Comparing Low-Code, No-Code, and Custom Development? Which is best?
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Modern businesses have an ever-increasing number of technologies and choices available to them. Not so long ago, companies looking to build new software had to decide between buying off-the-shelf solutions or starting a custom software development project. Today, modern methods of development capture elements of both options. Low-code and no-code development provide the capabilities necessary to build feature-rich software with minimal technical overhead.
These solutions can reduce the time and costs of producing in-house software by a significant margin. Much more than that, they allow teams to build software solutions according to demand and requirements without being dependent on language-specific technical knowledge and programming experience. They broaden access to a project by lowering the technical barrier to entry.
As one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to build software, low-code and no-code show a lot of promise in many areas. One of the key concerns of businesses, however, is discovering how these solutions can compare in quality, longevity, and flexibility. Can a low-code solution compete against a custom software development project produced by professional engineers?
Here, we take a closer look at low-code and no-code development and analyze how it stacks up against custom software development. In looking at the capabilities of each, this article should help you discover which strategy is best for you and how best to deploy your upcoming projects.
What Is No-Code Software Development
Much like low-code software, no-code development is targeted at users looking to develop software solutions without coding the entire application by hand. A no-code solution adds to this visual approach to development by making the tools available to users without any coding background.
No-code platforms often expand on the capabilities of low-code platforms. Flow diagrams and a visual UI allow users to put together applications intuitively. Pre-made templates provide functionality that is frequently used and highly requested to speed up development even further. These allow users to simply modify an existing blueprint to create software that fits their specific use case.
Within businesses, no-code development can be particularly useful in providing the tools necessary for non-technical staff to create solutions for their department or to prototype a much larger application.
Advantages of No-Code Development
Allows The Broadest Possible Teams
A no-code solution opens up software production even further, allowing anyone to contribute with their vision of how it should work. This enables sales staff, marketing, management, and any other shareholder to contribute towards its goals alongside technical staff. The competitive advantage this provides in creating a solution that closely reflects real-world demands is hard to overstate.
Fastest Time To Market
Even technical staff may pick up a no-code solution to rapidly build a small but essential piece of software or a highly capable prototype app. No-code platforms enable rapid development in a way that's never been seen before in mainstream tech. In practice, this can be used in different ways to trial new ideas, build a prototype system, or gather additional input from an external team.
Reduced Need For Initial Configuration
Because both low-code and no-code solutions work straight out of the box, the need for project configuration and setup is reduced to almost zero. Getting new team members set up and on board with development is made much easier. This replaces old systems of creating or setting up a new environment to work with multiple technologies and systems.
Disadvantages of No-Code Development
Highly Dependant On The Underlying Platform
Much like a low-code solution, no-code development creates a coupling between a business and the platform they use that some will find uncomfortable. This is more prevalent in no-code software as the underlying implementation can be a little more obfuscated in a purely visual environment.
More Rigid Implementation Guides
A no-code solution is more closely controlled than a low-code one. A visual development tool is more limited within a strict set of objects and interactions that can't be supplemented or expanded with code. Using a no-code platform, businesses may have to adapt around their software rather than create software that meets their requirements.
Security Outside Of Your Control
Relying on someone else's platform to implement your solution puts control of things like security and authentication very much in their hands. Being dependent on a third party to patch security vulnerabilities and keep on top of risk can be uncomfortable for some.
What is Low-Code Software Development?
Low-code software development refers to a range of tools that allow you to create software with just a limited amount of conventional programming. These tools are typically built around an app-builder that relies on flowcharts and diagrams to map the data flow necessary to build software.
In many cases, low-code solutions can offer the best of both worlds between no-code programming and custom software development. The visual development methods provided by low-code development offer abundant time savings and a low barrier to entry. The option to supplement these rapid development methods with small amounts of code allows designers to do a lot more where low-level development becomes necessary.
In adopting these technologies, however, we also have to be mindful of their drawbacks. An approach that reduces the amount of engineering to be done on a project will necessarily reduce the number of options open to engineers. As a trade-off, this isn't something to be taken lightly.
There are much fewer opportunities available to influence design, architecture, integrations, and long-term stability in both no-code and low-code development.
As an example, our software development teams do a lot more than just write code. Our expert engineers also lead the way in creating reliable software architecture, building automated tests, and engineering maintainable software. By reducing the technical expertise and visibility on a project, you increase the risk as an unavoidable side effect.
These additional risks will be more acceptable in some projects than others. To analyze the effects of adopting low-code solutions within an organization, we have to carefully weigh up the associated pros and cons in the planning phase.
