Low code vs traditional development

It would be great if you could build an app without writing code, don’t you think?

Someone should invent something that does that.

Oh wait, they did!

As an entrepreneur or innovator, it’s likely that you’ve fantasized about codeless app creation at some point. Who doesn’t want to simply launch all their app ideas without spending the time (and money) on custom development and heavy coding?

If you’re curious about no-code and low code app development and want to see how it stacks up against traditional software development, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll explore how both low code and custom development work and apart the crucial differences between the two. Then, we’ll set you up to make the right choice for your project.

Traditional custom development

When we talk about traditional coding, we’re referring to a team of developers and programmers working together to write unique code to power an app. This is custom software development.

The traditional approach starts with gathering app requirements, developing a plan, then implementing it with any one of today’s popular project management styles.

The traditional development method gets complicated and expensive fast. Proponents of custom development say, “worth it,” and insist those expenses are part of creating a game-changing app. Delays are expected in custom development, too, due to factors like:

  • A complicated configuration system
  • Coding errors (humans do commit errors, you know)
  • A margin of error in estimated time
  • Challenges in beta testing

Those project management systems that developers work under each require lengthy maintenance cycles, too, so that software development companies can keep custom software secure and up-to-date.

This makes developing a custom app sound cumbersome, but there are several key advantages to traditional development, including:

  • Limitless functionality: yes, an innovator or entrepreneur can twist and contort to the most outlandish requirements their app requires. Practically any custom feature can be built with the traditional development approach. Any imaginable integration is possible, too. The third party development team or in-house team can choose the exact technology, hosting, APIs and tooling that works best for their likes and needs.
  • Total ownership: picture it…you develop a great app but need integrations with half a dozen APIs to avoid hiring professional developers for custom coding. If any one of those APIs is crucial to the core functionality of your app, but that API is abandoned by the developer or becomes cost prohibitive, your app will be broken through no fault of your own. Traditional development, on the other hand, allows teams to control every last aspect of their source code.
  • Highly-sophisticated software development approach: a well-oiled machine takes you places, and that’s exactly what traditional development teams are. They operate with any one of today’s most efficient project management systems, like Kanban and Scrum, to make true digital transformation possible.

Of course, there are disadvantages to traditional development, too, especially when you compare it to new no- or low code development. Some of the biggest drawbacks to traditional development are:

  • Higher costs: if you build an app in-house, or even outsource it, traditional programming requires some serious investment.
  • Slower time to market: once again, when you compare the speed of development directly to no- or low code development platforms, traditional options will be about as slow as molasses. Even the simplest apps take several months to develop, and more innovative ideas take a year or more.
  • Requires talent resources: you need a whole team of developers, designers, programmers, data management and more to go the traditional route. Coding is a high-demand specialty, and you’ll only want the best talent to develop apps.

Who should choose traditional development?

The pros and cons above give you a pretty good idea where traditional development makes sense (and where it doesn’t). It has its place and time, for sure. Most cases where the traditional development process makes the most sense include:

  • Apps with more advanced logic
  • Apps or software where you need to control 100% of the app’s future
  • Apps that need to integrate into multiple third-party systems
  • Apps requiring a unique UI

No- and low code developers

No- and low code development refers to applications developed with a low code platform designed to do a lot of the work for you. These low code platforms totally bypass human error and are far more cost-effective, but using them forces you to sacrifice a lot of possible customizations.

Low code platforms accelerate your time to market in a big way, too, especially when you compare no code vs traditional app development in the 2020s.

Today’s no- and low code platforms are part of an early generation of rapid app development tools for business users. As technology evolves, businesses of all kinds are developing their own apps.

  • The restaurant down the street wants to own their ordering system…
  • The fitness coach wants to deliver new digital products to a wider audience...
  • Now, business users with no experience in app development can make these ideas a reality

Low code platforms will change the world. A low code development platform offers speed and affordability in core platforms and app development to any “citizen developer” who wants to get in the sandbox. Most low code platforms guide business users through familiar interfaces like:

  • Drag and drop interface
  • Picklist selection boxes
  • Spreadsheets

No- and low code development will require little to zero coding (as their names suggest), but there are some drawbacks to low code tools and their sleek graphic interface.

So, when is it worth it?

Before we answer that question, let’s get specific about the no code meaning versus the low code approach.

Low code (a definition)

Low code app development uses a graphical user interface with drag-and-drop features (known as “visual modeling”). The low code approach still includes the option to modify app code by directly rewriting or editing parts of the baseline code. This isn’t necessary, but it is an option for anyone with the low code vs high code know-how.

No-code (a definition)

No code development is not just an opportunity for the masses to get in on the development of an app; it’s also an answer to the global shortage of software developers. This skill is in extraordinarily hot demand today.

In no code platforms, all you need to do is check boxes or drag and drop interface elements onto a software canvas, and voila! You can design your own web applications with reusable components.

The difference between no-code and low code development

The key differences between no-code and low code go beyond a user’s access to baseline code to make custom code tweaks, too.

