As the world increasingly becomes digital, we rely on software to solve problems that pop up in everyday life. However, because traditional software development is complex and time-consuming, there aren't enough software developers to meet the high demand for software products. No-code and low-code tools offer a solution to this problem by allowing people to create software and multimedia content and perform complex tasks without writing code.
Low Code vs No Code
Low-code and no-code tools are very similar. Both tools offer users graphical interfaces to create content and perform tasks. They usually have building blocks and components users can put together and customize to fit their needs. The main difference between low-code and no-code tools lies in how much you can do without writing code.
No-code tools are targeted at people with no programming experience. Without writing a single line of code, anyone can create complex, full-featured websites and apps using no-code tools. However, this doesn't mean that no-code tools don't allow users to write any code at all. Many no-code tools, especially website and app builders, allow users to write custom code to extend functionality.
Low-code tools are better suited to people with programming skills. They can use graphical interfaces to create simple websites and apps, then seamlessly transition to writing code to handle complex development tasks and further customize their apps. That said, non-developers can use low-code tools, but they're likely to need the services of a developer for anything beyond simple cases.
Types of Low-code and No-Code Tools
Website and Web App Builders
By far the most popular type of low-code and no-code tools. These tools allow users to build websites using pre-made templates, components, and themes for different use cases and industries using drag-and-drop interfaces. They offer access to plugins and integrations for further customization and extra functionality. Some common low-code and no-code website builders are Bubble, Webflow, and WordPress.
These tools allow businesses and individuals to automate their marketing processes and campaigns. They offer intuitive interfaces and pre-built components that enable marketers to create landing pages, run A/B tests, automate email campaigns, and track analytics. Some popular marketing tools are MailChimp and Hubspot Marketing.
These tools empower customer service teams to create interactive chatbots, self-service portals, and knowledge bases without coding. They often provide AI-powered assistants that help agents quickly solve customer support issues. They offer integrations with many platforms so customer service teams can resolve issues from other software they use. Popular customer service platforms include Zendesk and Intercom.
Spreadsheets and Databases
These tools allow users to create spreadsheets and databases, model relationships between data, and perform complex functions on them. Users can automate repetitive data entry tasks and easily visualize data with built-in charts. One cool thing about these tools is that their users can connect them to no-code builders and use the content in them as a data source for their apps. For example, Webflow users can use Airtable as a database or CMS for their websites. Google AppSheet takes this a step further by allowing users to generate apps using the content of spreadsheets from Google Sheets.
These platforms allow users to automate and schedule tasks in different applications without writing programming scripts. Users can trigger actions in many applications in response to specific events in another. They offer visual workflow builders and pre-built integrations so users can easily set up their automation workflows.
For example, let's say you're a software company planning to perform maintenance on a critical feature of your application. With a feature management platform like ConfigCat, you can temporarily turn off the feature associated with the maintenance task using a feature flag. This action then triggers an automation workflow in Zapier that sends out notification emails to your customers, informing them about the temporary unavailability of the feature and providing any necessary updates or alternatives.
When to Use Low-Code and No-Code Builders
If we look at other categories of low-code and no-code tools, like marketing and customer service, we'll see that they offer obvious benefits to their users. Software development, however, is more complex, so we'll look at the pros and cons of using low-code and no-code tools in this context.
Empowers non-developers to create software: Non-developers with a solid grasp of their business objectives can create software solutions without relying on developers. They can build customized tools and applications to solve problems without coding experience. From websites for small businesses to personal blogs, anyone can bring their ideas to life with no-code tools.
Facilitates the easy creation of MVPs and prototypes: A massive advantage for startups and indie founders who frequently build new products while trying to keep costs down. They allow them to close the gap between ideas and reality and increase time to market. They're also helpful for quickly creating functional prototypes in traditional software development environments.
Provides cost-friendly solutions for a wide range of use cases: This is true, especially for small businesses that need basic websites and apps. Many no-code platforms allow them to save money they would have used to hire developers. Their features also make it easy to avoid the additional costs of maintaining software.
Limits the ability to customize and adapt software to specific needs: Though low-code and no-code tools are getting better with customization, they are not the best choice for custom software that has to look and function in very specific ways. Most low-code and no-code tools make users sacrifice control for ease-of-use. They might not be a right fit for people and organizations that need total control of their projects and visibility into all their systems. This lack of control can affect an application's ability to scale.
Raises potential security risks: Low-code and no-code platforms heavily depend on plugins and extensions to perform different functions. These can be security risks if plugin developers do not take proper security measures when building them or if the platform does not properly verify plugins. It's also common for users to stick with older, vulnerable versions of plugins because they're incompatible with newer versions of the platform. Another source of security risks in low-code and no-code tools comes from their focus on collaboration and ease of sharing data. Users may grant sweeping access to other users or misconfigure applications in ways that attackers can exploit to steal valuable data.
The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) has a list of 10 low-code/no-code security risks, containing descriptions of these risks and how to mitigate them.
The Future of Software Development
Research firm Gartner predicts that organizations will build 70% of applications with low-code and no-code tools by 2025. As these tools become more powerful and allow people to build more complex software, people usually ask if they will replace developers or become the standard for software development. The answer, for now, is no. On the contrary, low-code and no-code tools have created more job opportunities for developers, as programming skills are still essential for creating custom functionality.
I'll ask a more interesting question.
Will no-code + generative AI tools, like ChatGPT, remove the need for programmers? After all, we are starting to see no-code platforms incorporate generative AI into their systems, allowing users to create content through prompts. The answer is still no, as current generative AI tools don't always produce correct, high-quality code. They also don't have the insight experienced programmers use to solve complex, edge-case problems. However, these tools are improving every day, and as time goes by, they may reach that level someday.
While we wait for the Future...
Have you ever needed to remotely turn on a feature in your app without redeploying code? With ConfigCat, you can seamlessly toggle features on or off in real time, providing personalized experiences for your users, greater control over feature releases, and much more. ConfigCat integrates with no-code tools like Zapier and Zoho Flow, so you can automatically perform actions in other apps when you turn features on or off.
Sign up for ConfigCat's free-forever plan to get up and running quickly. Or schedule a demo, and our team will give you a personalized walkthrough of ConfigCat and its features. The most lovable feature flag service... ever.