When you say the phrase “low-code platform”, everyone thinks something different.
Some see a solution to an IT backlog. Others see a chance to offload development to business users. And still others see it as an adulterated tool that waters down what software development is supposed to be.
So which one is right, and is low-code worth it for you?
There is so much variety in what is called a low-code that when you try two different platforms you might be shocked that they could even be in the same category. Low-code can solve a lot of problems; which problems, however, depends on the type of platform you need.
Here are many different ways to look at the many varieties of low-code.
Developer-Centric vs. User-Centric
To start, one decision you need to make is if the low-code platform is primarily meant to make programmers more productive, or if it tries to open up a new world to tech-savvy business users, or citizen developers.
Very few, if any, low-code platforms do both of these things extremely well. Either developers will get frustrated at the lack of control they have over app creation, or business users will get overwhelmed by the amount of coding and customization required. As you think about the main point of adopting a low-code tool, be clear about which audience you want to help.
Low-Code vs. No-Code
Low-code by nature drastically reduces the amount of hand-coding required to create applications. For developers, these can be shortcuts or building block to get to the finished app faster. For business users, it may allow them to see app building in a more modularized way. These platforms usually keep the source code accessible and editable to the developer.
However, there are no-code platforms out there that require zero coding. The tradeoff is that the source code is usually hidden and inaccessible. You can imagine that this would be frustrating to a seasoned developer, but empowering for a citizen developer because they can go from ideation to functioning app with no additional support.
Deploy Anywhere vs. Deploy on the Platform
Many low-code platforms let you write the application once and then deploy the app across a variety of operating systems. This is attractive to companies when users are on different platforms and need the flexibility to customize each version. However, the downside to this approach is that each version of the app needs to be maintained and updated separately.
A low-code tool that runs apps only on its own platform might seem restrictive at first, but it completely eliminates the need to update multiple versions of the app. Users simply access all the apps on a single platform that itself is accessible through multiple operating systems and mobile capabilities.
General purpose low-code platforms are the most versatile, but usually the ones most friendly to existing developers. With a general purpose low-code platform, you can create an app for just about any purpose you want. The platform must be able to accommodate lots of different functions and actions to meet the demands of IT teams around the world. Most general purpose platforms are deploy anywhere and you can use the apps on desktop or mobile settings.
While certainly the most versatile, they are not something you can easily throw a citizen developer at. The entire structure and language is built more for seasoned programmers rather than someone coming in without coding experience. If you told a regular business user to create an application using a general purpose low-code platform, they wouldn’t even know where to start.
Mobile App Development Platform
For some in the general public, if you said you were building an app, they would assume that you meant a mobile-only application. Such is the proliferation of mobile technology. So much so, that there are dedicated low-code platforms just for creating mobile apps. Right from designing the layout to adding additional functionality, everything is done from the app.
Some platforms are pretty easy for anyone to get started with, while others meant to build more heavy-duty apps require a coding background to build anything of value.
While general purpose platforms can also generate mobile applications, this specific platform focuses only on the mobile app market.
Business Process Applications
The last type of low-code platform we’ll cover here are those that are dedicated to a very particular type of application–automated business processes.These platforms make applications that take a payload of data (usually a form) and run it through a predefined workflow with logic built in to tell it where to go.
Automated business process applications are often in high demand in offices where you want to streamline efficiency, improve tracking, or reduce human error. Typical processes that companies want to automate are purchase requests, leave (PTO) requests, employee onboarding, expense claims, budget approvals, and invoice payments. Most of these involve a few levels of approvals and can’t be handled well with email and spreadsheets.
A low-code business process platform makes sense because companies can put all of their digital processes in one place rather than using many different standalone solutions. Also, requirements vary quite a lot from one company to another, so a low-code platform allows them to customize the app to their need.
Because the applications are used for a very specific purpose, and because the end user generally knows exactly what he or she wants, this is the perfect opportunity to experiment with no-code app development and allow citizen developers to make their own apps.
There are lots of options out there for low-code–which one is right for you? It all depends on what you want to get out of it. Looking for additional speed and efficiency from your developers, or opening up the development process to everyone? Creating many different types of applications, or primarily business processes? There are lots of questions to consider, but a low-code platform that meets your needs is a great investment in your digital future.