When should you consider low code solutions, what are the benefits, and how to begin?
A low code platform is an environment that allows users to create software applications through a graphical user interface and configuration options rather than through traditional programming languages.
This will typically involve drag and drop user interface patterns, which allow you to create an application that satisfies a particular need. A minimal amount of programming is often required for anything other than the simplest of applications and services.
Low code application examples
While low code is a relatively new term, the concept has been popular in technology for as long as code has been written. Wordpress, WIX, and Dynamics could all be thought of as low or no code, and even programming platforms like Ruby on Rails have a low code philosophy. The aim here is generally to make building applications as easy and accessible to people as possible.
In fact, low code tools are increasingly able to handle more complex use cases, and offer extensibility through writing your own code where necessary to do so. The advancement of AI technology has even showcased the capability to design and build applications through conversational instructions, which offers much promise as the technology matures.
It is worth pointing out that there is a distinction between no code, which targets business users rather than software engineers, and low code which is aimed at software engineers of all levels and entry points, and does require minimal hand coding.
If you’d like to find out more, Outsystems has provided a useful guide about the nuances and distinctions of low code versus no code.
The benefits of low code
Low code solutions promise to improve productivity for organisations by enabling people with limited technical experience to build applications, and by giving more experienced developers the capability to build applications much faster than with typical development toolsets.
In reality, whilst the future potential of low code is significant, like so many aspects of digital transformation, it’s no silver bullet — there are limitations, edge cases, and a lack of maturity and flexibility when compared to writing code.
To get the best from low code, we therefore need to understand how it fits into a wider organisational technology strategy by understanding when it does and doesn’t work as well.
When to choose low code — the sweet spots
- Problems that are technically simple, or fit an established solved problem or existing product, like reporting a standard format issue to a customer services team. For example, a tool to inform a council that they missed a bin collection!
- Problems that are less complex and have simpler business processes and sequencing to support, like building web forms for data capture or a standalone application.
- Requirements that are simple yet require frequent iterations in implementation that would cause a lot of code changes and churn if written manually. This might be something like changing the name of form labels or adding additional fields for data capture.
- Where there is agreement from the business to match process to solution rather than the other way around. In contrast to raw code that can do “anything”, low and no code may have limitations where it is easier to change the business requirement than the implementation. An analogy here is — if you’re using Wordpress, you should be willing to work in a Wordpress way.
- Problems that are repetitive, and would require large amounts of code to be repeated in multiple places. This might include tasks such as adding new sections to a web form or creating additional web pages that are very similar.
- Where a low code solution is low risk, or at least — lower risk than a manual code base. If you don’t have the developers or the established programming practices for a specific environment, low code can be a good option. It’s an alternative to, say, building a .net solution without having a sufficiently skilled and sized .net development team.
When to avoid low code
There are some categories of problem that seem well suited but are often too broad or specific to be easily tackled by a low code tool.
- Extract Transform Load (ETL) data frameworks.
- Very high traffic, high volume systems that need to cope with thousands of simultaneous requests. A good example of this is websites, as they often require extensive optimisation and therefore need a higher degree of control lower down in the stack or at the infrastructure level than low code tools can offer.
- Simple applications (like CRUD or forms applications) that must match an established business or technical process that cannot be modified because doing so would introduce risk or break an important policy rule.
How to get started with low code
In summary, low code is a useful tool when used in the right way, and in the right context.
This all comes down to having a thorough understanding of your requirements and the environment you’re working in as part of your wider technology strategy.
If you’re looking to explore low code, we would recommend you evaluate some of the different low code options and run some proof of concepts with lower risk services or for certain internal services to get started.
If you would like our help introducing low code as part of your wider technology strategy, or support architecting and building with low code solutions, we’ll be happy to help you get started!