Low code application development is the modern equivalent of cooking with gas when considering software development. Software development has become more efficient with low code while bringing in similar, if not better, results than traditional software development practices.
More and more organizations are adapting to low-code practices daily, but getting started without the right direction is tough. To back you up, we have a complete guide on low-code development here for you.
Before we start with the ultimate guide to low code, let’s first understand the definition of low code development.
Definition of Low Code Development
Low code development sets aside text-written coding practices and takes a more visual approach. Instead of a coding environment, low code development works with a model-driven drag-and-drop interface.
Business owners and stakeholders can leverage the visual modeling approach to develop value-driven enterprise-level applications.
How Does Low Code Development Work?
In traditional software development, the team has to write hundreds of lines of code to represent actual data. Then they organize the codes into functional routines and modules that provide features and functionality of the software itself.
The traditional approach requires deep knowledge of all the aspects related to software development, such as:
- Programming Languages
- Integrated Development Environments
- Code Compilers
- Testing and Deployment Tools
- Coding Policies and Practices
- Testing and Deployment
Compared to low code, traditional development sounds like a tedious and tiring process since low code, as the name suggests, takes away most of the coding and replaces them with visual representations of different functions created with coding.
Principles of Low Code Development
Though low-code leverages automation, not all the development processes are automated entirely. Every software developer should understand the development principles to get the best results from low-code app development.
1. Understand The Platform Itself Before You Start
It’s not just about the developer team; all non-technical business stakeholders should also understand the platform just as much so they can join in on the process and contribute to improving the application.
2. Avoid Customization Unless Needed
It’s very easy to rapidly improve the application by customizing the existing modules or improving new ones; it also contributes to additional costs. The changes, however easy to implement, can drive up the development time and result in diminishing the benefits of low-code development.
3. Generalize Customizations
Ife If the application requires customization, consider common use goals when implementing features and the UI. Design all components in a way that they can be reused later on.
4. Never Overlook Your Team
When a team selects any low-code platform, they do so once they understand all the intricacies of the development platform itself. Stakeholders should always value the team’s opinion and collaborate to answer all the team’s questions to improve the final product.
5. Your Business Should Lead Your Roadmap
Low code makes experimentation accessible. But you shouldn’t let that distract you from the true goals of your business. Experimenting with new features and ideas may give you an idea about what the audience might like, but that shouldn’t drive the development life cycle away from your brand.
Features & Benefits of Low Code Development
Now that the basics are covered let’s look at the noteworthy features of low code development and the benefits they provide.
1. Visual Modeling
Low-code development platforms rely on visual models utilized through a drag-and-drop interface. The interface allows citizen developers to get involved with the development directly, visualize their idea, communicate with the developers, and help them implement the required features.
Benefits of Visual Modeling:
- Helps utilize existing talents for faster development
- Empowers all departments to join in the development process
- Allows development of high-level functions with low costs
- Promotes better decision-making with cross-functional teams
- Frees up specialized developers to work on complex projects
2. Reusable Components
Low-code platforms allow you to create components that are both cross-functional and reusable on any platform on demand. These components can also be heavily customized and extended.
Benefits of Reusable Components:
- Fast tracks development
- Better efficiency coming from pre-tested components
- Apps are more consistent and reliable
- Reduces time for feature extension
3. Collaboration Tools
Low-code platforms like Mendix have various tools that promote faster and better collaboration between the developer team and different departments. The visual nature of the development environment helps everyone stay on the same track.
Benefits of Collaborative Tools:
- Strengthens business-IT partnerships
- Promotes better communication across the entire organization
- Streamlines development
4. Scalable Environment
Cloud-based low-code platforms offer flexibility that lets you deploy applications and their updates with as little effort as a single click. The platforms provide highly increased flexibility.
Benefits of Scalable Environment:
- Easily scalable solutions for cloud-native architecture
- Allows immediate changes when needed
- End-users receive constant improvements
- Organizations can take an agile approach
5. Application Lifecycle Management
Low code supports all the different phases of software development with a large collection of tools that can help you or your project manager streamline the following procedures:
- Project Management
- Requirement Management
- Version Control
- Rapid Application Development
- App Testing
- App Deployment
Low-code platforms like Mendix also adopt agile development practices using DevOps tools.
