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No Code? No problem: Exploring Low and No Code Tools

girl using laptop
photo via Unsplash

If you’re new to the idea of coding, it can seem quite intimidating. In recent years, low-code and no-code platforms have seen an increase in both popularity and use for those who may not be the best at coding or simply don’t have time to master the skill. These platforms allow users to gain higher productivity as a lot of the tasks they normally perform can be done in a visual editor and the platform itself generates the code.

What is it?

Low-code and no-code tools are software development platforms that allow non-technical folks to build and deploy their own applications without writing any code. Think about low-code as the best of both worlds. You can start with something pre-developed and then customize it with code if you want to.

No-code is usually a visual tool that doesn’t require you to do any coding. Think point-and-click, or drag-and-drop. A great example of this is a pre-populated dashboard you might see with Google Analytics.

In the past, when organizations needed to build new information systems, the only two options available were: hire a developer or use off-the-shelf software.

Low-code and no-code platforms provide a third alternative, allowing organizations to build customized systems without hiring teams of developers or compromising on software that does not do exactly what they need. It’s best to think about how these tools can work together.

However, as with all tools, to make proper use of them, users need to know how they work in order to properly maximize their utility. Since these tools are widely considered to be the future of development, it is important to understand what each of them are, what they can do, and how they differ.

via GIPHY

What are some tools and examples?

Look for tools that feature a simple user interface with drag-and-drop features, allowing users to easily visualize the development process and define the underlying business logic. Here are some examples of no-code tools:

  • Airtable - visual platform that connects data, people and workflows across the organization
  • Google Analytics - collects data from your websites and apps to create reports that provide insights into your business
  • Hubspot Content Management System - includes hosting, flexible themes, dynamic content, drag-and-drop page editing, etc
  • IFTTT - short for If This Then That. It can integrate apps, devices, and services to work together
  • Obviously AI - a tool that enables non-technical business analysts to rapidly run predictions on their historical data, with just a few clicks
  • Pagecloud – website creator with an intuitive editor and no code required
  • Zapier - automates your work by connecting your apps and then moving information between them based on rules you set
  • Zendesk  - builds software designed to improve customer relationships

Similarly, low-code tools are software development platforms that provide graphical user interface for programming thus developing code at a very fast pace and reducing the traditional programming efforts. Simply put, these tools are extremely easy to use and look at.

They contribute to rapid code development by minimizing hand-coding efforts. These platforms not only facilitate coding, but also quick setup and deployment. Generally, with these platforms, you do not have to write the code line by line, they will allow you to set up the business logic and the code will get created. Here are some examples of low-code tools:

  • Microsoft Power Apps - a service for building and using custom business apps that connect to your data and work across the web and mobile
  • Retool - fast and easy way to build internal tools using pre-built components
  • Salesforce Lightning -  aims to simplify the Salesforce app development processes for business users who typically do not have programming experience
  • Visual LANSA – Hybrid low-code minimizes hand-coding, eliminates supporting multiple development languages and frameworks

What do I need to know?

Both low-code and no-code tools are used for analytics, small business transactions, small-scale automation and website development. While the two terms are used synonymously, it is important to note that there are some key differences between them.

The most important distinction between these platforms is whether or not they allow regular users to code. While all platforms, regardless of the visual interface, prepare code in the background to store the program:

  • No-code platforms allow regular users to easily access and modify the underlying code of the application.
  • Low-code platforms tend to allow users to create more complex and customized software and are therefore preferred by more technical users who rely heavily on code when deploying applications.

Although the idea of low-code and no-code may seem great, this style of development has some limitations and may not be suitable for all tasks due to the following issues:

  • Limited customization options: Customization tools are limited in these platforms and force organizations to adjust the business processes to meet the platform’s capabilities.
  • Limited integration options: When organizations develop an application using these tools, they may face integration issues, particularly when migrating legacy applications.
  • Security: Low-code and no-code tools are cloud-based software developed by users with limited background in information security and who do not have full control over the development process. Therefore, security breaches are a risk in these tools, especially external facing ones, and need to be audited for security measures.
  • Shadow IT problems: The proliferation of these applications can create the problem where only one user knows how the system works.

What’s in it for me?


The future of coding is no coding at all.”  - Chris Wanstrath, the former CEO of Github

You and your colleagues should be encouraged to explore and introduce low-code and no-code application development. These tools can help solve many problems and aid IT in development, but should only be used in collaboration with IT teams to mitigate security and IT programs.

Most organizations need more talent to build new and better systems. While low-code and no-code platforms are not a permanent solution, they do offer a way to mitigate shortages. Over time, it is more likely that these tools will become even more accessible and easier to build for common processes and use cases.

Things to take back to your team

1. How can low-code or no-code tools be used to simplify our workflows?

2. How would these tools integrate with our existing IT infrastructure?

3. How would we measure success after deployment of these tools? What metrics will determine the tool's business value?

4. What is needed to empower citizen developers  (the average public servant) and reduce IT workload?

5. Do we have a mandate to experiment with new technology?


Resources:

No Code | Lessons from 5 major companies adopting no-code platforms

IBM| Low-code and no-code are two new software development solutions — how do they compare?

GC Wiki | Low Code Application Develoment

Vanlang Nguyen

Vanlang Nguyen

Van is a member of the DA and loves robots | Van est membre de l'AN et adore les robots

Ottawa

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