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What is low code development?

Wondering why you should care about low code? Get started with our in depth introduction to low code development

What is low code development?

Numerous statistics show low code app development is transforming the way organizations build software. If you had to remember one trend, Gartner predicts that low code application building will gather more than 65% of all app development functions by 2024. If you are reading this blog, you’re most likely wondering what is low code, or how low code tools will help you in your job. Let’s unpack.

What is low code?

Low code – or low code development –  is an approach to software development that requires minimal coding to build and deploy applications. This approach is usually implemented via low code platforms that do the heavy lifting for professional developers, accelerate the implementation of basic functionalities, and allow them to spend more time coding the most sophisticated logic and component of applications, while allowing non developers, or citizen developers, to build relatively basic business logic and interfaces via no-code visual editors.

Low code, no code?

No code development is low code development taken to its extreme, increasing some of its benefits while inducing its own limitations. No code development allows citizen developers or non developers to build applications without any line of code. No code development platforms will abstract all the underlying complexity of programming so non developers can build applications via user friendly drag and drop interface and process editors. The drawback is that no code will allow less customization and sophistication of the resulting applications.

The benefits of low code platforms

Before diving into the different types of low code platforms, let’s go through the main benefits this approach to development brings to organizations.

Increase company agility

Because they allow developers and business teams alike to quickly build and update applications, low code development platforms enable organizations to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and launch new operations in a matter of days.

Focus developers’ time on business critical developments

As low code platforms do the heavy lifting in terms of developments, they allow developers to focus on differentiating, value added tasks for your business rather than reinventing the wheel and spending time building basic functionalities. To give you an example, a low-code admin panel can give you basic CRUD operations out-of-the-box, but if you need specific features that fit your business logic, you are free to do it with some code. By also enabling non developers to build and fine tune their applications, it allows them to perform changes without developers’ time.

Increase teams productivity

By allowing organizations and their employees to easily build custom applications, low code development platforms enable them to create the perfect processes and interfaces for their specific workflows, so they don’t waste time working with unfit tools.

Types of low code platforms

Depending on the applications you need to build, and where you need to deploy them, different low code platforms will serve different needs. Generally, the more generalist they are, the more use cases you will be able to address but the more work you will have to do to fit each use case, and vice versa.

General purpose low code platforms

Mendix low code visual development
Mendix low code visual development

General purpose low code platforms – or enterprise low code application platforms (LCAP) – usually address large organizations’ needs. They do the heavy lifting for developers and non developers to build and deploy virtually any internal or external facing application, on any platform (mobile app, web, …). Those low code platforms will accelerate software development across the entire enterprise, but will still require relatively significant development for specific use cases.

Notable enterprise low code application platforms include OutSystems, Mendix Platform and Appian.

Low code business process management

Kissflow low code workflow automation
Kissflow low code workflow automation

Low code platforms for business process management (BPM) enable professional and citizen developers to quickly build, automate and optimize processes that don’t require graphical user interfaces – or already have one that doesn’t need to be updated. Examples of such processes include automatically processing loans and credit cards or printing barcodes for logistics use cases. Compared to general purpose low code platforms, they focus on the business logic. They make creating, reviewing and deploying those processes easy.

Examples of low code BPM are ProcessMaker, Kissflow and Nintex.

Internal tools builder

Forest Admin low code admin panel builder
Forest Admin low code admin panel builder

Low code internal tool builders focus on helping developers and business users easily create interfaces for business teams to visualize and manipulate data to achieve their daily workflows. Those tools automate the creation of functions organizations usually need over their databases, such as CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations, users and roles management, charts creations. Non developers can then customize the interfaces to fit their specific needs and workflows, while developers can deep dive into the code to build custom business logic and actions.

Low code internal tool builders include Forest Admin, Retool and Internal.io

Low code CRM

Salesforce low code customization
Salesforce low code customization

CRM software has always required more or less advanced customizations to fit their customers’ needs. A few years ago, most CRMs either required advanced coding skills, often in their own specific language, or provided very limited no-code customization options. CRM vendors have seen the low-code trend grow and are now providing low-code customization options to enable developers to expedite the custom development work and business teams to gain autonomy on fine tuning their most used tool.

Most renowned CRMs now offer low-code customization options, including Salesforce, ZOHO and Creatio.

Low code platform key features

As we saw, different low code platforms will cover different organizations' needs. However, no matter its type, these are the main categories of capabilities the low code platform you’re looking for will need to offer in order to satisfy your needs.

Visual builders

That’s part of the “low” in “low code”. Whether it is to create an interface for your application, or design a new business process, non developers and professional developers alike shouldn’t have to jump into the code for non complex tasks. That’s why low code development platforms provide user friendly visual editors to build and iterate on applications. Look for WYSIWYG editors for building interfaces and editing layouts, as well as a collection of prebuilt components to drag and drop in your interface and then customize.

Custom developments

That’s the “code” in “low code”. While all users should be able to build basic and some complex functionalities without code, one of the benefits of low code platforms is the ability to then add deeply customized and sophisticated business logic or interfaces to fit organizations’ unique needs.

Data connectors

Most applications and processes rely on visualizing, manipulating, creating or processing data. Therefore, the ability of low code platforms to connect to organizations data sources is key. Look for native integrations with your database and backend technologies, integrations with the SaaS tools you use, support for custom API integrations and ability to upload files such as CSV, XML or JSON.

User management

Companies leverage low code development platforms to build and deploy business critical applications. It is therefore key to manage who in the organization can create a new application, modify it and how much (eg. via the visual builder or via code), and deploy changes in production. Robust user management capabilities is therefore mandatory.

Analytics and audit logs

Building on the previous point, business critical applications require comprehensive visibility in case something goes wrong. That’s why advanced low code platforms offer analytics to monitor key metrics such as deployment times and production performances, as well as comprehensive audit and activity logs to monitor what has been modified by which team in your application.

CI/CD, SDLC and Devops

As part of their job of accelerating software development, most low code platforms don’t stop at the application's creation but also ease their deployment in production. A complete low code platform should support development, staging and production environments to allow safe development and delivery, as well as safe and fast prototyping. The ability to deploy wherever it makes the most sense for your company, whether on-premise, in public or private cloud, or in a totally managed way, is also a must.

Going further with low code internal tool builders

You should now have a better understanding of what is low code and its benefits, and an idea of the best type of low code tool for your needs! At Forest Admin, our expertise is on internal tools and admin panels, so we wrote a guide to internal tools and a blog detailing the specific benefits of internal tool builders: 5 reasons why you should use low-code internal tool builders. See you there!

If you’d like to give Forest Admin a try, sign up for free.