Innovation is a hot-button topic for small businesses and enterprises alike. Low-code is a form of development that does not require high-end programming skills, but its efficacy is called into question. Many wonder if it has a future or if it’s even as good as it seems.
There are legitimate reasons people are apprehensive about it, just like there are fantastic reasons to implement it for your company. Despite this debate, the market for it is expected to grow by 27% from 2021 to 2026.
What is a Low-Code Development Platform?
In low-code development, you can use a graphical user interface (GUI) designed for easy manipulation with a mouse rather than directly scripting source code. Most offer a drag-and-drop user interface (UI) where citizen developers can build apps effortlessly. Software that provides this functionality is called a low-code development platform (LCDP) or low-code application development platform (LCAP).
Common use cases for a low-code development tool are teams that want to build a solution for themselves or mass produce it for their customers. Most low-code platforms are for building applications to handle specific business processes. You can create a variety of tools with a low-code solution such as web applications, or mobile apps.
Even though the software is designed to help less experienced users, professionals can benefit greatly too.DevOps teams, software development teams, or individual programmers benefit from low-code applications as well.
Your development approach can be flexible with low-code tools because while some situations require a little knowledge of programming languages, other tasks allow for complete codeless customization.
Low-code vs No-code Platforms
Sometimes while searching for low-code tools, you may find a no-code development platform as well. low-code will have situations where you need to do a little hand coding, but no-code development does not require any traditional coding. You won’t need any programming knowledge for software development in these applications.
Several low-code options double as both a low-code and no-code solution. Depending on your needs, no-code may be a better solution especially if your team is less experienced in software development. Low-code is also better for experienced teams that want the capability for traditional development.
If you’re struggling to get certain needs met with your tech stack or finding new software for your team the low-code approach may be for you. There is a lot to consider and one of the best ways to help with the decision-making process is to look at the pros and cons.
For those of you that want to learn more about low-code software, we have an in-depth explanation article about the software right here.
Pros and Cons of Low-Code Software
Low-code development has some huge benefits from meeting universal needs to a variety of affordable options. If you want to explore the discussion about low-code software, whether it is amazing, is it too good to be true, then you’re in the right place.
Expediting the Development Process
In the hands of an experienced developer team, low-code can speed up your product development lifecycle. Through automation, templates, and a powerful integrated development environment (IDE) a lot can get done in less time than with traditional development.
IDEs are not included in all low-code development platforms, but the ones that have them can give you a system where you can hand code or not based on preferences.
If your goal is to create simple, responsive applications quickly, then low-code development will be an awesome way to speed up your workflow. On the flip side, if what your team is creating requires extensive original code, then traditional development will be better.
Startup and Small Business Friendly
Low-code development tools can benefit small businesses or new startups through cost savings and help with filling the skills gap. Something particularly awesome about low-code is there are many free and affordable options available.
You are providing yourself with a service because you’re the one building the application. This is why you can find subscriptions that are less than $30 per user. More expensive offerings include additional features and allow larger teams to build more intricate applications at scale.
Another overlooked factor of how low-code can save money is pulling features out from behind paywalls. Teams won’t have to upgrade for customization, because the app was already tailored to your needs. There will still of course be tiers with different functions for low-code providers but that’s the same for most software. You can also find affordable low-code tools that are still super feature-rich.
Your team may be complete beginners and still be able to work in a low-code environment. All that’s required is patience and the ability to research the answers you need. Junior developers or college students can also be a great early investment to your team long term. You won’t have to worry as much about hiring professionals especially if you don’t have the budget right now.
While your team grows and learns from their experience, you can benefit from having an all-around more confident and open-minded team. You will still need to set goals that factor in the time it will take to learn as well as do your best to give them resources for training when they need it.
Bring More Power to Business Users
No matter how much research and input is collected during the application development process, software development teams aren’t the real end-users of the software they make. The problem is the perspective isn’t the same for the developer who builds the app and the person who has to use it 24/7. There will be needs unmet because they were lost in translation between those different points of view.
Of course, a great development team will actively seek out criticism from current customers and continually update future versions of the software. Whereas some business software providers don’t appreciate any complaints about their product (we all have at least one of those in mind).
Either way, there will still be a gap between what you wanted the software to do and what it actually does. It’s just a matter of how big the gap is and if it affects your team’s productivity. If you read through most software reviews, the majority of satisfaction complaints are about the desire for a new feature or an issue with a current feature.
You can of course wait for it to be fixed, especially if you love the software. Nothing comes out perfect and technology always has to be updated. No development team in the world can create software that will never need updates to the functionality after the initial release; it’s just not how the development process works.
Yet if your team continually has unmet needs after looking at software after software then waiting isn’t going to help. Sometimes the best solution for your team is to be involved in the development of your own application.
Imagine finally being able to filter out specific functionality you hate and replace them with the ones you prefer. Your team could close the gap between points of view by ensuring your specific desires are heard.
