Digitalization is more real than ever. Businesses of all sizes are introducing their own apps to grow their customer bases and their revenue. In the past, traditional (or custom) software development was the only way for businesses to do this. But custom development requires much effort, a great development team, and a substantial budget.
Lately, the rules have changed. To accelerate digital transformation, businesses are comparing no-code/low-code vs traditional development. Low-code and no-code app development requires little to no coding. Instead of writing lines of code to build an app, an app creator simply draws the app like a flowchart.
How can you avoid buying into the hype and choose your development method wisely? To help you do that, we explain the differences between traditional, no-code, and low-code development.
Custom software development
Custom app development, or traditional app development, looks much like building a custom house. To build a house, you need to determine your requirements, work with an architect to get a detailed plan, find a construction company and get a preliminary estimate, and then oversee the process. To build an app the traditional way, you need to interview and hire a team of developers, determine all the features your software should have, go through a discovery phase, and receive a rough estimate before the IT team launches into the development and testing phases.
Whether you’re building a house or an application, the process is time-consuming, can run over budget, and can be delayed due to various factors. Alternatively, you can buy a prefabricated house or make little customizations to a standard home design in a new housing development. Likewise, instead of hiring an IT company, you can use a no-code or low-code development platform (LCDP) that allows you to create an app through a graphical user interface.
Low-code/no-code app development: Definitions and differences
Both low-code and no-code development replace manual coding with visual modeling. Usually, users see no difference between low-code and no-code development. But the differences between these two types of development matter.
Originally, low-code development hit the scene to help professional software developers streamline their work. With pre-built app templates and user-friendly interfaces, developers were able to create and scale their apps and integrate third-party apps and services faster. Today, low-code development is taking different forms, helping even users with little coding experience create web and mobile apps.
Still, low-code web app development requires a certain level of coding skills from a user. And most low-code platforms are better suited for businesses with in-house developers, since they make developers more agile and productive.
No-code is a fairly new approach to app development that caters to non-technical developers — people without any coding skills. No-code app development platforms feature well-designed visual interfaces that enable non-programmers to build software with no coding at all.
No-code platforms are a good choice when a business needs to build a simple app and deploy it quickly. While their pre-built templates are primitive and their architectures limited, these platforms help businesses build apps intended for business use.
One company that has benefitted from a no-code app is Front Range Excavating, a leading Colorado-based construction company. After stumbling across the no-code AppSheet platform, they created a robust app to automate reporting, payroll, and repairs.
Here’s a brief overview of the differences between low-code and no-code development:
Low-code/no-code development platform features
Low-code and no-code development platforms have similar features, though there are a few key differences.
Visual modeling and robust functionality
Both low-code and no-code platforms for web applications provide out-of-the-box functionality like templates, widgets, and plugins to accelerate app development.
No-code platforms are all about more or less explicit visual modeling. When developing apps on such platforms, users strictly follow a template-based approach that’s easy to learn. In the case of no-code platforms, point-and-click or drag-and-drop functionality takes the place of coding. Instead of building layouts with code, users typically drag and drop components of an application. This allows the user to build a simple web or mobile app with limited capabilities.
Low-code development platforms, on the other hand, don’t fully eliminate the need for programming: only around 80% of the development is done without writing code. Bits of coding and scripting are still necessary to dictate how integrations, security, or connectivity should be built into and work within complex software.
The focus of both no-code and low-code development platforms is on saving time by using pre-configured modules and functionality. Users increase their productivity by quickly reusing widgets, templates, and plugins for multiple app screens — as often as required.
Some low-code platforms offer private app stores with templates, widgets, and plugins. Users can also distribute company-specific resources for reuse across a team of developers.
Apps built using low-code mobile app development platforms can be used across platforms. With the help of low-code platforms, users can create apps accessible from any platform or device, improving the customer experience.
Only a few no-code development platforms can offer cross-platform support. For the most part, with no-code platforms, non-technical developers can develop apps for a particular device or platform. In other words, these apps run only on a web server or only locally on the operating system. So consider a platform’s functionality before choosing it for your software needs.
Low-code and no-code development tools use data streams to monitor workflows, processes, and overall performance of all app components for further analysis and reporting. A low-code or no-code platform can feature monitoring and alerting capabilities to let users know when there’s a risk of failure or to reroute processes to prevent delays.
To visualize the features mentioned above, we suggest you check out a short overview of OutSystems, one of the top low-code development platforms.
Low/no-code vs traditional software development: What’s the difference?
Say you’ve cultivated an idea for a web or mobile app for your business. But after reading lots of positive reviews about both traditional and low-code/no-code development, you aren’t sure what to choose. The table below shows you major differences between these development approaches.
