Demystifying: Low-code & No-code
One well-known Microsoft executive says, “450 million apps have to be built with a low-code tool. There are not enough humans to code fast enough to build that many.”
To quote a meme on Twitter,
The similarity between Bangalore Uber drivers and engineers is that they both cancel offers in the last minute!
Such has been the situation in the hiring market in the last few months. Developer scarcity is heavily affecting both large and small companies as more and more companies are working on emerging technology areas like AI, cloud computing, and data science. Furthermore, companies are competing for developers by offering higher wages, signing bonuses, and other incentives, but still, one-third of tech vacancies are still vacant, resulting in severe productivity losses for the organization.
Not only this, communication between developers and the business side of things can be challenging. Low-code / no-code solves this problem for companies by freeing up engineering knowledge and allowing non-technical people to create their own applications.
What is Low-code & No-code?
“Low-code” and “No-code” are commonly used terms by developers and entrepreneurs nowadays. There’s a lot of misunderstanding regarding what these terms represent. Before we dive in, let’s start by defining the terms “Low-code” and “No-code.”
Low-code is similar to an automatic car. With an automatic car, you must still know how to drive, but gear-switching is automated. Cruise control is a useful feature. Similarly, low-code aims to simplify development. It even allows non-technical people to develop applications. Low-code is utilized by both professional developers and citizen developers.
Low-code tools are made for people who want to develop and build applications cheaper without sacrificing the versatility that code provides. Some examples include Retool, Internal and others. Tools in this space will require some technical knowledge, but they typically allow consumers to increase their productivity and save a lot of time on routine activities. These tools also support the integration of various application frameworks with a single line of code.
No-code is like a self-driving car in many ways. In a self-driving car, artificial intelligence takes care of everything. Driving through traffic is automated, as is re-routing traffic. Although your hands aren’t required to be on the steering wheel, you will need a destination. Similarly, for application development, no-code is the most accessible, non-tech choice. No-code is aimed at non-tech users and citizen developers.
No-code tools use zero code and are designed for people who don’t understand or don’t want to understand how the software works. These tools allow you to build a website on your phone in minutes or integrate Stripe billing into your product in a flexible and dynamic manner. They’re usually easy to use, people get a lot of help, and most tools have active communities of non-technical people helping each other. These tools can be configured to be more complicated and include code elements if you like to delve deeper.
It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s hard to establish a clear boundary between no-code and low-code. All these companies have one common goal: to make it easier for average people to develop useful apps faster and cheaper.
To give you a few examples, here are some common things that can be built entirely with said no-code tools (check out Nocodefounders for more examples).
For years, building a website required a good grasp of coding languages such as HTML and CSS, or enormous budgets for a web designer. These days, anyone can develop a stunning website in a couple of hours, without the need for programming expertise or large resources.
This has become the most popular category in No-code because of intuitive graphical interfaces. They handle all complicated applications such as front-end/back-end logic, database operations, and maintenance, and so on, offering full end-to-end solutions without the usage of code.
- Webflow, Strikingly, Squarespace: create production-ready websites without coding.
Mobile app builders
The number of mobile users has surpassed that of desktop users, and surveys suggest that people prefer mobile apps over mobile websites. Mobile apps, whether for personal or business use, are revolutionizing how services are delivered to consumers. However, the process of developing mobile apps is fraught with difficulties. No-code and low-code app builders have made creating fully functional mobile apps easier than ever before.
- Dropsource, Thunkable, Draftbit, Adalo, Glide: GUI-based drag-and-drop programming tools allowing anyone to build stunning native mobile apps.
Existing workflows and procedures of most companies are inefficient. Using no-code technologies may save them countless hours of time. Sales, marketing, human resources, and finance departments will now be able to create unique internal solutions to address their own challenges.
For example, today, it’s possible for a company’s finance team to create a bespoke expenditure reporting application or the operations team could create an application to mobilize their entire on-field staff on their own using these tools. The entire process from conception to launch takes much less time and cost with no-code tools, as compared to the third-party services or dedicating an internal engineer team to build it.
- Retool, BRYTER, Flowdash, Jet Admin: easily create internal applications and digital tools for any company in any industry without code.
Workflow automation tools
Automation is often associated with robots or artificial intelligence (AI), but true automation begins with everyday tasks which on their own don’t take up too much time. But they all add up, especially if you consider the time spent for a whole year. With over 100+ apps we use on a regular basis, we can use no-code tools like Zapier to automate and save a couple of hours in our work week.
Some other examples include updating Salesforce when new leads are entered into a Google Sheet or generating a task in a project management tool like Asana. It can also be used for something as simple as remembering people on special occasions and automatically sending them an email/message on their special day.
- Zapier, Integromat, Tray, IFTTT, Automate.io: automate the boring and repetitive stuff and focus on the things you love about your job.
As we’ve mentioned previously, No-code and low-code tools aren’t designed to eliminate code or developers. They aim to make life easier for developers as they provide visual, drag-and-drop tools, that do not need much coding, making data science less frightening and more understandable for non-technical people or those who lack the time or resources to develop such systems from the ground up.
These tools enable companies to utilize data science in the first place, and they can serve as a stepping stone for further use of data science or AI in the future. This relatively modest investment, along with individuals gaining hands-on experience with data science tools, reduces significant barriers to adoption of data science in small and mid-sized companies.
- Parabola, Obviously AI, Above: data predictions in minutes without code.
Spreadsheets & databases
Spreadsheets have been around for a long time and are still in widespread usage today. In the last two decades, many individuals have built apps on top of spreadsheets. Delivering no-code and low-code apps with a spreadsheet-based interface might help minimize adoption barriers by shortening the time it takes for end-users to learn a new app. These tools function as a database and act like a spreadsheet, allowing you to build a more sophisticated and capable solution by growing and changing with you and your team.
Excel, for example, can only be used as a typical spreadsheet, while Airtable is a database that operates like spreadsheets. Airtable also allows you to view the same data that appears in a grid view in other ways, such as a calendar, kanban board, form builder, and gallery view.
- Airtable, Actiondesk: offers the familiarity of a spreadsheet and the power of a database.
Sources & Additional Reading
- The Rise of No Code | Ryan Hoover
- The Building Blocks of Tech | Rex Woodbury
- No-Code — Unleashing Creativity on the Internet | Alexandre Dewez
- Where next for no-code? | Charge VC