Product teams must pay special attention to how the specific needs of their applications relate to the capabilities of the low-code platforms they select.
The low-code phenomenon has well and truly taken hold in the world of software development, as these tools increasingly form the building blocks of many great applications. In fact, the global low-code development platform market size is expected to see a CAGR of an astonishing 25% between 2020 and 2026, to value at $46.4 billion. Meanwhile, two-thirds of developers increased their use of low-code tools in 2020, with 41% saying they want low-code platforms to support more than half of their organization’s development processes by 2022.
In today’s context of rapid digital transformation, it’s never been more important to deliver products quickly. With custom apps taking hundreds of hours of programming to build from scratch, low-code solutions can dramatically reduce this time spent and support developers in their digitization efforts.
While some in the tech community may have concerns over their limitations, when geared towards specific uses, low-code platforms can support dynamic, cutting-edge applications that cater to users’ needs. Let’s dive into how low-code platforms can help developers build robust and versatile apps without sacrificing the simplicity that makes them so valuable in the first place.
Low-code platforms allow teams to deploy apps faster than ever
Undoubtedly, one of the most important – if not the top – benefits of leveraging low-code platforms is how much they speed up the development process.
Low-code solutions act as the building blocks of an application, saving developers the time they’d usually spend coding from the ground up. As well as giving teams this head start, they often allow apps, features, and processes to be modified (even by less experienced team members) and thus deployed faster.
Let’s take an example. A team of developers wants to build an app that supports the Covid-19 vaccination effort. A low-code platform could provide the “raw” basis of the app, so the team doesn’t have to code everything from scratch. When it comes to customizing the app, the solution would then allow the developers to slice and dice the relevant data and intelligently link the externalities that influence vaccination planning, such as population risk factors, storage facility availability, and logistics. The app would require constant updates according to the fast-developing circumstances around its use, further supported by the low-code platform, enabling the programmers to deliver updates and adapt to users’ needs quickly.
In this scenario, and in so many more, low-code platforms are able to provide a vital boost to apps that not only need to be built quickly but then also iterated efficiently according to evolving user needs.
Building cutting-edge, custom apps with low-code tools
Unlike with no-code solutions, development teams can heavily customize apps with low-code platforms, as there is still scope to code certain features and design on top of the existing technology base. And with open-source enabled low-code platforms, programmers can better understand the underlying architecture and choose the right solution to meet their specific needs.
When it comes to UX/UI, by opting for a low-code solution, UX/UI designers can drag and drop parts of the user interface and create a wholly custom-looking application. Then, because of the fast nature of app-building with low-code platforms, UX designers can go to market quickly and get early feedback on any new updates, supporting user-centered design.
Another example of a custom app whose fast release could be made possible by a low-code tool might be a pharma company that wants to build an access-controlled simulator for a manufacturing process. By tweaking parameters such as the temperature, pressure, or speed of different processors and containers, the company can understand how well a product can be crushed into powder. In this process, fine powders would be approved, and coarse ones would be rejected.
Building this application would take weeks, if not months, using traditional development methods. However, a customizable low-code platform would allow the team to assemble features like drag and drop UI/UX components, access control, workflows, and the appropriate visualizations for viewing processes and results out of the box. The team would just need to (if required) connect the rest of the dots with a few lines of custom code, and they’re done. All this is achieved in a fraction of the time that would be otherwise required to build the application from scratch.
Choosing the right platform
Not all low-code platforms are built the same: Developer teams that hope to build versatile, custom applications with a generic low-code offering might struggle. For enterprises, the current market leaders include the likes of Appian, Mendix, and Microsoft. However, for startups and SMBs with a more targeted product focus, it’s worth seeking out a solution that is tailored to their specific requirements. These companies can opt for niche services that cater to a particular need, such as AI modeling or low-code solutions targeting specific industries, like finance or logistics.
For an organization considering which low-code tool to go for, there are a number of things to take into account. First off, they need to think about the kinds of features that would meet their exact objectives. For example, a retail business might need an app that can help it eliminate the manual processes of order processing and management (such as organizing shipping and verifying payments), as well as QR and barcode scanning capabilities to keep track of items. An app they build to automate this process must recognize such needs.
Product teams opting for low-code should also consider the types of challenges that may arise in the future and how the chosen platform would handle these. The same retail business might experience a huge uptick in demand due to changing market conditions: Would the low-code platform be able to deal with this spike in activity?
Given that the vast majority of development is now done in the cloud, it’s vital to note how easy a low-code platform is to deploy in the cloud environment(s) of a particular organization. Low-code tools should also be relatively future-proof, i.e., they have a longer shelf life and robust support options. Companies can turn to low-code platforms built on open-source and lasting technologies to ensure this.
Last but not least, when choosing a low-code solution, developer teams should assess how well it can integrate with other platforms they use, which will help ensure business continuity for all applications. Failing to integrate each platform within a technology stack could result in a lack of transparency and put team synergy under threat.
Low-code adoption may be on the up, but that doesn’t mean that product teams can simply select a solution and let the work be done for them. These teams must pay special attention to how the specific needs of their applications relate to the capabilities of the low-code tool and choose the one that helps them build a versatile, custom app in the simplest way possible.