Low- and no-code apps and app development platforms are rapidly gaining ground, and companies large and small are taking notice.
IT technology provider Gartner predicts about two-thirds of all app development will qualify as low-code by 2024, and about two-thirds of big companies will use no fewer than four low-code platforms by then.
Unfortunately, for too many non-technical business leaders, the lines between low- and no-code development are hopelessly blurred. This is understandable, as there’s a great deal of overlap between low-code and no-code platforms. Nevertheless, it’s vital that anyone in a position to greenlight app development — to say nothing of overseeing the process — grasps the key differences.
6 Key Differences Between Low-Code and No-Code Development
Both low-code and no-code development have their uses. They also both have significant downsides compared with traditional or “full-code” development. The key distinctions come down to prior experience or knowledge requirements, customization potential, security and compatibility, and ideal use cases.
1. No-Code Development Does Not Require Prior Coding Experience or Knowledge
No-code development is indeed 100% code-free. You don’t need prior coding experience or programming knowledge to use no-code app development platforms. You needn’t know the first thing about programming languages or build environments.
By contrast, low-code development platforms tend to use modules, drag-and-drop tools, and natural language to build apps entirely without custom code.
2. Low-Code Development Is More Customizable Than No-Code
Because low-code development allows custom coding, low-code app development is inherently more customizable than no-code app development.
This is an important consideration for users who want to accelerate the app development process and reduce its cost without sacrificing the option to add custom elements during the initial build or a future update.
3. No-Code Apps May Be More Vulnerable to Compromise
No app is 100% hack-proof, but apps developed on no-code platforms may be particularly vulnerable to compromise. This vulnerability increases the app owner’s risk of significant data loss and all the legal and financial risks that come with it.
When analyzed by app development experts, low-code solutions have stronger security protections compared with no-code solutions run by non-experts.
4. Low-Code Development Has a Wider Range of Use Cases
Although it’s not suited to uses involving core IT infrastructure or cloud computing configurations, low-code development has a much more comprehensive range of use cases than no-code development.
Indeed, no-code development is only appropriate for simple front-end applications that won’t need to integrate with other systems or pull data from multiple external sources. Asking no-code apps to do too many increases the risk of compromise and poor performance, among different adverse outcomes for end-users and the business functions that depend on the app.
By contrast, low-code development can support back- and front-end mobile and web-based apps that will be expected to perform those tasks.
5. No-Code Development Is Best Suited to Non-Technical, Under-Resourced Users
No-code development does have its place. It’s a much better fit for users who lack the expertise to build apps reliant on custom code. If choosing low-code development led by an external partner over a DIY no-code project wouldn’t meaningfully enhance the results, then no-code is probably the way to go.
6. Low-Code Development Is Useful for Validating Ideas
Low-code development doesn’t carry the high costs of full-code or the limitations of no-code development. Low-code development is preferable for validating complex apps without investing the time and money necessary to complete a fully customized development project.
Low-code platforms can accommodate semi-customized prototypes or Minimum Viable Products (MVP) that, upon validation, can be scaled and readied for general release in a fully customized process. Depending on the functions the developer expects the app to perform, no-code may only be suitable for testing certain aspects of a more sophisticated app.
Low-code and no-code development platforms and processes have much in common. They’re more similar to one another than to traditional expert-driven app development solutions.
This leads to some confusion among business leaders from non-technical backgrounds. It doesn’t help that many low-code and no-code platforms try to split the difference in their marketing, perhaps hoping to appeal to a broader pool of would-be users.
However, differences do remain and are likely to persist for the foreseeable future. It, therefore, pays to know which type of development process works best for your needs.
Paul Spearman is an IT technician who has written code for companies for two decades.