Low-Code vs. No-Code vs. Custom Software Development

This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of low-code, no-code, and custom software development and reviews relevant use cases for each of these software development approaches.

07 Jun, 2022

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Pixabay

In a post-pandemic world, every company is (more or less) a technology company. Driven by digital transformation, businesses of all sizes are now developing and deploying their own apps to boost productivity, enhance customer experiences, and much more. 

This is a notable departure from traditional software development scenarios of the past, where enterprises needed the help of software development companies to achieve their goals. 

Low-code and no-code application development allows users to build enterprise and business apps quickly and more cost-efficiently. However, traditional custom software development still plays a critical role in modern business verticals.

What is Low-Code Development?

Low-code development describes the process of developing apps without writing endless lines of code. For the most part, business users can build an app by drawing flowcharts in a low-code app builder, but you will also have to write a bit of code at some point.

According to IDC, over 500 million digital applications and services will be created and implemented by leveraging low-code cloud-native approaches by 2024. That’s the same number of apps developed over the last four decades!

The low-code app development approach is automated, intuitive, abstracted, and visual. You must define your desired tasks at a high level and use tools to generate most of the underlying codebase. As business users create these low-code apps to solve pertinent business problems, your software engineers are free to focus on more complex software development projects.

Low-code app development isn’t just for business users and citizen developers. Even software engineers can use low-code tools to support their custom development stack. However, like anything in life, low-code app development also comes with some disadvantages that businesses must consider before committing.

Advantages of Low-Code Application Development

Low Risk and High Return on Investment (ROI)

Low-code development platforms are supported by top industry standards and security best practices, so you can depend on up-to-date security algorithms to fortify app infrastructure, data integration, and cross-platform support.

In this scenario, enterprises can focus on their business tasks and goals as the entire workflow is highly customized and protected. As such, this approach helps mitigate risk with the promise of a high ROI.

Faster Time to Market

As low-code development protocols support cross-platform development, you can quickly build a fully functional minimum viable product (MVP) that works across platforms within the shortest time. This is a significant benefit that traditional application development approaches can’t match.

Saves Money and Resources

Business users can quickly bring their ideas to life without waiting on software developers to finish their current projects. Citizen developers help companies save time, money, and resources by quickly getting things done at a lower cost.

Continuous Deployment

Unlike old-school software development, the low-code application development approach helps teams quickly resolve potential bugs and unexpected problems during deployment. You can quickly roll back changes back to a stable version with a single click and fix potential issues before they become a headache.

Seamless Integration and Lifecycle Support

Low-code development platforms support the entire software development lifecycle (SLDC). This includes continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. Low-code application builders also support external integrations, including project management and quality assurance testing tools.

Disadvantages of Low-Code Application Development

Requires a Technical Background

Although the marketing machine promotes the myth that you don’t need a technical background for low-code development, it’s not actually true. Despite the name, you need someone in the team with considerable technical expertise to get the most out of low-code development platforms. For example, even exploring low-code development requirements and available tools demands significant knowledge, which will take time to learn.

Business Logic Complications

Automation tools in low-code application development simplify processes and accelerate prototyping. However, business logic becomes increasingly complex once you get past the prototyping stage.

At this point, business users get stuck and need the help of an expert technical team to bring the project to fruition. As low-code development platforms are far from perfect, it’s best not to rely on them exclusively. Whenever businesses decide to just go with a low-code development approach, they risk jeopardizing the whole project.

Limited Functionality

You can’t expect to build something like your favorite mobile apps. Although it’s certainly a quick way to build applications, low code development tools come with limited functionality. You can only develop enterprise apps within the constraints of the low-code development tool, period.

Businesses must engage expert software developers to write custom code and bring unique business ideas to life (whenever drag and drop functionality doesn’t cut it). However, it’s crucial to note that integrating custom code often costs much more than a completely customized solution you can build from scratch.

Security Limitations

If functional limitations weren’t bad enough, businesses must also contend with security limitations. Low-code solutions don’t provide the same level of security as custom development solutions as you don’t have total control over data security. You also don’t have access to the source code, leaving you in the dark regarding potential vulnerabilities and bugs in the source code.

Types of Applications Best Suited for Low-Code Development

Low-code development tools help businesses build web and mobile applications like the following:

  • Customer engagement applications
  • Employee engagement applications
  • Enterprise IT business process applications
  • Fusion team-developed composite applications
  • Legacy modernization applications
  • Operations optimization applications
  • Process automation applications

What is No-Code Development?

As the name suggests, no-code development allows non-technical users to build enterprise apps without writing a single line of code. Explicitly designed for non-programmers, no-code applications help business users develop and deploy simple apps. No-code development is possible because of pre-built templates that support common business use cases. However, these templates are primitive, and their architectures are limited.

Advantages of No-Code Application Development

Highly Cost-Effective

No-code development (like low-code development) is much cheaper than traditional software development. This is because you don’t have to hire highly skilled software engineers in the middle of a tech talent shortage and absorb all other related overheads.

Faster Time to Market

The no-code approach also helps accelerate time to market. As business users build no-code applications using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, they can quickly develop and deploy an app in a matter of days or even hours. Enterprise users can also promptly automate testing protocols to further accelerate time to market.

