Low-Code and No-Code Tools: When & Why They May Be Right for You.
With low-code and no-code development tools, anyone can be a developer. Right?
That depends. While working in low-code/no-code tools may feel like you’ve unlocked the power of the digital universe, there are still many projects that require traditional full-code solutions.
According to Zapier’s recent no-code report, over 50% of no-code users started in the past year, many of whom are self-taught. Industry analysts also expect that by 2025, over 70% of the applications organizations develop will rely on no-code/low-code tools. That’s not surprising, given that these tools lower the barrier to entry – and the cost – of developing new sites and apps.
With a slew of effective low-code/no-code solutions on the market today, the question isn’t whether you should use no-code/low-code tools to evolve your digital footprint. It’s how and when you should use them so that the tools work for your organization, not against it.
What Is Low-Code/No-Code?
There are three ways to build websites or apps: full-code, low-code, and no-code. Developers hold the keys to the proverbial full-code city, but low-code and no-code open the door to people without a coding background.
While it’s tempting to brush off low-code and no-code as “same same but different,” the differences do matter. Understanding what they are and how they work will help you choose the best route for whatever digital property you need to build.
Low-code development uses APIs, drag-and-drop tools, code and process templates, and more to help build websites, apps, and workflows. These tools typically require some coding skills, but nothing like what you’d need to create a full-code solution. That makes it much quicker and easier to create a product using low-code development than writing all of the code from scratch.
No-code development uses visual builders and other simple tools that allow people without any coding skills to build digital experiences. Through drag-and-drop, visual flows, and templated plug-ins, you can build something beautiful without having to touch the code at all. They’re one step more accessible than low-code solutions, making them compelling options for organizations that need fast and cost-effective development.
Pros and Cons of Low-Code/No-Code Development
Low-code/no-code tools take a lot of the time, cost, and aggravation out of traditional development – but they’re not a cure-all for your coding challenges. Before you dive in, keep their strengths and limitations in mind.
Pros of low-code/no-code
- Speed to market: Your path to launch is much quicker with low-code/no-code tools. Stand up a simple brochure-style website or multi-step workflow in a matter of hours, rather than weeks or even months.
- Less expensive: Many businesses are on a budget that can’t flex for an experienced developer. Both low-code and no-code tools can deliver an effective product at a fraction of the price. Once you’ve built your site, you can also rely on your internal team to tweak the copy or update an image down the road instead of hiring outside help.
- Expansive options: The low-code/no-code tools on the market have expanded along with their user base. There are more options than ever before, with themes and plug-ins that look so sleek you’d think they were full code.
Cons of low-code/no-code
- Limited customization: You can create something appealing with no-code/low-code options. But will it totally look and feel like your brand? Probably not. Because these tools are designed to be easy to use, they don’t have the custom capabilities you’ll get through coding.
- Somewhat breakable: Low-code/no-code tools do use code, it’s just written and templated by someone else. That means that if you don’t use the features correctly, you can break the code – and you might still have to call in a developer to make important fixes.
- Time intensive: Drag-and-drop may sound simple, but getting it just right can actually be a time suck for people with minimal web dev skills. You may end up spending more time on your site or app than if you hired someone with development experience.
When Should You Use Low-Code/No-Code Tools?
For simple projects where hitting budgets and timelines is more important than highly customized design, low-code/no-code tools can be a great solve. They’re especially good for:
- Proof-of-concept builds: Looking to stand up a site or app for a new product? Rather than spending months on traditional development (and losing precious time in the market), low-code/no-code tools allow you to build the core functionality, test your idea with users, and gain buy-in or funding from key decision-makers. If you pick the right tool, your MVP could even serve as the foundation for a larger build later.
- Creating simple websites and apps: For basic builds like customer portals, knowledge centers, or bug ticketing systems, you don’t need to recreate the wheel. Low-code/no-code tools offer tons of templates that make it easy to launch straightforward digital experiences.
- Updating an existing digital experience: Thanks to the bevy of CMS tools out there, you can hire a developer for an initial build and have them set up CMS functionality for simple updates later. This hybrid approach gives you the freedom to adapt your site or app as your organization evolves, while still maintaining a custom look and feel.
- Reporting dashboards and workflow automations: Need a new setup for your business intelligence? Since dashboards and workflows are mainly built for internal users, achieving a custom look isn’t typically a priority – and options abound for automating virtually any task.
What Should You Look For in a Low-Code/No-Code Tool?
Before you choose a solution, consider whether anyone on your team has basic coding skills. If yes, low-code tools may be up your alley. If not, consider narrowing your focus to the many no-code tools around.
Whichever route you go, look for these features in both low-code and no-code tools:
- An extensive marketplace: Because low-code and no-code solutions aren’t very customizable, look for a tool with robust built-in features. You’ll want to be able to choose from a diverse set of additional features, tools, and pre-built APIs that integrate with any tech you need.
- Integration support: You may need custom code solutions here and there. Make sure the low-code or no-code tool you choose will allow you to add extra code.
- Visual builder tools: With these tools, you’ll be able to edit the user interface and not the back end, which is key if you want an approachable no-code/low-code tool. Look for drag-and-drop capabilities that can be used to create things like data workflow mapping or dashboard building. Without that, you may still need someone with development experience.
- Granular permission systems: Your website shouldn’t be an open door. Look for low-code/no-code tools that allow you to restrict access to certain apps and data sets by assigning different permissions to different users (administrators, edit access, view-only, etc.).
When Should You Bring in an Agency To Build a Full-Code Solution?
Sometimes, only a custom or full-code solution will do. The more unique you want your digital property to be, the more likely it is that you’ll need to call in an expert. We also suggest you look for support if:
- You have a complex digital environment: If you need a site with hundreds of pages or a multisite architecture, you’ll probably need a custom solution to get the results you’re looking for.
- You need a custom feature: Low-code/now-code tools aren’t bottomless wells of features and plug-ins. If you need a unique-to-you feature or integration that isn’t readily available, it’s time to call in someone who can build one.
- You need a custom user interface: Cookie-cutter templates won’t work for all brands and products. If you need a specific user interface, you may not be able to achieve that within even a low-code platform.
- You want the product to be proprietary: Low-code/no-code products must be hosted within a specific low-code/no-code platform. You’ll need a custom, full-code solution if you want to own the product and sell it as a proprietary tool.
Get Help Leveraging the Right Tools for the Right Projects
You wouldn’t build a house on shaky ground, would you? Then why build an experience on a platform that might not actually be able to support it?
Though no-code/low-code tools certainly democratize the web development market, they aren’t a silver bullet. If you know that whatever you’re building is simple enough that a no-code/low-code tool and your existing team can support it, we say go for it.
But if you’re even a little uncertain, consider getting an outside opinion on how to lay a strong foundation for your next development project.
Want help deciding whether no-code, low-code, or full-code is best for you? We’d love to talk with you about your needs.