Developers with expertise in programming languages for:
An intuitive drag-and-drop interface for web/mobile app development by:
Lasts for months and includes:
Is accelerated by 10x thanks to:
Depends on the developer’s hourly rate:
Depend on the subscription plan and the number of users:
The app should be developed separately for each platform
The app can work:
|Traditional development||No-code/low-code development|
|Traditional development||No-code/low-code development|
Benefits of low-code and no-code technologies
After comparing development approaches, many businesses are now actively adopting low-code and no-code techniques. According to Gartner, by 2024, nearly 75% of the world’s large businesses will be using low-code development tools to meet their software development needs. Let’s have a close look at low-code benefits that can make businesses refrain from traditional development.
Traditional apps require significant time to be developed and reach the app stores. No-code and low-code development platforms help non-technical people and developers alike design and deploy apps faster thanks to built-in features, reusable templates, and automated testing, thus improving developer agility.
Low/no-code development platforms help businesses quickly deliver applications for immediate use at lower cost than with traditional software development. With traditional development, you need to form an in-house team or outsource software development. With low-code development, you don’t need a team: you can hire a part-time developer or code yourself if you have experience.
Fast response to new business conditions
Since the market and competitors are constantly evolving, you need to quickly respond to rapidly changing business conditions. Low-code development platforms help businesses update their apps on the fly and remain ahead.
Low-code and no-code platforms offer off-the-shelf features that have already been tried and tested. Templates can seamlessly be integrated with each other to efficiently work across various devices and platforms, ensuring a positive user experience. However, the number of these templates is limited, which constrains developers.
Easy maintenance and updates
Updating apps developed with a traditional approach requires IT teams to add new functionality and fix bugs. With no-code platforms and their pre-built and pre-tested modules, implementing changes is easier and more efficient. Plus, the risks of incompatibility are low.
No-code/low-code development speed can come at a cost
The promise of quick software development is attractive. But before encouraging your business partners to choose low-code development, take a look at some hidden downsides.
Heavy reliance on low-code development platforms can lead to integration issues. Low-code and no-code platforms offer limited functionality to integrate with most in-house systems and third-party services.
Modular components of no-code/low-code platforms guarantee quick app development but limit customization. At some point, you may need customized components in your app to meet specific business needs. But with an app built using a no-code or low-code platform, you’ll likely need to mold your business needs to your app’s capabilities.
Non-technical platform users can create vulnerabilities they don’t know about. Insecure coding creates an opportunity for hackers to obtain sensitive user and corporate data.
Steelkiwi’s note: Reliable low-code and no-code platforms automatically install updates and patches. This eliminates the need for a developer to implement security fixes.
No-code/low-code development platforms usually work well when used by small groups of developers but fail to meet the demands of large companies. Compare low-code platforms to make sure the platform you choose offers the scalability your business needs.
Poor UI design
Low-code platforms provide libraries of templates, widgets, and UI components that allow you to design your app in a matter of hours. But even though this sounds like a huge benefit, it means your UI design won’t be unique or custom.
Use cases of low-code platforms
Does low-code/no-code development mean the end of traditional programming? No. These methods will continue to co-exist since approaches have different use cases.
Use cases of low-code/no-code development platforms
- Minimum viable products — There’s no use diving into a long development process to test your business idea. With low-code development platforms, you can build an MVP to prove your idea and convince investors or to disprove it with minimum losses. You can read more about MVP development in one of our recent blog posts.
- Simple employee- or partner-facing apps — These are apps that help business owners automate paper-based processes and improve the workflow. By integrating with core internal systems, these apps support cross-departmental operations.
- Omni-channel integrations of standardized solutions — Banks, financial services companies, insurance businesses, and call centers are the main users of low-code platforms. Low-code platforms accelerate the development and launch of software to quickly fetch data from multiple data sources, process it, and display it on web and mobile dashboards.
- Microservices-based apps — With low-code development platforms, enterprises like Amazon and Netflix create numerous micro apps that can integrate with each other. Thus, these businesses are now switching from a monolithic approach to microservices. Why? A microservices architecture allows companies to independently scale certain services instead of scaling the entire monolithic system.
Unlike low-code and no-code development, traditional development provides flexibility and unmatched freedom to create exactly what businesses need. It allows businesses to build perfectly tailored, bespoke software.
Plus, a custom app helps businesses stand out from their competitors. This is because they choose a professional team that includes not only software developers but also designers, QA engineers, business analysts, and project managers to create a unique app.
Are low-code development and no-code development a threat to traditional programming?
Custom development is by all means our present and future, since it offers software that’s one-of-the-kind. There’s a rumor that low-code development is washing away programming jobs. But in reality, it’s only changing them. With low-code platforms, skilled developers can do much more, concentrating on the most challenging parts of their code to build exclusive applications.
If custom development is exactly what your business needs or if you want to learn more details before making your choice, don’t hesitate to contact us. One of our sales team representatives will get in touch with you within one business day to answer your questions.