Low code refers to a form of visual software development. With the help of ready-made blocks, you can build a solution with only Drag&Drop. If you reach a dead-end however, you still can add code to overcome these borders. Usually, Low-Code solutions are based on y template, which you can extend by your specific use-cases. But you can also build your app from scratch.
The term Low-Code is still quite young and only invented by Forrester in 2015. Low-Code platforms have been around much longer. I see the beginnings of low code in RAD (Rapid Application Development), which already allowed the developer to create user interfaces via drag & drop. The Delphi IDE, which was published by Borland in 1995, already integrated this principle. However, RAD still includes a lot of programming for basic functionality.
Intrexx was published in 1999 by the German software manufacturer United Planet GmbH. It belongs to the group of low-code platforms. Witch RAD environments, over 80% of your app must still be programmed. In low-code environments however, an average of over 70% can be build with basic functions and without writing a single line of code.
Modern low-code platforms have already standardized many of the functions required within a software and transferred them into components that only need to be arranged and configured. In many areas, programming isn’t necessary anymore. However, you still need to write code, if the function you need is not yet part of the platform you use. This is usually the case, when it’s a function that represents a very specific workflow.
But, there is also a group of products, which don’t allow programming at all. These are called “No-Code” platforms.
Why use Low-Code if there is No-Code already?
Well, No-Code platforms are usually designed to serve a specific use-case. For example, there are No-Code platforms where their only goal is to control data-streams from one end to another or to build mobile games. There are only a few No-Code platforms that are designed to be used as multi-purpose platforms.
Low-Code platforms however tend to serve a large variety of use-cases. Intrexx for example is used in many areas. I built all kinds of apps that covered a lot of different use-cases.
In my opinion, No-Code is a part of Low-Code. Both are based on visually developing, but with Low-Code there is the benefit of adding code, if necessary.
When to use Low-Code and when not to?
Several times I read, Low-Code should only be used for the development of small workflows and applications. Larger solutions, such as a completely new CRM, should not be developed with it. I think it depends a lot on the type of low code environment.
This can be demonstrated quite well using the example of CRM. Salesforce is best known as cloud-based CRM. At the same time, with the Lightning platform, it contains a low-code development environment with which the CRM can be extended by functions. I wouldn’t develop a project management solution with this platform, because Lightning is designed to extend the existing CRM. It’s like what I wrote earlier about the No-code platforms. In this case the platforms serves only one purpose, and this is extending Salesforce.
Low-code environments that are not based on a specialized application are fundamentally different. It is the goal to develop every possible type of workflow/application and accordingly these solutions offer completely different possibilities. If a company already has a CRM or an ERP in use and is very satisfied with both products, it does not make sense to develop them from scratch, just because the two systems cannot work together. Especially in such scenarios, however, Low-Code platforms can support, as they often offer interfaces to various systems. This allows the systems to merge data in a central portal without the need to redevelop the entire business logic.