You can tailor an application to meet the needs of a specific type of color blindness like undertone or black-and-white color blindness. Teams can choose the navigation, UI, color schemes, and organization styles that they enjoy best. You will be mostly confined to the pre-made selection, but it’s still more controlled than mass-produced software.
Quick tip, if someone on your team does have a severe type of color blindness where color coding is a literal nightmare then extensive labeling in the clear font is a good solution. Many people don’t even know they have color blindness so labeling as clearly and as much as possible is a great way to avoid potential issues in general. Learn more about web accessibility here.
Your team will also tremendously benefit from avoiding the dependency that comes with vendor lock-in. Now you still are committing to the vendor of the low-code application development tool, but it can save you multiple contracts and price changes in your tech stack.
Would you rather have multiple services from different vendors, or cut down on the number of subscriptions? Depending on you and your team one will be a better option but there’s no perfect answer. What is clear is the more software you use, the more you have to consider the compatibility of all products you use if you want to switch one.
With an LCDP, they can integrate with other applications to boost efficiency and you won’t have double check compatibility for every software you need to buy. Make sure to take your time choosing a low-code solution that works with your current tech stack. Searching for a tool to build multiple compatible apps will save much more time in the long run.
Cons of Low-code Software
The cons of low-code development are incredibly valid concerns. Many have talked about potential weaknesses around data protection or how it’s too good to be true. Each problem comes down to how to use it and if it is even the right solution because frankly, no business software is universal. Even if there are problems that apply to your use case, you can still find ways to mitigate them if low-code is the best solution.
Skipping Checks and Balances During Production
Freedom is a double-edged sword especially when it comes to developing software. A low-code app can make application development look way easier than it actually is. It speeds up production so much that you can miss details DevOps teams literally specialize in looking for.
Before software by a major company is mass-produced there is an insane amount of work that went into developing it. There’s user experience (UX) research, months of prototyping designs, and so much attention to detail.
When citizen developers use low-code or no-code applications to make software for their team, a lot of important factors can be overlooked. You need to consider current and future usability. For example, choosing a very niche UI design might seem great to one or two users but not to the five users you may hire a year later. Universal design trends can be annoying for those that don’t enjoy them but we have them for a reason.
It’s also important to maintain communication and collaboration throughout the design process. You may not have an actual research or design team because the app may be for a small specific team. It becomes even more integral that you are on top of decision-making and team input so you can avoid putting money into an app that doesn’t properly work.
We talked about how in the pros section, there will always be a gap in expectations between software developers and end-users. An amazing dev team will shrink that gap as much as they can and simultaneously ensure that the software has the best usability. You can do this too but it requires a lot of planning and business requirements to set in place.
You should take the time to draft governance rules around your team’s application projects and ensure that your IT department is happy with them. The last thing you want is apps that can’t be properly maintained by your tech team because there weren’t proper standards in their creation. It can be an enormous security disaster.
Low-code tools themselves are not unsafe but they can be when in the wrong hands during development. Your team may be efficient and wonderfully competent but if they struggle to communicate properly with IT there can be associated risks to the safety of your business data.
One big security problem that can happen with low-code platforms is when one team creates an app that your IT department has no knowledge of. This is called shadow IT. Shadow IT could refer to using personal devices over work ones or running data in programs without asking for permission first. It can lead to huge security risks for data via viruses or giving outside people access.
There are many powerful reasons your IT teams need to know about what software you use but here’s a list of just a few of them.
- They need to know about the type of software and how it works to offer help
- When there’s a list of all software your team uses your IT team can properly maintain it
- Being in control of granting admin access to avoid unauthorized access
- Ensuring your team follows governance, privacy compliance, and company rules to protect data
When a team has their own unique app but doesn’t go through the right channels there can be issues down the road like sharing private data in the wrong place or losing passwords. No matter what the reason it’s just more beneficial to be in sync with other departments in general.
Another security issue is that no development platform whether they be low-code or no-code can guarantee there will be zero errors or bugs down the line. There always are simultaneous internal and external sources that can affect your software and cause problems.
Someone could improperly shut down their computer, or accidentally share the wrong file in the wrong place and get a virus. The source code could have errors from a bad script copied from a less-than-reliable source. With the power of low-code development comes more personal responsibility.
This is why it’s super important for your IT department to know. Don’t leave them in the dark. Always make an effort to include them in software decisions.
Less Ability to Add Custom Code
It seems wrong but in low-code app development the more customization you have, the less customization you have. On one hand, you have easy templates and pre-made options to customize the app you want. On the other hand, those pre-made choices are the problem. Those pre-made elements prevent you from building with custom code.
The issue with many low-code apps is that the scenarios where coders can write in what they want are limited. The LCDP systems that come with IDEs for your own custom code may not be able to apply that code to the parts that you wanted to. For example not being able to configure a specific type of UI or navigation functionality.
There’s also the fact that sometimes the interface offered to build what you want without programming, which is too frustrating to even try designing what you want. It sounds crazy but the UI of some low-code tools can be extremely hard even for the most experienced software developers. This can be with both the IDE and the GUI itself. As a result, using an interactive interface can be more counterproductive than traditional development.
