Low-code is a visual approach to software development that enables faster delivery of applications through minimal hand-coding. The graphical user interface and the drag-and-drop features of a low-code platform automate aspects of the development process, eliminating dependencies on traditional computer programming approaches. Low-code platforms democratize app development, particularly for the “citizen” developers—i.e. business users with little formal coding experience, such as business analysts or project managers. These tools enable less technical employees to make a larger business impact in numerous ways, such as relieving IT department backlogs, reducing shadow IT and taking more ownership over business process management (BPM) workstreams. With all that said, low-code development platforms also aid more seasoned programmers. Since they require little to no coding experience, they allow for more flexibility in a developer’s coding background. For example, some business applications require knowledge around a specific programming language, narrowing the selection of developers further. By eliminating this bottleneck, low-code platforms shorten the application development lifecycle, enabling them to accomplish more in less time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the business need to automate processes and prioritize digital transformation initiatives. Low-code platforms address this need, helping streamline workflows and accelerate automation projects. According to Gartner, the global market for low-code development technologies is expected to increase by 22.6%, reaching USD 13.8 billion, in 2021. Then, by 2023, they anticipate that over 50% of medium to large companies will adopt a low code application platform according to their latest Magic Quadrant Report.
A low-code model promotes rapid application development by making the user experience more accessible. Both citizen and professional developers benefit from core capabilities, such as a visual integrated development environment (IDE), built-in data connectors and/or APIs, and code templates. All of this functionality of low-code tools improves the DevOps process, allowing more time for innovation.
Low-code vs. no-code
Forrester distinguishes low-code vs. no-code products by their target end-users. While low-code application platforms (LCAP) are broad in scope, catering to both professional developers and citizen developers, they may still require some coding skills. Therefore, low-code application platforms primarily serve full-time and part-time developers. However, no-code products are specifically targeted at business users, allowing them to create custom apps without expert development skills and knowledge.
Similar to low-code, a no-code development platform (NCDP) allows users to create enterprise applications through drag-and-drop interfaces instead of traditional hand-coding programming. Both low-code and no-code platforms are built to accelerate process automation as well as achieve scalability across those processes.
The main drawback to no-code platforms is that while they can reduce shadow IT, they can also pave the way for it. If business users develop and edit software without any supervision from the IT department, this can create additional workstreams to ensure that performance, security, and compliance standards are met.