.
Generally speaking, the no code platform falls within the same category as the low code product – it too represents an alternative development approach which is, primarily, visual in nature. Unsurprisingly, given the freshness of the invention and the similarity of categorisation, this can give rise to a large degree of variance in the perceived differences between ‘low’ and ‘no’ code software.
When does low code become no code?
Despite the contradictory information out there, there is a relatively simple way of looking at the distinction between these two offerings (if a distinction must exist, which we’ll explore later!).
We know the low code app builder offers drag-and-drop functionality for app development. Ultimately this allows users to utilise out-of-the-box components and assets like widgets which are provided within the platform. Crucially, this can also imply a need for customisation. What happens when an off-the-shelf widget doesn’t quite match the intended purpose, or perhaps doesn’t fit with the branding of the app being designed? In these cases it can be necessary for users to extend the functionality of the platform by coding, building or altering a widget manually – potentially for use in later projects.
Now consider: what if the business user of the low code platform sought outside help, employing a development team to design and deploy a complete library of purpose-built widgets especially for the organisation’s unique needs? Now your out-of-the-box components are adequate from the outset. They don’t require customisation, which means they don’t require any kind of coding – hence becoming ‘no code’ development.
In this sense, the no code platform is a direct evolution of the low code alternative, representing a development tool which has a portion of its assets, components, extensions, etc. all provided within the purchased package. Note the use of that word ‘portion’, however – this line can be blurry, and in many cases a “no code platform” does not in any way guarantee that no coding will ever take place.
According to this definition, though, it is easier to see where ‘low code’ becomes closer to a ‘no code’ experience. For example, low code becomes no code when:
- Apps are highly specialised
Platform providers create industry-specific components for off-the-shelf deployment
- UI elements must be standardized
The platform comes with pre-created visual assets, styled and templated to allow rapid app development
- Apps must be generalist in capability
Key, critical functions – such as database, dashboard or API functionality – are provided without need for customisation
The greater the range of pre-built features in the platform correlates with the lesser need for intervention by technical users. When users can deploy an app from start to finish, that’s your idealised ‘no code’ scenario. Where more in-house customisation and developer oversight is required within the organisation, you’re more strictly looking at ‘low code’ development.
Which is right for my organisation?
Low code vs. no code
Low code platforms use similar visual interfaces and components to speed up the app building process. They ultimately lessen the amount of coding needed, but may require occasional technical intervention to assemble and repurpose assets. In-house developers can be invaluable to ensure critical apps are soundly developed.
- Some drag-and-drop functionality
- Utilises reusable code
- Some automation functionality
- May require developer and programmer intervention
- App performance depends on skill of business user
- Fewer pre-built components
No code platforms offer a far more visual, step-by-step development process. Business users with very basic skills can utilise menus, click-and-drag capability and intuitive interfaces to easily build elemental applications. In most cases they should require little to no technical coding input from within your organisation – but there’s no concrete guarantee.
- Minimise developer intervention & costs
- Quicker app development
- Greater range of pre-built components
- May still require some developer intervention
- May limit in-house design capability through strict templating
The level of developer resource you have available
Remember, low code and no code platforms are variations on a theme. The degree to which the platform you purchase is ‘low code’ or ‘no code’ depends on a choice that you make. The choice will depend on a number of factors including:
Those with a limited development team capacity will benefit from a more predetermined no code package, empowering citizen developers to build and deploy apps from scratch
- The level of innovation and agility required in your sector
When market or procedural demands are constantly shifting, a low code package which allows a high degree of customisation is likely to be the preferred approach
- The amount of time you have, whether a lack or abundance
If time is short and response times have to be optimized, no code platforms allow for quicker app development
- The amount of money you’re willing to invest
As with all specialist software, prices can reach into very high brackets. No code platforms tend to represent the more reasonably priced option, in trade for more limited customisation
- The specific challenges of your industry
There may well be pre-existing no code platforms targeted at your sector, well suited to your team due to a range of pre-built apps and features
As you can see, there will always be a degree of nuanced trading of pros and cons when opting specifically for one platform over the other.
In some respects, though, the division can be boiled to down to the degree of sophistication needed in your in-house applications. Simpler applications, requiring less integration with existing systems and entailing fewer potential security issues, can generally rely on no code solutions. When an application begins to become more sophisticated and powerful – in terms of compliance, functionality, integration and security requirements – then a low code platform, with a level of professional developer oversight, is likely the best choice.
In essence, low code and no code platforms are differentiated only by the degree of customisation they encourage. Although performing in slightly different ways, their ultimate purpose is the same: to improve and make easier the app building process for organisations, reducing a harmful reliance on slow and painstaking traditional IT development.
Confusingly, the distinction isn’t really about whether there will be coding involved. Sophisticated apps can be built in low code as well as no code platforms. Many no code platforms allow users to write code if they need to, just as low code platforms do. Instead, the distinction is more about the intended uses and users of the platform. Low code is best for accelerating and empowering more efficient development work within the company; no code works best for curtailing the amount of development work needed by boiling app building down to its simplest elements.
FLOvate’s LEAP™ low code platform offers the best of both worlds.
Wholly customisable, it offers business users the chance to create apps while ensuring developers can be as involved as they wish. After hearing about your mission and learning about your company’s objectives, we’ll develop the platform that most effectively allows you to solve problems quickly and make your vision into reality.