This means you need to be especially critical when choosing low-code software. A product can promise a fast, ready-to-go solution, but can be a nightmare in practice. Always read reviews, watch YouTube tutorials, demo, test, and read your contracts before purchasing software.
It’s Not Easy as Pie
One caveat is that because low-code was made in mind to be a simpler option to traditional development that even small teams can utilize, it seems less complex than it really is. Even with a low-code tool that doubles as a no-code solution, you will still need to be patient and computer literate at the very least. For teams that want to tackle big projects, the more experience you have, the better your results will be.
You should avoid falling into the mindset that low-code is easy. It’s true that it’s easier than hand coding. It can allow non-developers the ability to develop applications that require serious programming skills but that doesn’t mean that knowing some programming languages won’t be super helpful. Junior programmers that haven’t fully harnessed their skills will also be able to learn on the job efficiently while continuing to learn new development skills.
The best advice you can get is to be open to learning. There will be scripts of code you might need to add or customizations that will be better hand-coded in. It’s possible to learn new skills even in something as daunting as application development.
As long as you are calm when problem-solving and willing to research how to do new things then you can go far. Conversely, if you have never used software like this and aren’t the most tech-savvy then spending more on resources like onboarding and training is vital.
Examples of Low-Code Solutions
Below are some examples of both affordable and popular LCDPs with great reviews. Each one has a high trScore and completely transparent pricing.
In the tech market, there are several types of software like human resources (HR) management or enterprise resource planning (ERP) that are known for lacking pricing and being expensive. Low-code software which can require tech-savvy skills and is primarily used as a business solution is shockingly affordable. Most LCDPs offer upfront pricing. If you decide that you want to find a solution for your team then you will be pleasantly surprised by the price and feature breakdowns available.
Their plans restrict the number of users and apps like most other platforms. Many will offer a tier that has unlimited apps, but that can end up being an unnecessary expense especially if you’re only developing apps for your team. In general, LDCPs can be used to create apps for mass production at enterprise-level pricing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a rule.
|Zoho Creator 9.1/10
|Creatio Studio 9/10
|Microsoft Power Apps 8.4/10
|Lowest cost is $0 in their Free tier
|Lowest cost is $0 in the Process Designer plan
|Lowest cost is $5 in their Per App plan and they offer other affordable plans
|See direct pricing here
|See direct pricing here
|See direct pricing here
Zoho Creator is an incredibly robust and feature-rich low-code app platform offered by the business software development company Zoho. With any Zoho tool, you can access the rest of their extensive suite of products. In Zoho Creator, you can develop an app for your team instead of using a mass-produced package.
The LCDP provider offers customization, organization, and built-in integration features so teams can develop their high-end tools. They are the perfect choice for experienced teams that want powerful scripting options to enhance applications.
You do need to watch out for the learning curve because Zoho Creator uses their object-oriented programming language Deluge. Those experienced with Python will find it similar and easy to use. It’s meant to work fluidly in the software, but teams that are completely new to low-code apps should consider extra support or another LCDP provider.
In terms of support, your team will not get their own customer success manager or remote assistance unless they buy the Premium or Enterprise support plans, which cost 20% and 25% of your user license respectively.
The Basic and Classic support options are free and offer the knowledge base and community forums. Basic also has email support and Classic offers live chat. The only customer support tier with product training is Enterprise. See the pricing page for more details on support capabilities and restrictions.
Creatio Studio offers two reasonably priced plans and the option for a no-code designer tool to avoid hand-coding and save time. The Process Designer is their featured free low-code tool and Studio Enterprise has their no-code development environment for $25 per user a month.
The platform’s goal is to be user-friendly and offers fast, real-time collaboration. You can communicate ongoing models between your end-user and IT teams to meet business requirements. Their more expensive plan does have automation and analytics but the free plan is the best choice for beginners to get started. Make sure to visit the feature breakdown pages for Process Designer and Studio Enterprise when making your decision.
Microsoft Power Apps is a great solution with flexible pricing for teams with diverse skill sets. You can choose plans for unlimited apps, or based on your actual usage of the created app. The functionality and scalability of the software can allow both professionals and citizen teams the chance to build complex applications using artificial intelligence.
Power Apps can come with extra cost because although it’s a monthly subscription, there is an allotted amount of user credits per plan and it can benefit you more to use it with Microsoft Azure. The pay-as-you-go option requires it in general. To learn more about how Power Apps works see their documentation here and make sure to look through their plans here.
When it comes to low-code platforms we can say definitively that low-code is an amazing solution for the right team, but a mistake for others. Take your time while researching the software you’re interested in and avoid buying too soon.
Teams ready to start searching for a low-code platform to best fit their needs can check out our product list of software here.
If you want to learn more about any of these mentioned low-code platforms see our articles on low-code platforms below. We go into detail about pricing, plan restrictions, feature breakdowns, and end-user reviews.
For those that have used any of the platforms discussed here, please leave a review to help other buyers make informed decisions.
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