Software development has come a long way in the last few decades. In the early days, computers were programmed using machine code or an assembler, which required dozens of instructions to perform even the most straightforward task, such as displaying text on the screen.
As computers became more human-friendly, those low-level programming languages were replaced with more human-readable ones such as C, and later even higher level, meaning more abstract, languages such as BASIC. These are known as high-level programming languages because more steps are required to translate the code into machine-readable instructions.
Each level of abstraction makes it easier for humans to program computers, but that abstraction may come at a cost in terms of the amount of processing power or storage usage. When computer speeds were measured in Mhz and storage was measured in Bytes, that mattered, but today our computers are far faster and storage space is inexpensive. Being agile and having the ability to deploy working products quickly matters in a business environment. This makes low-code and no-code platforms incredibly valuable.
What is Low-Code Development?
Low-code development is the idea of using tools to remove a lot of the effort of hand-coding applications. Low-code platforms rely extensively on pre-built modules and graphical interfaces to create code.
Visual Basic, for example, allows users to drag and drop buttons, text boxes and labels onto a window then program "events" associated with clicking on or otherwise interacting with those elements. There's no need for the developer to worry about drawing the window or writing the code to cause the events to happen, they simply focus on the logic.
Claris FileMaker is another, more modern version of a low-code platform that makes it easy to create apps that can streamline your workflows and improve collaboration in your business. It comes with many pre-built templates, supports desktop and mobile devices, and uses cloud technology for reliability and efficiency.
Low-code development is versatile, flexible, and ideal for busy subject-matter experts who have some level of technical proficiency. It allows users to put tech to work for their benefit instead of spending endless hours debugging, worrying about security issues, or trying to understand complex code.
The beauty of low-code development is that while it can be incredibly simple, the platforms usually support some degree of behind-the-scenes scripting, so there are fairly few limits in terms of solving workplace problems.
What is No-Code Development?
No-code development takes the idea of low-code development a step further. It provides visual Integrated Development Environments (Visual IDEs) and Model-Driven Development (MDD) to allow the user to specify the application's logic and how various elements on the screen behave without them having to worry about syntax issues.
No-code platforms are often helpful for business applications that serve a clearly defined purpose within an organization. Amazon's Honeycode, for example, makes it easy for citizen developers to produce web and mobile applications that can communicate with each other.
Users drag and drop elements and select the behavior for each component. For example, a store owner could use Amazon Honeycode to create an app that keeps shop floor workers informed about day-to-day issues. The app could be configured to send simple notifications, such as:
- If more than a certain number of an item is sold in one day, notify the person on the floor to restock that item.
- If a new item is added to the inventory database, send a notification to the team leader, so they know this new item is in stock.
Honeycode can integrate with several popular SaaS platforms, and the platform itself handles this integration, so there's no need for users to worry about them. The limitation of this development style is that if your chosen inventory or CRM platform isn't supported, it may be challenging to work around that.
Why The Difference Matters
Low-code and no-code development have their place in the software development space, but they offer distinct benefits.
Low-code development is suitable for:
- Customer-facing applications
- Business applications
- IT Professionals/DevOps workers who aren't full-time coders
- Working with multiple APIs or databases
No-code development is suited for:
- Business applications
- Rapid development and deployment
- Citizen developers
- Working with just one or two supported platforms or APIs
No-code development is something anyone can learn to do with minimal training, and it's possible to create slick, professional-looking, and easy-to-use applications using them as long as the application is working with supported data sources.
What's Right for Your Workflow?
The choice between low-code and no-code development comes down to the trade-off between ease of use and flexibility. If all you're looking for is a simple database and the ability to communicate with other app users, a no-code service such as Honeycode could be ideal, especially if your existing cloud services are on the list of SaaS providers that AppFlow supports.
For those who want to do something more sophisticated or who want more control over the look and feel of their applications, a low-code platform such as FileMaker may be useful. The question is whether the flexibility benefits outweigh the technical challenges.
At The Support Group, we offer FileMaker training services and custom app development for those who have an idea and want some help to implement it. We also have the capabilities to help with Honeycode development, thereby empowering your project managers and team leaders to make the best use of technology.
There's a case to be made for using both sets of tools for different situations in large organizations. Technology exists to help us solve problems, and there are tools for everyone, regardless of their technical experience. If you'd like to know more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.