Defining low-code no-code: what it is and what it's not


Whether it’s your coffee shop down the street, your neighborhood library, or your favorite e-commerce store, small and medium-sized businesses are all doing it; using applications to refine processes, improve productivity, and enhance their customer experience. 

In fact, apps have become so mainstream we are even using them in our homes. Now we can turn our lights and heating on before we get home. Security apps can alert us to visitors at our front door, even allowing us to engage with them before we open it. 

In business, applications are used everywhere, from customer support to inventory management to service scheduling. Using an application specific to your business (whether for internal or external use) fundamentally means providing added value to customers.

But high-tech applications that improve businesses are no longer limited to large enterprises alone. The business world overall is in the midst of radical digital transformation. It's changing the way we operate. It's changing the way we communicate. And it’s changing our customer expectations.

So what's all the hype?

“No-code/low-code (NCLC) software development tools seek to enable businesses to keep up in a rapidly changing technology landscape by enabling software development with little or no coding,” the authors write. “Although the terminology in this emerging paradigm is not well established, NCLC is generally considered an important part of the movement towards high-productivity rapid application development (RAD).” (source)

The low-code/no-code revolution underpins digital transformation for businesses and is opening up new growth opportunities from SMBs right through to MNEs.

However, no revolution would be complete without a fight and there are some misconceptions about low-code/no-code rapid application development (RAD)  which are causing confusion and negatively impacting the way businesses see how they can adopt innovation to improve their processes.

Low-code/no-code...what is it?

Low-code no-code has revolutionized how business applications are built. It has turned long, encumbersome and costly workflows into fast, agile and efficient development processes. Both low-code and no-code platforms allow applications to be created without the need to write code (well, almost…).

No-code platforms or applications need little to no programming experience at all. They are largely a highly specialized version of a low-code platform. They are the out-of-the-box, drag and drop or self-service applications that have led to a rise in the "citizen developer". What used to take an entire IT team to develop is now being achieved by citizen developers. These applications, by their nature, are very rigid and templated, they have less functionality and customization capabilities, but in return they offer high speed results.

From storefront to online

If a brick and mortar store wants to expand their reach beyond Main Street, they can go online. The next step is building an e-commerce store, which is now a really easy task thanks to no-code solutions like Squarespace. Create an account, pick a template and start adding products. It's drag and drop. In less than a day, a basic online store can be up and running for business!

Another example would be a growing consultancy who needs a rebrand but at a very low cost. Even without graphic design skills they can create visually appealing marketing assets using Canva. Another no-code application designed to help small marketing teams create enterprise looking marketing materials.

However, with low-code applications or platforms like Coactive, coding experience can take the user from basic to professional even when using off the shelf applications. Opting for low-code applications, instead of starting from scratch, reduces the need for complicated coding sequences. Rather than eliminating the need for professional programmers altogether, the time gained is substantial and creates a new league of programmers instead - uber-efficient programmers.

Going back to the e-commerce storefront, to create a branded site beyond the basic templates in Squarespace or other similar platforms, a programmer can add detailed customization through html or CSS code, thus transforming a standard template into a state-of the-art, unique website. Once again, by adopting a partnership between the in-house developer expertise and the low-code application, the business reaps substantial savings on time and resources.

From storefront to back office

Low-code/no-code applications like Coactive, are also perfect solutions for businesses that need customized applications to improve their workflows and processes within their organization.

Businesses are also looking for applications to support their digital transformation and, for example, streamline workflows and processes, customize payroll, support back office, track productivity and many other needs. A low-code/no-code platform is now the most affordable and time-saving option for many. The lack of requiring lengthy development hours, complex coding and back and forth communications has led to many businesses instantly jumping on the low-code/no-code train.

Top 3 benefits to low-code/no-code technology:

  1. Speeds up the design of customer applications affordably

  2. Improves efficiency with no costly downtime when things need to be changed

  3. Allows for fast project turnaround to optimize and enhance business functions

So, here's what low-code/no-code is NOT:

Firstly, it isn’t the be all and end all answer for all application development. Secondly, it doesn't completely eliminate the need for coding. But it is moving in the right direction. It speeds up existing application development and customization processes using APIs for the developer who knows their way around coding.

For customized applications, it is not a solution for the layman or amateur coder, who has little to no coding experience. These platforms aren’t just a click-a-button and build an app; there’s still a certain level of hand-coding to customize a solution completely.

Furthermore, low-code/no-code platforms aren’t just solutions for SMBs. More frequently, we see MNEs also realizing the impact these platforms can have on their own in-house IT development teams’ efficiencies and outcomes. 

Because of the nature of low-code RAD, these platforms can take on complex ideas, with higher levels of sophistication, and create business application solutions similar to those used throughout enterprise processes.

“A legacy app migration project that just moves an app from one platform to another can be beneficial, but is far from the biggest win. The more interesting case is when apps are refactored and take on a new structure that allows new capabilities to be added and existing capabilities to be used by more and more apps.” (Source: Forbes)

And finally, it doesn’t mean developers and coders are obsolete. Developers and coders are still very much part of the low-code/no-code solution. Someone needs to be behind-the-scenes to hand-code and create the out-of-the-box customizations – because these customizations are still where the added value lies.

Low-code/no-code is the future and is here to stay

When a business user can build an application to improve processes and systems, it ignites innovation. These are the ideas that are changing the world. 

“The speed of change and agility required in today’s world is identifying the legacy BPM providers as past their sell-by date. No one has 20:20 vision of the future direction of their business, so speed, flexibility and the ability to fail fast all come in to play. Low code/no code is changing the market.” says Owen McKee, Sales Director at Bizagi

Low-code/no-code gives developers and hand-coders the opportunity to expand their expertise and explore the possibilities that stretch the boundaries of both application development and business impact.

At the same time, it gives the everyday person the ability to be part of the digital transformation that is changing the way people do business.