If you’re familiar with low-code development, you’ve undoubtedly already heard of no-code. Why? Because they’re almost always mentioned together in the same breath – and they’re both trendy. Gartner states, “By 2025, 70% of new applications developed by organizations will use low-code or no-code technologies, up from less than 25% in 2020.”
On the surface, these two approaches to application development appear similar.
Low-code and no-code both:
- Feature highly visual interfaces where users drag and drop modules to build their applications
- Hide the actual “code” being written by the platform itself as the user builds the application
- Make it possible for anyone – regardless of software development expertise – to create applications
- Simplify the task of development while increasing the speed at which new applications can launch
However, in many ways, that’s where the similarities between low-code and no-code end. Knowing the crucial differences between low-code and no-code can prevent your organization from choosing the wrong one – saving you time and money.
This post will review the key questions everyone should ask themselves to determine whether low-code or no-code is right for your next application. And if you’re wondering if an entirely different development approach is needed, check out our guide to application development success, which reveals why many leading organizations choose low-code.
1. Do I have all the requirements for the application from the start?
The main advantages of no-code development are speed and simplicity. If you know exactly what you want the application to do and have completely mapped out every step of the process, it may be possible to use no-code. This requires you to have a complete view of every likely scenario in which the application will be used and plan for any changes in how the application will be used over time.
Why is it necessary to have all the requirements in advance for no-code? The main reason is that if you don’t, you may be surprised by a previously unaccounted-for requirement that the no-code platform itself doesn’t support. This results in a great deal of wasted effort as you’re forced to scrap the project.
The challenge is that in the real world, it’s impossible to know every variable in advance or foresee necessary changes. That’s not your fault – that’s just reality. Business is constantly changing, and needs evolve rapidly. Low-code enables you to evolve the application over time without suddenly needing to change no-code platforms (because of a lack of functionality) or extend with another no-code platform to support a use case in a later stage of product evolution. That’s why low-code is a popular choice for enterprise applications beyond the most basic use cases.
But even if you use a waterfall methodology to write down all the specifications before you start (and those won’t change over time), the no-code platform will need to be able to support those specifications. Using a robust low-code development platform means that you can always add custom code to extend the capabilities of the pre-built modules, so you’re never limited by what the platform itself can do.
2. Do I want to work in an agile way?
So many organizations use agile development methods – and for good reasons. Starting with a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is essential to the agile approach because it ensures efficient use of resources and allows for plenty of room for customers to provide feedback that improves the product over time.
This massive difference between low-code and no-code development doesn’t receive much attention but is extremely important for organizations to understand. You can try to work in an agile way with a no-code platform, but you must be prepared to hit a wall or adjust the agile process based on the limitations of the no-code platform itself.
This might be fine if you’re using no-code to build very simple and static applications, like a form requiring users to submit information. But for most enterprise applications, low-code is a much better development approach to support agile methodologies, including the creation of an MVP and continuing to iterate in small sprints, because there’s no fear of being limited by the platform.
Low-code allows you to work in an agile way, with some platforms like Flowfactory’s even allowing you to create reusable packages that support a microservices architecture. Build an MVP quickly, roll it out to users, and customize it extensively with custom code.
3. Does my application need to integrate with other systems?
This is a constructive question to help you decide whether to build using low-code or no-code. In today’s complex technology landscape, where most organizations’ portfolios consist of dozens (if not hundreds) of separate systems, the ability to integrate well makes all the difference. Any serious enterprise-grade application must communicate with other systems and applications – that’s a non-negotiable starting point.
No-code applications are limited in their ability to integrate with other systems. While many no-code solutions market themselves as having pre-built integrations with popular services, those can be limited in what the integrations themselves can do. As soon as you need to go beyond the very specific use cases available with the pre-built integrations, you’re out of luck.
Same deal if you need an integration with an application that doesn’t have a connector yet – there’s nothing you can do but let the vendor know you’d like an integration – and then they may or may not add that into their roadmap.
Flowfactory’s low-code development platform enables you to build robust integrations with as many systems as you need using flexible APIs. With low-code, you’re in complete control of integrations and can choose precisely how data is shared between them.
4. Does my application need to grow over time?
We’ve already mentioned elements of this previously in this post, but it’s an important question to close on. No-code is a suitable development approach if your application is static and does not need to grow or evolve as the organization’s needs change over time.
However, as we’ve made clear (and as anyone who has been around long enough will tell you), needs do change. Requirements evolve just as the business evolves. If they don’t, you likely have more significant problems with the business than deciding which application development approach you should choose!
That’s why low-code is often the perfect fit for developing enterprise-grade applications that are perfectly tailored to your needs. No matter what happens in the future, you can be confident that your platform is flexible and powerful enough to adapt. Why box yourself into a tiny world of static, pre-built modules that can’t change when you can have the entire universe at your fingertips?
Still undecided? Let’s briefly review the pros and cons of each approach to sum things up:
- Develop applications quickly with no development resources
- Utilize pre-built modules to build applications visually
- Leverage pre-built integrations to popular services
- Simple hosting of infrastructure on fully-managed cloud services
- Must know all requirements for the application in advance
- Can’t customize applications beyond what the platform allows – no custom code
- Limited functionality based on a lack of custom integrations and tailored development
- Easy for applications to become siloed and disconnected – must keep track of each one individually since they often don’t integrate with other vital systems
- Can’t evolve as business needs change
- Infinite possibilities for applications – limited only by your imagination
- Build most (or all) of the application using “no-code”-like modules quickly, then customize the rest with code (as needed) to ensure it’s perfectly tailored for the organization’s needs
- Connect applications with each other or existing systems using custom integrations that perform precisely the way you want them to, based on modern APIs
- Build applications on one scalable low-code development platform, so you never lose track of where they are and how they’re connected
- Easily update applications as business needs change, minimizing (or eliminating) technical debt
- Enable more efficient use of development resources and allow IT to collaborate on applications vs. being shut out of the process like in no-code
- Applications may take slightly longer to develop than using completely no-code approaches due to the possibility of customization
- It may be overkill for extremely simple applications that are intentionally limited in functionality and scope
Want to learn more about what a low-code platform can do for you? Contact us today for a personalized demo of Flowfactory.