Challenges of Low Code Development
Despite the countless benefits, of which we only mentioned five, you will face a few challenges when taking the low-code software development approach.
1. Requires More Knowledge Beyond The Tools
Even though low code is accessible to almost everyone, it can’t bypass the need for skilled developers and a well-designed infrastructure. Creating an app, regardless of the scale, requires advanced knowledge of enterprise software development and general business practices.
Creating an app that reaches the required business goals can become a struggle if your staff lacks enterprise software knowledge.
Even with low code, the developers must have additional knowledge of software development and knowledge about the business process itself.
2. The Code May be Inefficient And Unoptimized
One of the best benefits of low-code application platforms is that they can utilize pre-built templates or reusable components for applications. But there’s also a catch. Reusable components mean that similar codes are present in the build, which can cause the software to become bloated with unnecessary underlying code in the infrastructure.
When creating software, the goal is always to reduce the excess code to reduce size and optimize functionality. With reusable components and nearly identical codes, optimizing the application for all systems to reach the required speed is tougher.
3. The Real Complexity Lies Under The Hood
Low-code software is the best when the codes and functions work as intended. But here’s a short question for suspense: what if it doesn’t?
There are times when the software may not work as expected. Sometimes, the software may function poorly, even after thorough testing and optimization. The app may not fully comply with all the security requirements, leaving major vulnerabilities compromising everything.
To understand the real reason behind these anomalies, one or more people must be present on the team who have comprehensive knowledge of every single detail of a low-code application development platform and all its different aspects. Under the simplicity of low code lies an intricate structure that many struggle to comprehend without the right mindset or knowledge.
4. The Use Cases Are Limited
Though low code is mostly the best choice, there are still a lot of business problems out there that can be solved even more efficiently with traditional software development and the toolset that comes with it.
Low code can offer a high range of customization and integration, but sometimes these processes are too complex to drag and drop the problem away. It requires manual programming and scrutiny, and that’s when traditional app development tools are e better fit for the situation.
5. Potential Vendor Lock-In
Any low-code platform can allow you to create apps with a combination of visual models and custom coding. But if they only work within the platform and not on other platforms, you are a victim of vendor lock-in.
Unless you’re working with low-code platforms like Mendix, there is a chance you might get stuck with a vendor lock-in for the lack of better compatibility.
Who Can Build With Low Code?
Low code development platforms offer a dedicated IDE and sophisticated toolbox to support client-side, server-side, and integration development simultaneously.
- Professional developers can leverage custom coding to:
- Extend the functionalities of the current application
- Integrate data from multiple sources
- Build mobile applications
- Leverage different microservices
- Translate business needs to customer solutions
Business developers can utilize the simplified development environment of low-code platforms to develop their apps, and they don’t even need the help of the IT department!
Low code empowers citizen developers to create basic applications even without development prowess or advanced knowledge. They can also create prototypes that developers can interact with to understand the different functions they need to implement, customize or extend.
Enabling citizen developers also increases governance over the project with direct control and reduces shadow IT.
Low Code Use Cases & Examples
These are the five most popular use cases for low-code solutions.
1. Web Portals
The most common and popular method for a customer to interact with any business is through a web portal. Through a web portal, a customer can:
- Find Services or Products
- Get Quotes
- Check Resource Availability
- Schedule Work
- Place Orders
- Make Payments
Instead of manually coding in different elements of a web portal, low code development platforms can help you deploy a basic web portal with common frontend functionalities that require minimal coding.
2. Line-of-Business Systems
Line-of-Business systems enable a business to perform its complex tasks along with primary objectives. Business leaders often buy these LOB systems from a third-party vendor. With low code, businesses can create their own Line-of-Business Systems with ease.
3. Mobile Apps
With an ever-increasing mobile audience, every business plans to create a mobile version of their application. With low code, creating mobile apps that engage the customer more personally and promote business interactions is easy.
Low-code platforms can create apps for Android and iOS platforms to create better applications that let users perform different functions without having to sit in front of a computer every time.
4. Microservice Applications
A microservice architecture consists of independent components that create a highly scalable application. These components communicate through APIs across a network with each other.
Each of these components can be developed, deployed, and maintained independently. As a result, these components or microservices are faster to develop and easier to update across all platforms.