Quickly Support and Update

Changing and updating the code in no-code applications is relatively simple. You don’t have to go through lines of code to introduce potential changes. You must leverage the visual interface and its intuitive drag-and-drop functionality whenever you want to update a no-code app.

Flexible, extensible, and scalable

No-code development is highly adaptable, extensible, and scalable like custom-built applications. This means that businesses don’t have to engage in traditional software development to accommodate new features (as long as it’s available in the template) or user growth.

Disadvantages of Low-Code Application Development

Platform Dependent

Whenever enterprises develop no-code applications, their creation is highly dependent on the no-code platform. This means that variables like costs, service quality, and security are beyond their control. So, if you take a no-code development approach, make sure to consider price volatility and changing terms and conditions.

Rigid Templates

No-code application development tools come with templates that limit your options when it comes to customization. This means that organizations may have to change their business processes to accommodate applications built with no-code tools.

Security Concerns

Like low-code development tools, you have no control over the source code. This means that you are heavily dependent on the company that developed the no-code app development tool. You take on some risks whenever you build a business application with no-code tools. This is because any potential vulnerability in the source code will leave your no-code app wide open to exploitation.

Types of Applications Best Suited for No-Code Development

The no-code development approach is only suitable for

  • simple mobile applications,
  • web applications, and
  • back-office (database) applications.

What is Custom Software Development?

Custom application development describes the process of building software from scratch. In this scenario, companies hire an established software development firm or task their in-house software engineers to collect specific requirements, develop a plan with milestones, and write custom code to meet current and future business goals.

The custom development process starts when all stakeholders agree on the software development plan. Once the software is ready, it will be tested, updated, and maintained by the software development team.

There are no citizen developers in traditional or custom application development. As expert application developers build these digital products, custom development comes with some significant advantages. However, there are also a few disadvantages that businesses must consider.

Advantages of Custom Application Development

You Get Exactly What You Want

No two businesses are precisely the same. Each organization has its own unique processes and requirements, and custom application development will serve these specific needs. Unlike no-code development, businesses don’t have to adapt their processes to accommodate the application.

Add/Remove Functions and Features as Needed

As your business evolves and scales, your application must also adapt to your changing requirements. In this case, a traditional development approach allows you to add or remove functions and features on-demand. This approach enhances business agility and adaptability to a rapidly changing marketplace.

Robust Security

You can examine the source code and fortify it against potential cyberattacks as you own it. Your source code won’t be publicly available, and the chances of threat actors breaching it are minimal at best.

Service and Support You Can Rely On

Whenever businesses partner with an established software development services provider, they can depend on reliable support throughout the SLDC. Throughout your long-term association with the software development partner, you can count on qualified and dependable service and support on demand.

Scalability

With custom solutions development, scalability is a breeze. The only limitations you can face here are lack of budget and lack of software engineering talent. However, they can easily be addressed and solved as long as you have a well-established technology partner to guide you throughout your custom development journey. A good partner can always offer the best tech stack and architecture and a mix of engagement models to help optimize/save your budget. On top of that, a reliable tech partner has access to the pools of qualified talents offshore or nearshore, which will help you save time and money on candidates’ search, onboarding, and project ramp-up.

Disadvantages of Custom Application Development

High Costs

When you build a custom business application from scratch, it doesn’t come cheap. With a low-code or no-code development approach, you just pay for a service and not the whole SDLC. However, the idea that custom development is expensive is a myth. Low-code development can be just as costly or even more costly when businesses customize it to better suit their requirements.

Furthermore, manually managing and building databases without technical expertise can quickly become expensive. But the costs will vary depending on the use case and specific business requirements.

Time and Resource Intensive

Writing individual lines of code takes time and resources. You must first define your business requirements, formulate a software development plan, build the application, test it, and retest it before it’s live.

If you have never been a part of a custom development project, it will also take time to define your requirements properly. You may also realize that you made some mistakes during the development process and change your requirements after multiple iterations. To overcome this potential issue, it’s best to partner with an experienced application development vendor who can guide you through the process.

Types of Applications Best Suited for Custom Development

Any commercial or enterprise application is highly suitable for custom software development. However, we can say that it’s best suited for advanced applications for regulated industries where the need to ensure robust security and compliance is paramount (or just about every business model today).

What is the Best Development Approach for Your Business?

Although the low-code and no-code development models certainly have a role in modern business verticals, they fall short. This is because you can’t build an uncompromised product without the help of expert software developers.

Whenever enterprises leverage the low-code or no-code development approach, they leave security up to the platform. If you want the app to cater to your specific needs, you will need to hire developers to customize your low-code app, and that’s going to cost you (a lot!).

As a result, custom development will always trump citizen development approaches. It’s the only way to ensure compliance and security in the current threat landscape. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to write off low-code or no-code development. Instead, businesses can use it to build simple (non-business critical) applications or explain their requirements to a software development partner.


07 Jun, 2022

More about rinf.tech

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rinf.tech is a technology solutions company that draws on the Engineering Excellence principle, knowledge-based capabilities, and robust R&D to future-proof emerging technologies.

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