The tech world has been whispering about low-code development for years, but now, some knowledge of low-code is considered table stakes for organizations.
A handful of macro trends have nudged low-code application development into the limelight, and now the movement is having a moment.
A low-code or no-code approach to creating apps (using visual interfaces, rather than coding languages) helps companies let more people in on the process of building software. That’s a game-changer for companies of all sizes across every industry, especially in times when companies are looking to consolidate tools. Now, it’s more important than ever for orgs to find tools everyone can use, rather than spend thousands on niche alternatives for specific teams.
Read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of low-code and no-code development, plus some best practices for deploying these approaches in your organization.
What is low-code?
The definition of a low-code platforms is as straightforward as it sounds: the amount of coding knowledge required to use them is low, compared to traditional software development tools. No-code, often used interchangeably (or alongside) the phrase low-code, means mastering that platform or tool requires absolutely no hand-coding.
Defending big ideas around the dinner table is much harder when you don't have a dinner table.
Low-code platforms generally have modular components and drag-and-drop features. This helps teams of non-technical people experiment, make prototypes, and build mobile apps and launch initiatives, speeding up software creation.
Because their user interfaces are so simple and require so little coding experience, low-code and no-code tools have led to the rise of the “citizen developer.” Now everyone from the CEO to the VP of Marketing can participate.
Examples of low-code
Inside most organizations, you’ll find plenty of no-code approaches to solving problems.
For instance, let’s say your marketing team sends out an email newsletter using software like Constant Contact or Mailchimp. In both programs, users with zero coding knowledge can start with a basic email template, then move components around in a drag-and-drop interface to create a visually unique, custom-designed newsletter populated with your company’s blog posts, photos, and links.
What are the benefits of low-code development?
In fast-moving business environments, low-code tools save time. A few years ago, Forrester analyst John Rymer predicted that—whether you’re in charge of software development or not—circumstances like the developer shortage and rapid digitization would make low-code platforms an essential strategy for all companies.
He calculated that using low-code tools makes software creation up to 10x faster. Let’s say your org needs a way to run payroll and create expense reports. You could either add it to your IT team’s long list of priorities, hire an expensive outside development team, or hand your own employees the low-code tools they need to design the system themselves.
“You need customized software, and traditional software development can’t keep up with your demands,” Rymer wrote.
The reason low-code applications can move so quickly: anyone who understands a business process can build a technical solution that streamlines it, without needing weeks or months to learn a programming language. Automating or streamlining a workflow inside a company then becomes ultra-simple—like building with a Lego set, instead of designing a mold, pouring the plastic, and fully manufacturing new toys yourself. Forrester's Jeffrey Hammond calculated that 75% of app development in 2021 will use a low-code approach.
Choosing a low-code platform
While developers will always be critical to large and small organizations alike, low-code development lets everyone build the exact tools they need. Need to integrate Salesforce with Tableau? Let a team lead use no-code tools to handle the project. Need to streamline the way your company fulfills orders? Pull in your development and IT teams.
When you’re choosing a low-code development platform for your company, there are a few key considerations:
- What type of product or application are you hoping to create? Some organizations lean into no-code tools to enable digital transformation. Others are simply looking to create a single workflow tool. The platform you choose should meet the level of flexibility, scalability, and security that you ultimately need to meet your business objectives.
- What data or content will be used with the application? This question is important for a few reasons. First, the way you use the app you’re hoping to create will fundamentally determine which platform you choose. You also need to consider how your data and content will be protected by that platform’s security measures.
- How many people do you hope will use your app? Consider your growing organization–you want to go with a platform that has the flexibility to grow with you. As your work gets more complex, the last thing you want to worry about is whether your platform can easily manage all of that data.
Selecting a vendor
Low-code and no-code platforms vary in the types of problems they’re designed to solve, but here are some key considerations.
How user-friendly is the application? Will it make intuitive sense for your staff or users? Some people are more visually attuned, responding better to graphical interfaces, while others work better with data in a spreadsheet-style, linear presentation. Still others prefer hierarchical interfaces where it’s immediately clear which information is most important.
Today’s distributed workforce and mobile-first work environments mean all applications should be cloud-native or cloud-supported. That means the platform and any data you input are available and secured in the cloud for use anywhere.
Data management and discoverability are key considerations when choosing a low-code platform. Will you be able to see the data you need? Perhaps you need to monitor several metrics in one dashboard, or share it with executives or your team.
Airtable is a low-code platform for application development. It lets teams build workflows that modernize their business processes and can be tailored to the technical ability of any end user. Its no-code features let nontechnical professionals harness the capabilities of relational databases to optimize workflows. Airtable also grants more technically savvy users to build their own complex formulas and automations.
Whether you’re looking for low-code, no-code, or simply a platform to keep you organized and on track, Airtable has the flexibility and robust security to get your organization started.
Learn more about what’s included in our Enterprise plan for larger departments and organizations.