Low-code platforms are the most viable choice for microservice components to create new ones and re-imagine existing services to maximize and optimize their functionality and performance.
5. IoT-Based Apps
Real-world devices and sensors comprise the Internet of Things (IoT), which contains high volumes of data. Organizations constantly try to develop new ways to create better IoT-based applications that can allow monetization of the systems.
Low-code platforms can create efficient IoT applications that integrate IoT endpoints and send IoT data through backend computing infrastructures, providing the resulting data to internal or external customers.
How To Choose The Right Low Code Platform
So, you’ve come this far and read and understood all about the benefits of low code. But there are quite a few low-code platforms out there. How do you go about choosing the right one?
1. Collaborative IDEs
A good low-code development platform should have dedicated IDEs for professional and citizen developers to maximize productivity. These IDEs can help facilitate real-time collaboration between business and IT.
- How can internal and external stakeholders provide feedback throughout development?
- How can multiple developers work on the same project?
- How will the work transfer between professional and citizen developers?
- How can the platform handle conflict resolutions?
2. Data integration
In any organization, there is a ton of data within various data systems across different teams. The low code platform you choose must have data integration abilities compatible with any data system.
A good low-code platform makes it easy for the developers to find, understand and use data from any available sources-whether internal or external, without compromising data integrity or security.
- Is there any out-of-the-box connectivity for external data and services?
- How secure is the data integration?
- Does the data consumption enable the creation of a microservice-based solution?
3. Application Development Lifecycle Management
The platform you choose must have tools that enable you to closely monitor and manage every phase of the application development activity. Continuous support from these tools reduces any risk of traditional bottleneck, cost increase, and deliver-associated risks.
These tools can help provide a better development experience for both the development team and stakeholders.
- How can the platform support the developers from ideation to deployment without leaving the IDE?
- How does the platform handle versioning?
- How good is the source control?
- How does the platform perform consistency checks?
- Can you include testing and quality automation in the infrastructure?
- How does the platform support DevOps?
4. User Experience
A good low-code platform offers a frictionless end-user experience for all users regardless of the platform. Your platform should offer pre and post-development support for all platforms to optimize and improve UX.
- What kind of support is there for mobile apps?
- What kind of support is there for Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?
- How does the platform support Responsive Web Apps?
- How can the developers provide additional UX through the existing application?
- How much reuse can you achieve when a use case has to utilize multiple modalities?
5. Cloud Support
Your preferred low-code platform should have complete cloud support and a scalable cloud app development environment. You should be able to deploy the app on public, private, or hybrid clouds as soon as possible.
- Does the platform provide maximum uptime?
- Does the platform offer mission-critical resiliency?
- How easy is it to move the application from one cloud to another in case of a business change?
- What are the requirements for scaling?
- How does the platform ensure app security?
The Future of Low Code Development
Low code has revolutionized the entire software development industry with better speed through automation and faster deployment. Low-code applications are helping fill up the gaps in business processes with better business-IT collaboration to create better applications at a higher pace.
Even now, low-code shaped up to be a more mainstream solution rather than a trendy, fancy alternative. Businesses that have struggled to create apps, portals, etc., in the past are now developing and releasing their version of said apps since low code development platforms have leveled the playing field for everyone.
To Wrap It Up
Certainly, low code is here to stay, and all developers must embrace a future full of low-code development. The software development landscape as a whole will go through a major shift, which will require more collaboration from non-technical business personnel, and the only way to enable them is to utilize low code.
While low code development offers many benefits, it may have limitations regarding customization, flexibility, and suitability for certain complex scenarios. Evaluating these limitations is crucial when considering low code as an approach.
Security in low-code applications depends on the platform’s robustness and adherence to best practices. Most reputable low-code platforms provide security features like user authentication, role-based access control, and data encryption.
Low code development complements traditional coding approaches and can be an effective way to speed up application development. However, there may still be cases where traditional coding is necessary for specific requirements.
Some low-code development platforms cater to specific industries, providing industry-specific components, templates, and integrations. These platforms can streamline application development in specialized domains.
Low code development shortens the software development lifecycle by reducing the time required for coding and testing. It enables iterative development, faster deployment, and easier maintenance, resulting in accelerated delivery of applications.