Here are some other differentiators:

  • Target audience: low code development targets citizen developers who want to work faster and easier on a low code platform. No code software development, in contrast, targets everyone without any development knowledge.
  • Quality assurance: building a no code app means you’ll never have the chance to test it much before it's live. Then again, you won’t have to—each of the pre configured modules is already tested by the no code platform developer. Low code platforms, on the other hand, will require some QA testing before your low code apps go live.
  • App complexity: no code development platforms are the “entry level” of web applications. Once any unique or complex code is required, a developer steps in using a low code platform to take over the application development.

Advantages and disadvantages of low- or no code platforms

The advantages and disadvantages to no code platforms and low code development versus the traditional approach to application development have already been made pretty clear. Here they are in a nutshell:

Advantages of no- or low code development platforms include:

  • Faster development
  • Subsequently, faster time-to-market
  • Core internal systems that are easy to pick up for non-developers
  • Build minimum viable products yourself to pitch to other stakeholders
  • Built-in reporting and monitoring
  • A lesser investment is required
  • Visual modeling

Some of the disadvantages to low code development include:

  • Fewer options for customization
  • Locks you in with vendor-provided hosting
  • Stock-like UI that will never match your brand
  • Incompatible with legacy solutions
  • Not built to scale

Drivers behind low code vs traditional development

It’s true, low code development and no code platforms are becoming more popular faster than you can say “scrum.” As mentioned, a big driver of this shift to low code platforms is the global shortage of custom app developers.

Perhaps an even greater driver is the fact that online and in-app interactions represent how we interact with most brands (and with each other) today. Pretty much every business today needs its own app.

What are business users to do if not adopt a low code platform or no-code agency?

A recent forecast by Gartner predicts that the no code and low code market will constitute around two thirds (65%) of app development by 2024. It’s clear why.

Rationale behind low code vs traditional development

It’s the ultimate debate: low code vs traditional development…which is best?

Any one of the following questions could reveal which of low code vs traditional development methods are for you.

What skillsets do you have?

Traditional application development requires dexterity in developing apps, not to mention programming languages. If this is a skillset you have (or have the budget to hire out), a traditional app development cycle will yield far superior results.

If you’re not a traditional software developer (and don’t have the budget to hire one), the low- and no code platforms will be the route for you.

What app quality does your idea require?

One definition of quality is “something that works, with a simple UI and with few to no bugs.” This is a pretty reasonable standard since, without a simple and bugless UI, your app will be more of a pain than a resolution to whatever user problem you’re trying to solve.

If you want a quick path to application development that will be guaranteed as user-friendly and bug-free, a low- or no code app will work like a song. The modules and elements provided for you have been developed by the very programmer talent you don’t have! The pre configured modules have been tried and tested on hundreds of apps before yours.

The other definition of quality, of course, is that of a unique UI that brings never-before-seen solutions into users’ hands. For this, you need a traditional development cycle.

Cost of custom apps versus no code development

Custom app development requires more (wo)man hours than no code development, and the investment can range from $50,000 to more for the first iteration of a software. If you’re able to raise that kind of capital, you will get a superior product if you elect custom application development platforms.

Conversely, if those sticker prices are way out of your ballpark, your no- to low code software development will be best.

How to move with the market

Staying flexible (or agile) to market conditions—including consumer preferences, competition, and surprises like a global pandemic—is easier when you own every line of the code in your app. No code development platforms and drag-and-drop solutions will never give you the agility to respond creatively to market shifts.

That said, if you will make much faster changes to your app on no code platforms, even though they might be the changes that everyone else is making to respond to the same market condition. Making changes in drag-and-drop visualizers takes a fraction of the time that rewriting whole blocks of custom code would.

Maintenance requirements

Do you want to get to “one and done” with an app idea? No- or low code development platforms are the winning bet for you since the backend updates and bug fixes in no code development are taken care of by the hosting software.

Custom app development (in traditional coding) does imply some recurring headaches when it comes to maintenance. Custom apps require manual updates and revisions from dedicated programmers or outsourced development talent.

Owning maintenance and software updates will come down to new cycles of planning, designing, testing and training users every time there’s a big change

The way ahead for innovators and startups

An increasing number of apps are coming out of the software development systems requiring no or low coding.

At the same time, software development houses are supplementing their traditional coding options with teams dedicated to the most competitive custom development.

App development as a whole will be shifting more toward no- and low code development platforms, but only for certain types of apps. E-commerce, restaurants, and general retail will probably turn to drag-and-drop visualizers since their needs will all be roughly the same.

For anything from that next big dating app to innovative software startups covering new needs, however, traditional development will be where dreams come true. The future of our lives as consumers will be crafted by these custom development teams.

Low- and no code platforms aren’t looking to eliminate traditional development. Each option serves specific needs.

In fact, some traditional development houses even use no- and low code drag and drop platforms to supplement the work they do. For clients coming to them with requirements better suited for low code platforms, those development teams can help those clients get the most out of the drag-and-drop options for a much smaller investment.

Traditional development can never fully be replaced, anyway. The next app as innovative and game-changing as Facebook, Uber or Tinder won’t come out of a low code development box.

Both of these options will continue to grow in their own unique directions.

The question is: which software development path will you choose to follow?

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