Technology tends to evolve in a direction that makes it more accessible and more universal. Half a century ago, computers took up an entire room of space and were only able to be used by technical professionals at the top of their game. These days, even children can use computers and the internet easily – and do so on a regular basis.
Today, software development seems both technically complicated and inaccessible to outsiders and novices. Learning even the fundamentals of coding is something that takes months, if not years – and it takes many years of education and experience before you can call yourself a competent coder.
So what if the future of development moved away from coding altogether? What if low-code and no-code development platforms began to take over the industry?
What Are Low-Code and No-Code Development?
Let’s start with a basic definition of low-code and no-code development. To an extent, these platforms are exactly what they sound like – they’re an opportunity for people with little to no coding experience to design and develop their own applications.
If you’ve ever used a WYSIWYG editor through a platform like WordPress, you probably already get the gist of the idea. Through WordPress and similar tools, users with no coding or web development experience can design and launch their own websites, one page at a time if necessary. You can select a theme and use drag-and-drop style controls to place things exactly how you want them.
Of course, low-code and no-code development platforms extend far beyond the realm of web development. Already, we’re seeing the emergence of innovative tools that help people create their own games, apps, and other platforms – and the diversity of low-code and no-code apps available will likely increase further in the future.
Why are these tools so powerful?
These are just some of the advantages:
- Total accessibility. For starters, low-code and no-code platforms allow people with little to no technical expertise create their own apps and accomplish their own technological goals. You don’t need to go to college for four years to learn how to use these platforms, and you may not need to hire a software developer to do it for you. With these platforms in place, people will no longer feel limited in terms of what they can accomplish.
- Flexibility and control. Many low-code and no-code platforms are designed with flexibility and user control in mind. If we take web design and development as a central example, you can rearrange on-page elements however you want, tweaking every little detail until it’s perfect. You may not have the same degree of direct control if you’re working with an external team of developers.
- Motivation to eliminate legacy systems. The perfect is the enemy of the good; your new systems don’t have to be perfect to be better than the legacy systems you’re currently working with. Low-code and no-code platforms present old-school businesses with an opportunity to make significant upgrades without making a significant investment.
- Reduced development costs. One of the biggest advantages of low-code and no-code platforms is reduced development costs for the developer. Instead of paying the salaries of an entire team of in-house coders or paying for a third-party software development firm, you can pay a modest fee to gain access to the platform you need.
- Reduced IT costs. Similarly, you won’t need to pay for an extensive IT staff to manage and maintain your new software development project, whatever form it takes. You’ll have lower costs overall as you continue to manage your app.
- Higher speed. Most people find that no-code and low-code development tools allow them to create new technologies at much faster speed. In an environment where tech companies scramble to launch a minimum viable product as quickly as possible, this is quite a boon; you can get to market faster than your competitors in many cases and start generating revenue earlier as well.
- Low risk profile. Software development always bears risk. Investing tens of thousands of dollars into the high-profile development of a new app could come back to bite you. But using a low-code development platform has a much smaller risk profile; if the project fails, you’ll stand to lose far less.
- Easy deployment and management. Deploying and actively managing your tech project through a low-code or no-code platform should also be easier. You may be able to get by with little to no technical familiarity.
- Support for agile development. Agile development standards have become the norm for most projects, enabling companies to update their project scope in real time, reviewing and modifying features as the project continues to evolve. This leads to higher efficiency – as well as the capacity to easily add new features and revisit old ones over time.
- Support for innovation. Low-code and no-code platforms foster an environment of entrepreneurship and innovation. If you’ve ever had a brilliant idea for an app but no coding experience to make it a reality, you now have an option to create it.
Of course, there are some downsides and limiting factors for this technology as well.
- App complexity. You probably won’t be able to create your own cryptocurrency or create a truly sophisticated app with no-code and low-code development platforms (at least today). However, you might be impressed to learn just how much these platforms are capable of – and their capabilities will only grow in the near future.
- Novel tech. Software engineers interested in creating something truly novel will feel restricted by low-code and no-code tools. So far, these tools have been adept at allowing people to create new versions of technologies that already exist, like creating custom webpages, but they don’t allow for much creativity or novel experimentation.
- Limited capacity for customization. Along similar lines, low-code and no-code tools offer limited capacity for customization. Depending on the nature of the tool, you might be forced to work with one or more pre-established templates, or you might be limited in terms of the features you can include.
- Limited capacity for scalability. While many low-code and no-code platforms allow you to customize your projects and modify them over time, there’s limited capacity for serving an organization as it scales. Companies may find it harder to manage their solutions as their needs begin to expand – artificially capping the limits of what these technologies can provide.
- Demand for technical expertise. On some level, low-code and no-code platforms don’t need much technical experience. But this can be a bit of an illusion. If you run into an issue, or if you don’t understand the basic logic of software engineering, you’re going to find it hard to create anything with these tools. You may end up needing to hire an expert halfway through the project if you can’t find a way to make these tools work for you.
- Security flaws. One advantage of ground-up custom development is that it provides you with an opportunity to build in better security standards. With out-of-the-box low-code development tools, you’ll likely get at least some security features – but not the robust protection you can get through other avenues.
The Future of Traditional Software Development
So what about the future for traditional software developers? Will these technical experts be out of a job in the near future as no-code and low-code platforms take over?
The answer is “probably not.” There’s little doubt that low-code and no-code platforms will become more popular in the future, and will become more robust in their functionality, but with their current and foreseeable drawbacks, there’s no complete replacement for human, traditional coding. If nothing else, talented coders will be responsible for creating and modifying the low-code and no-code development tools themselves. With demand for these tools rising and with an ongoing shortage of tech talent still plaguing the industry, software developers will have job security for years, if not decades to come.