As businesses look for ways to reduce their development costs and automate tasks, low-code and no-code platforms are becoming increasingly popular. These platforms allow users to create applications without writing any code. Instead, an interface enables users to drag and drop elements onto a page, and the software automatically generates the code to make it work.
These platforms are not limited to just website building. They can be used to create a wide variety of applications, including mobile applications, business process automation tools, and more. The idea of a low-code and no-code platform isn't novel, but its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years due to advances in technology and their potential cost savings for businesses.
Evolution of Low/No Code
The most popular low-code / no-code platforms include Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress. However, there are up-and-coming platforms such as Webflow, Bubble, and Editor X that offer richer features, more control, and flexibility. These platforms also have the capability to match designs down to the pixel while still allowing for code to be auto-generated.
Traditional platforms like Wix and Squarespace may remove the need for development but have design limitations. They have predefined templates in some cases, and there are only certain elements and configurations that can be changed about them. On the other hand, low-code / no-code platforms like Webflow and Editor X allow for the configuration of even the smallest atomic elements of design, such as fonts, colors, spacing, buttons, boxes, and backgrounds.
Capabilities and Benefits
These platforms start at the atomic level, with a foundation that can be built into components, sections, pages, and sites. Other compelling features include an extensive selection of robust out-of-the-box animations.
One game-changing benefit of low-code / no-code platforms is that they democratize development. For small businesses and individuals, it allows you to create complex applications without hiring an entire development team, saving on resources and the time it takes to learn to code yourself.
Traditional development takes a lot of time and resources for planning, designing, and implementing through different project phases. The process can be time-consuming and costly. With low-code / no-code platforms, businesses could skip some of these steps and get their applications up and running faster and at a fraction of the cost.
However, it's important to note that low-code / no-code platforms do have their limitations. While they may work for simpler applications, more complex applications may require the expertise of a developer to ensure they're properly built and maintained. Additionally, these platforms may not be able to handle more specialized or niche needs that businesses have, especially complex business logic and integrations between systems.
No Development Doesn't Mean No Technology
Low-code / no-code platforms are not a golden ticket for eliminating an understanding of all other technology, even if a website or application's needs are adequately met by code generated from these platforms.
Many of these platforms have a content management system (CMS) included to allow content reusability within the page designs. Therefore, having an understanding of content and data structures, relational databases, and querying languages like SQL is important. Comprehending these areas will ensure efficiency in data models and will enable data manipulations and integrations where necessary.
Most clients we work with have some kind of integration requirements. Many low-code / no-code platforms offer the ability to integrate with external services and APIs, so it's crucial to be familiar with RESTful APIs, JSON-formatted data, and authentication mechanisms.
In this day and age, data security has never been more important. Understanding common security principles and practices is still required even with these platforms. Applications must protect sensitive data and follow best practices for secure coding.
Regardless of the platform, having experience in testing and debugging is invaluable. Techniques in unit testing, integration testing, and troubleshooting issues will never become irrelevant.
Hosting and infrastructure are still required when leveraging low-code / no-code platforms. Most provide various licensing options that include self-hosted and managed-hosting choices. It's important to understand the implications of which options you choose and how it could impact cost and dev-ops requirements.
No Replacements for Business Strategy
Finally, a strategic digital experience is arguably far more important than the development that goes into building it. The business strategy and creative design of the user experience is still the key to success. Each is a required effort regardless of whether you're building a custom website from scratch or finding out that you can leverage a low-code platform.
What is the Use Case?
So why are we talking about these platforms here at Verndale? Can these platforms simply replace what we do with DXPs like Sitecore and Optimizely? The simple answer is absolutely not (and probably not for a long time). Some limitations will make low-code / no-code platforms not practical for many of our clients because of the complicated business logic they require, among other things.
However, there are potentially some great use cases for the low-code / no-code platforms even for companies with well-established DXP platforms, especially when an experience is needed very quickly. And here is a little-known fact: Sitecore, a popular DXP platform, has gotten into the low-code / no-code business and is shipping XM Cloud Components with its new SaaS CMS offering. You can read more about it here in Sitecore XM Cloud Components: First Look.
Here are some examples of where we might use low-code / no-code platforms:
- Spec work in sales opportunities where our design team would want to show a functioning design
- Campaigns or landing pages
- Short-lived microsites
- Applications that are largely static (or content doesn't change much)
- Experimenting/testing concepts before a full-blown build
- Simple websites that don't require a lot of business logic
Whether you're considering a low-code / no-code platform or not, or if it's a matter of when you'll implement one, evaluating your organization's needs against the technology requires careful consideration. Learn more about our solutions and how we help businesses explore their options to maximize their investment.