Low-code vs. no-code: How to determine what is right for you

The two types of platforms are designed to accomplish different goals and require different degrees of programming competency, but which one is right for your organization?


If you're looking into ways you can streamline your business processes, you might have seen the fuss about no-code versus low-code platforms and which will emerge victorious from the big championship bout, available on pay-per-view for a small fortune. Low-code platforms allow organizations and developers to create a digital application, page or process without the hassle of learning a full coding language to do it. No-code platforms, on the other hand, let just about anyone create those things by dragging and dropping pre-built modules, completely eliminating the barrier to entry.

Unfortunately, low-code vs. no-code is less of an Ali vs. Foreman situation. It's a matchup that shouldn't really happen because the two types of platforms are designed to accomplish different goals.

Understanding low-code vs. no-code

Let's leave the ring behind and take a different approach, imagining no-code like the summit of Mount Everest: Like code-free development, the summit is a lofty goal that takes a lot of time, money, and talented porters to attain. You can't climb Everest in one fell swoop, largely because of the need to acclimate to otherwise dangerously high altitudes. So instead of barreling straight up to the top, you climb to base camp and wait there while your body adjusts. Low-code development is like base camp. It plays a vital role in the app-creation ecosystem, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon – even if it is a little overcrowded.

No-code processes, however, are a different story. We set out on the journey to no-code about 25 years ago. In lieu of traditional coding methods, developers began utilizing handy graphic interfaces to allow for more rapid application development. These easy-to-use methods relied on pre-coded building blocks called modules, which gave more individuals the capacity to code, even if they previously lacked the necessary literacy.

Clearly, progress is being made. The very existence of no-code platforms is a testament to how far we've come. Still, low-code is a necessary intermediate point that we've reached along the way – a stepping stone down a path toward a no-code platform with more mature capabilities. But the true reality is that there will always be two classes of problems. On one hand, there are problems that require complicated coding to solve. In those cases, code written by experienced developers will continue to be the solution. On the other hand, there are problems that can be solved via modules, and it's here that no-code processes will thrive.

How to choose between low-code and no-code

It might be easier to learn how to decide whether a low-code solution or a no-code platform is right for you with some examples. Let's start out with low-code.

Low-code software is being adopted at a rapid pace. According to research from TrackVia, just 1% of IT leaders and 15% of general business leaders are unaware of low-code solutions. Taken together, about 29% of executives are already using low-code platforms, and 43% are considering the pursuit of low-code solutions for their organizations. Thanks to low-code's broad applicability, the market for these applications is projected to grow from less than $3 billion at the beginning of 2017 to a staggering $15 billion by 2020.

A low-code solution might be the right choice for you if:

Your organization has continuously evolving processes and a time-strapped IT department.

You need more functionality than a no-code platform can provide.

Your company deals with purchase requests of all different sizes that need to be routed to the correct destination according to department, cost, urgency and more.

Your sales team's customer relationship management process needs an overhaul that helps automate the process of finding leads, staying in contact with them and turning them into buyers.

All of these processes can be streamlined with a low-code solution. Instead of enlisting your IT department in a year-long project to solve the problems, you can implement a low-code platform that will cut development time from months to weeks and, in some cases, just days.

It's important to remember, though, that low-code solutions do require a certain degree of programming competency. While the bar is far lower than it is for traditional coding and development, which demand complete fluency in one or more programming languages, it's still a significant hurdle for users to overcome compared with no-code platforms that most anyone can use.

Speaking of no-code platforms, let's dive into the ways you could use one to benefit your organization. A no-code platform might be the right choice if:

Your company's managers or business leaders need to complete tasks without the help of a programmer.

Your IT department is too busy to handle the creation or maintenance of new apps in the long run.

You want to create solutions that can be rolled out without worrying that bugs will harm deployment or that updates will require coding.

Your HR department needs to streamline the onboarding and offboarding process so that tasks such as collecting new hire information, setting up payroll accounts, allowing access to training resources and locking old accounts can be done automatically.

You need a way to track task completion when multiple departments are working together.

You want to create buy-in among employees for a larger digital transformation at your company by allowing them to participate in changes themselves.

Oftentimes, the best code is simply no code at all. In situations when users can't rely on IT, the problem in question doesn't already have a specific solution available, or the application can accomplish and eliminate forever an otherwise time-consuming business process, no-code platforms represent an ideal solution.

The future of the low-code vs. no-code debate

In the same way that base camp allows climbers to start out equipped with the necessary supplies at 17,500 feet, allowing for a more rapid bid on the summit, low-code platforms help developers accelerate the programming process, allowing them to produce usable applications more quickly than would be possible creating them from scratch.

In a perfect future, all climbers might head straight for the summit and no-code platforms could provide complete functionality. Until that day arrives, low-code platforms will continue to serve as a stepping stone between the complexity of fully coded solutions and the simple yet limited reach of no-code platforms. For now, use the lists above to help you determine which is right for your organization.

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