This post is contributed by Andrew Davison - Founder of Luhhu
Software programmers are able to do a mind-boggling thing. They can take a concept or idea from their own minds, and translate it into a language that a machine can understand.
This language is known as ‘code’ and only a teeny, tiny, percentage of the world’s population knows it.
Rewind only a few years, if you wanted to build digital products you only had one option: to learn code.
However, the tide is changing. Today, various companies have launched products designed to open programming up to the masses. No, or very little, code required.
With these new platforms, technical literacy is not a must-have. Rather than spending years learning how to code, you can now take advantage of software that enables you to build applications by eye and in record time. Simply use a drag-and-drop interface and watch your concept come to life!
And for ultimate flexibility, these new products are split into two categories: no code vs low code.
Of course, you'd be forgiven for mixing them up. Not only do they sound similar, but the marketing teams behind these products often use the terms interchangeably. A recent report by Gartner even merged the two sides, giving them a snappy abbreviation: LCAP (Low Code Application Platforms).
Despite this, there are still huge differences between these two approaches. And, if you’re considering building a product without the help of software developers, you need to know the difference between no code and low code to decide which suits you best.
So let’s start there...
What is No Code?
No code enables anyone to build applications, websites, workflows, or even entire products without expert assistance.
Instead of writing code, a drag-and-drop visual interface makes building an application easy — the user simply connects various pre-made blocks, made by the no code platform.
No code offerings include:
- Shopify for making e-commerce stores without code
- Bubble for making web applications without code
- Zapier for connecting different applications without code
No Code Advantages
- Easy-to-use: No code platforms enable anyone to start building digital products. With simple drag-and-drop functionality, anyone can figure out how to build a useful application — largely through trial and error! This means applications can be imagined and created by the people who need them most.
- Fast: You can build a prototype quickly and test whether the product works.
- Cheaper: Costs of product development are dramatically reduced, as you don't need to pay for programmers.
No Code Disadvantages
- One size fits none: Some no code platforms limit you to using predefined blocks. This means you can't develop complicated products or build anything not supported by the no code platform.
- Ownership: Some no code platforms lock your product to their platform. If you are successful, you can't move to a cheaper or better-featured platform later without rebuilding your product.
- Learning Curve: You'll need to learn how to make the most of your no code platform. Pick a platform with good documentation and an active online community to make this easier.
Sounds a little too restrictive for you? It could well be.
In that case, there’s another option to consider...
What is Low Code?
Low code development platforms are similar to no code options — in that products can be built via a visual interface. But, unlike their no code counterparts, low code platforms can also be supported by traditional, expert programming.
Low code platforms approach this balance in a variety of ways. Some focus on non- or amateur developers, making tools that anyone can use. Others try to make experienced developers more productive by streamlining their workflow.
In this way, you can think of low code like a scale of complexity.
At the most complex, low code platforms actually use quite a lot of code. Instead of being an alternative to traditional software development, these low code tools try to make expert software developers more productive by providing a visual way to do repetitive tasks. These low code tools are tools for rapid software development, rather than simple software development.
For example: tools like DWKit allow users to build the interface of their application with a drag-and-drop, but still need the user to code the hard bits of the application. This gives the user a lot of freedom and flexibility — but only if they have adequate programming knowledge.
At their least complex, low code platforms are just a step up from no code. They use the same visual approach as no code platforms, but also offer the capability to write your own blocks (or ask someone to do it for you), then connect them visually.
Tools like Microsoft Power App allow non-coders to build apps with a simple drag-and-drop interface, while still allowing developers to add additional functionality with Azure Functions and custom connectors to proprietary systems.
Low Code Advantages
- Flexible: With some low code platforms, developers can build entirely custom and complicated products.
- Fast: Development is dramatically quicker than traditional software development.
- Cheaper: Costs of product development are significantly reduced, as developers can work faster.
Low Code Disadvantages
- Complexity: Low code is mainly aimed at developers and assumes you understand basic programming logic (at the least).
- Limited: You’re limited by the disadvantages of the low code platform you choose, whereas a custom coded project has unlimited potential.
- Vendor Lock-in: If your low code platform is discontinued, how can you make updates or continue to run the project in the future?
No code vs Low code Comparison Table
To help you compare, we've put together a comparison table between traditional software development (full code), low code and no code platforms.
So, should I choose No Code or Low Code?
The answer depends on the complexity of your product and your willingness to spend on traditional software development.
If you need some of the flexibility of traditional software development, and are prepared to pay the price in terms of money and time, low code is a great option.
Alternatively, if you want to get something to market quickly, and your requirements for custom functionality or integrations are minimal, no code will be a good fit.
But if you’re reading this article, chances are you're somewhere in the middle. Thankfully, there’s a solution.
Zapier: Best of Both Worlds
Increasingly, savvy businesses are choosing a product that offers all the benefits of no code with the flexibility of low code: Zapier.
By connecting blocks, you can create workflows (or Zaps) that solve real business problems without writing any code.
The possibilities for what you can do with Zapier are endless. By connecting Airtable, Webflow, Memberstack and Zapier, non-programmers have made job boards, AirBnB-style marketplaces, and complicated business applications.
This means you can jump in and start building your business application with Zapier today, safe in the knowledge that you can expand it later.
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