Advantages of Low-Code Development
Highly Agile Production
Using visual tools to build software makes the development process much faster and more intuitive in comparison to writing computer code. As a result, even experienced coders can use low-code tools to develop effective software in a short time frame for simple internal projects.
Reduced Development Cost
By increasing the speed of development and the productivity of engineers, the cost of developing software reduces as a natural result. Visual production tools allow shorter development stints and more rapid iterations on easily modified prototypes. The effect of this increase in efficiency impacts not only engineering time but project management, testing, and deployment, too.
More Effective Cross-Purpose Teams
Low-code solutions invite more people to take an active role in development by lowering the barrier to entry. The effect of this innovation is to promote input from a broader array of viewpoints and gain input from users who will rely on the software on a day-to-day basis.
Disadvantages of Low-Code Development
Limited Flexibility In Design & Deployment
By their very nature, low-code solutions allow for less customization than is available in custom software development. In many cases, this is an acceptable trade-off for development speed but there are plenty of scenarios where organizations depend on making a unique impact with their software. Development that calls for highly specialized or niche applications or integrations would be particularly poorly suited for low-code or no-code software.
Can Tie-in Businesses To Specific Vendors
Low-code software built using a third-party platform bridges an important gap between the user and unfamiliar technology. The major drawback to relying so heavily on this bridge is that it means designers and developers can't migrate their work to another solution easily.
Reduced Integration Options
One of the biggest advantages software developers have open to them is their ability to integrate with almost any service through its API. Low-code platforms are often much more limited in that respect. Instead, these solutions are often only able to offer integrations that the platform has made available.
In many modern projects that build smart homes and intelligent devices for clients, this is a restriction that could create major hurdles to implementing key features.
Reduced Scalability and Long-Term Maintenance
While it takes skilled and experienced software engineers to create scalable and maintainable code, it's something that's all but impossible in a low-code solution. One of the major drawbacks of low-code tools is that their implementation details are mostly hidden. As a result, the long-term stability and use of your application are going to be entirely dependent on the platform you choose.
What is Custom Software Development?
Where these options offer a guided template for producing software, custom development provides businesses with a blank page to begin implementing a solution of their own.
This approach creates an emphasis on building a tailored software piece that fully meets the requirements of your business. It's focused on gathering requirements before choosing the programming languages and tools based only on how well they serve your goals and existing tech.
In the past, we've taken a look at the advantages of using custom software development projects in detail. You can read our article on the topic here.
How Does Custom Software Development Measure Up?
So how does a business choose which development approach to take for their next big project? For us, when making the very same decision, we find it helpful to first take a look at the broader picture surrounding the development of an application.
In practice, building enterprise software requires a great deal more than language skills, platform knowledge, and precise technical capabilities. Building any kind of application requires development expertise, architecture knowledge, problem-solving abilities, debugging experience, and interpersonal communication skills just to make a start.
Our domain expertise has helped firms realize their goals in a wide range of industries from healthcare and insurance to FinTech and beyond. Using knowledge and experience gained in various sectors around the world, we focus on understanding every facet of our client’s business to provide the best custom solutions available on the market today. You can read about one such case where our teams helped to build a robust trading platform using blockchain technology here.
Custom software development methods are effectively the inverse of modern no-code and low-code solutions. The implementation details are kept in the open while a raft of unseen skills contributes to building the solution.
Leaning on technical expertise in building business software utilizes these unseen skills and does a great deal of work under the surface. It helps identify issues in architecture, design, deployment, and long-term maintenance that you would only find once costs have already spiraled.
Of course, this unseen expertise is just one advantage that custom software development provides for organizations. Our article on the top 6 advantages of custom software development highlights other areas where this approach has proven highly impactful.
Low-code and no-code solutions are proven to work well in producing simple, low-cost applications. In apps where the necessary customization is minimal and long-term use isn't a priority, these platforms will readily improve on and even replace off-the-shelf packages. Used well, they can provide a useful additional level of product management that could add a great deal for teams.
Their use should simply be handled with due care and attention.
When it comes to deploying software, we are strong advocates for performing in-depth research and building a strategy before implementation. In practice, this means picturing precisely how processes, systems, and businesses are likely to evolve and change. Comparing that picture with how you want to shape your company today will help you make an impactful decision on the future of your business.
If you need help choosing the ideal solution for your firm, contact us today. We can look at your plans, advise on best practices, and find a solution that works to the advantage of your firm.
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