Imagine a type of software development platform that enables developers to create applications without writing code.
Low-code platforms use visual drag and drop tools, pre-built components, and templates to help developers quickly create custom applications without any coding knowledge.
I’m going to introduce you to the basics of this growing field, including a valuable list of low-code best practices. This post is borrowed from the book The Quick and Dirty Introduction to Low-Code Applications.
What is Low-code?
Low-code platforms are designed for business users and citizen developers, who are not traditional software developers.
Citizen developers are employees within an organization who use low-code platforms to create applications to solve business problems. Business users may be non-technical employees such as marketing or sales professionals, or they may be technical employees who are not software developers.
You can use low-code platforms to create custom applications or to extend the functionality of existing applications. You can also use them to build mobile apps, websites, and business processes.
Low-code platforms typically offer a library of predefined widgets that you can use to create common types of applications, such as contact management systems or time tracking systems.
How Do Low-code Platforms Work?
Most low-code platforms provide a drag-and-drop interface that allows you to easily assemble the components of your application. Many also include built-in validation so that you can be sure your application will work as intended.
Low-code platforms typically include a range of security features so that you can safely deploy your application into production.
They also offer several benefits over traditional software development tools. They allow business users and citizen developers to quickly create custom applications without learning how to write code. This speeds up the process of creating new applications and reduces the need for outside help from traditional software developers.
Also, low-code platforms often come with prebuilt libraries of components that allow you to quickly assemble common types of applications. This reduces the amount of time it takes to build an application from scratch.
History of Low-code Platforms
In 2009, Salesforce released a low-code development platform called Force.com (also known as Lightning Platform). Force.com allowed developers to build custom applications on the Salesforce cloud platform using a visual interface and without any coding knowledge.
In recent years, the popularity of low-code development platforms has exploded due to the rise of cloud computing and agile software development methodologies.
Low-code development platforms allow organizations to quickly develop custom applications without having to hire or train expensive developers. Additionally, low-code development platforms allow organizations to prototype new ideas and products quickly and easily, which can help them reduce the risk of investing in new products or services.
Today, there are dozens of different low-code development platforms available, including Microsoft PowerApps, Salesforce Force.com, Zoho Creator, Oracle APEX Application Development Service (APX), OutSystems, and Mendix.
Who needs low-code?
In today’s economy, it’s difficult to find qualified developers. Low-code development platforms can help businesses overcome this challenge by enabling them to create custom applications without writing code.
Low-code development platforms allow businesses to quickly and easily create custom applications without having to write any code. This is because low-code development platforms use a visual interface that allows business users and developers to work together to create custom applications.
This means that businesses no longer have to wait for developers to create custom applications for them. They can do it themselves using a low-code development platform.
Low-code development platforms also have other benefits, like allowing businesses to quickly and easily prototype new ideas. They also allow businesses to reuse pre-existing components and functions, which helps them save time and money. Additionally, low-code development platforms help businesses automate their workflows, which can improve efficiency and productivity.
Low-code also allows businesses to get their applications up and running quickly and without the need for a large development team. Low-code platforms also allow businesses to make changes to their applications quickly and easily, without having to go back to the developers. This can save businesses a lot of time and money.
Low-code vs. no-code
No-code development platforms are tools that allow you to create software without writing any code. You simply create a model of your application using a drag-and-drop interface, and the platform takes care of translating your model into a functioning application.
In a way, no-code development platforms have been around for decades – although we would now refer to those early efforts as applications rather than development platforms. The recent explosion of interest is largely due to the rise of cloud computing and the availability of low-cost, low-commitment subscriptions plans.
The first “no-code” development platform was probably the pioneering business software, VisiCalc, which was released in 1979. VisiCalc allowed users to create simple spreadsheets without any programming knowledge. It was a huge success, and is often credited with helping to launch the personal computer revolution.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, several other no-code development platforms emerged, including HyperCard (1987), Lotus Notes (1989), FileMaker Pro (1990), and Dreamweaver (1998). However, these platforms were mostly used by professional developers or hobbyists with coding experience. They were not widely adopted by average users or businesses.
The rise of cloud computing in the late 2000s made no-code development platforms more accessible and user friendly. Today, no-code development platforms are used by millions of people worldwide for a variety of applications ranging from simple task managers to complex CRM systems. They have become an essential tool for business owners who want to quickly build custom applications without hiring a developer.”
I should note that the precise line between no-code and low-code platforms is not always clear. All that really matters is that the platform you choose should work improve your productivity without too much effort.
Low-Code Best Practices
A tool is only as good as the person holding the handle. Here are some wise suggestions for making the most of whatever low-code platform you decide to use:
- Use low-code for prototyping and quick proof of concepts. It’s fast and easy to use, so you can get your ideas up and running quickly.
- Don’t try to use low-code for everything – it’s not a replacement for traditional development tools. Use low-code when you need to speed up the process or for simple, repetitive tasks. But it should normally not replace traditional coding techniques for complex multi-layer production applications.
- Make sure you understand the limitations of low-code platforms – they’re not suitable for all types of development projects.
- Never (ever!) forget about the importance of testing and quality assurance.
- Spend time getting to know the platform before you start building applications – there are a lot of features and functions to explore, and it can take time to learn how to use them effectively.
- Start small – don’t try to build a large application from scratch on your first attempt. Break your project down into smaller parts, and build them one at a time. This will make it easier to manage, and will give you a better understanding of how the platform works. It’ll also help you avoid getting bogged down in development and ensure that the final product is high quality.
- Always use the provided templates and wizards to create your applications. This will save time and reduce development effort while ensuring that your applications are structured correctly and are compliant with the platform’s standards.
- Similarly, make use of the platform’s built-in features as much as possible. This will help you to create high-quality applications quickly and easily.
- Follow standard development practices. Just because you’re using a low-code platform doesn’t mean you can ignore best practices like design patterns, coding standards, and testing.
- Plan for scalability. As your application grows, make sure you have the infrastructure in place to support it – both in terms of hardware and software requirements.
- Leverage low-code platforms to create repeatable processes and templates that can be used across different projects.
- Only use low-code for tasks that you understand completely.
- Choose a low-code platform that is easy to learn and use.
- Avoid using low-code for mission-critical or time-sensitive applications.
- Backup your data before using a low-code platform to create processes or applications. Expect unexpected results.
- Collaborate with other team members when using a low-code platform to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Take advantage of the community resources available for help and support. The community is a great source of information and can help you to get the most out of your low-code platform.
Thanks for reading!
This post is excerpted from the book The Quick and Dirty Introduction to Low-Code Applications. There are many more Quick and Dirty Introduction books where this came from, covering topics like penetration testing, software configuration management, and the internet of things.