What Is Low-Code Development?
Low-code development involves software with a front-end interface that allows graphical plotting of a series of desired commands in the building of an application.
Low-code interfaces have long existed. Some early examples include Adobe Flash and Microsoft FrontPage. Both could be built largely with graphical user interfaces (GUIs) but allowed end-user customization for users wanting to maximize their capabilities.
The modern low-code revival is partly thanks to the growing efficiency of the application programming interface (API). Consumer-focused tools like IFTTT make it easy to tie APIs into smart homes, for example. These benefits can be applied to business processes as well, allowing organizations to create interfaces that meet their unique needs.
What Is No-Code Development?
While low-code development requires minimal programming for customization, no-code development manages development resources within the GUI alone. This means there’s little or no need for additional programming to tweak the final result. This could be a builder for a mobile application or a database tool that ties into an analytics dashboard.
“As the names imply, low-code development still employs some amount of hand coding, whereas no-code development is almost exclusively performed with the GUI,” Robinson says.
These tools are also steeped in history. Apple’s formative late-’80s HyperCard technology was one of the earliest mainstream examples of no-code technology (and the engine behind the iconic ’90s video game Myst). Claris, an Apple subsidiary, still produces FileMaker, a low-code database tool even older than HyperCard.
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Common modern tech tools including the content management system WordPress and spreadsheet tools like Microsoft Excel could be considered no-code. The most recent uptick in no-code platforms has been around building fully individualized applications with a hand-coded quality. With APIs and cloud-based technologies, you can get a lot further today without writing a line of code than you could have a decade ago.
The Benefits of Low-Code Development vs. No-Code Development
Easy to use and quick to implement, both these approaches have gained momentum in the startup space. As a 2020 Forbes expert panel noted, low-code allows users to quickly build applications to test new ideas or modernize legacy applications, all at a low upfront cost.
Robinson says that both techniques can expand the reach of programming capabilities to nontechnical individuals, but those with programming knowledge can benefit as well.
“By working within a set of defined parameters, individuals without deep programming expertise can build functional applications,” he says. “This enables more capability at the layer where companies are trying to build differentiation, so it seems that low-code/no-code will simply drive more activity and job opportunity toward the task of building software.”
Organizations should be aware of the potential security and maintenance challenges associated with building new applications, according to Robinson. “With so many new applications being built, new vulnerabilities will be created,” he says.
IT departments must also consider how these tools will be managed. A recent Harvard Business Review article notes that there are potential cost savings to be had with these techniques, but their simplicity can create the potential for “shadow IT” problems down the line. These challenges can be mitigated by understanding what your organization’s needs and solutions are, and CDW’s Digital Velocity Solutions can help address these questions.