November 22, 2022

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Explainer: The low-code vs. no-code debate and how to get started

Until recently, organizations had only two options when it came to building new applications — coding a customized application from the ground up or buying them from vendors.

Sara Zenner

Sara Zenner

Senior Product Marketing Manager

Person with red hair sits at a multi-monitor computer set-up in an office setting.

Until recently, organizations had only two options when it came to building new applications — coding a customized application from the ground up or buying them from vendors. Both options have some significant drawbacks. The “build” option offers a close fit to unique business requirements, but it can also be costly and time-consuming. The “buy” option may be cheaper and faster to deploy than a custom-built application, but organizations often find that a standardized suite of offerings may not address their unique business needs. Enter the development game-changer: application-building with little or no coding required.

High-code, low-code and no-code explained

There’s a paradox in today’s modern digital world: The complexity of our technology is increasing, but at the same time, building effective applications is getting easier. Organizations are seeking faster, easier and more secure platforms on which to build so they can alleviate the stress on their IT departments and developers. They are shifting away from pro-code platforms (often called high-code or traditional-code platforms), and increasingly adopting low-code or no-code platforms, which are faster, more agile and easier to build apps upon. Let’s take a look at the basics of each.

What is pro-code (also known as high-code)?

Pro-code means a platform requires extensive coding time and talent. When using a pro-code platform, organizations need a skilled developer (or many of them) to manually write, update and maintain lines of code. While this can be a good option to create a customized application for your business needs, pro-code platforms can become difficult to update and slow to react to changes, which is a problem in today’s complex, volatile and highly competitive business environment.

What is low-code and no-code?

Low-code and no-code describe types of application-building platforms. Compared to pro-code platforms, low-code and no-code platforms require much less hands-on coding from professional developers, allowing less-experienced developers — or in some cases, non-developers — to rapidly build applications. Low-code/no-code applications can provide customized solutions that:

  • Meet your business requirements
  • Can be implemented quickly
  • Cost less than self-built systems
  • Require few programming skills
  • Leverage point-and-click or pull-down menu interfaces

But even within this game-changing category of development, there are key differences between low-code and no-code platforms. In this post, we break down what they are so you can decide which option would best suit your business needs.

Discover more | Business Process Management

Pro-code vs. low-code vs. no-code: a quick comparison 

 Definition Requires manual computer coding
Open and dependent on manual coding or scripting
Uses visual modeling and development tools
Open, extensible and allows for manual coding or scripting
Uses visual modeling and development tools
Closed, limited and no ability to add coding or scripting
 Target users Developers with time to code and make manual adjustments to applications
Teams who rarely need to make changes to applications and have lots of lead time to do so
Developers Business users with minimal knowledge of coding
Teams with dynamic priorities and a changing scope
Business users with minimal knowledge of coding
Teams with specific needs within a limited scope
 Customizability Highly customizable with the right level of developer talent
Developers can custom-code within the system
More customizable
Users can change or add code to the open system
Less customizable
The closed system doesn’t allow users to make any tweaks to the code
 Benefits Can be custom-tailored to unique business needs
In-house teams develop and manage the applications

Can scale based on personnel bandwidth
Boosts speed and productivity
Pre-built components, design systems and functionalities

Improves collaboration between developers and business users

Quicker development than custom coding
Empowers business unit owners
Requires minimal oversight from IT

Apps are built using templates that greatly reduce the need for testing

Quickest turnaround for small changes
 Challenges Can create bottlenecks because all development depends on developers’ availability
Speed to deployment is often slower

The developer shortage means it’s harder to manage these platforms
Less customizable compared to traditional coding
Still requires developers/IT for large-scale changes
Can’t scale beyond its limited application
More difficult and expensive to extend than pro-code or low-code

Which is better, no-code or low-code?

It depends. Both have significant advantages, along with their own unique drawbacks. The better question is, which one will provide more value for your organization?

Best fit for no-code platforms

No-code platforms are the simplest of the two. They are best used to create basic but functional apps using a visual-based, drag-and-drop modeling platform. Teams looking to overhaul legacy systems will not find this a good option, as no-code platforms can be limited in their ability to integrate with existing software solutions. However, no-code platforms are a good option for business users with very specific needs within a limited scope.

Best fit for low-code platforms

In contrast, low-code platforms act as a middle ground between no-code and pro-code. Similar to their no-code counterparts, low-code platforms are visual-based; however, low-code platforms offer more opportunity for customization and extensibility. This enables unprecedented levels of collaboration between developers and business users, enabling the fast deployment of products that users need. > Learn more | > Learn more | Low-code automation: Why and how it benefits your organization

10 questions to ask low-code/no-code vendors

When deciding whether to integrate low-code or no-code into your organization, you need to look at more than just the technology. Consider how you’ll align your development platform with what your users actually want and need, as well as with your own unique business needs. The evaluation process often begins with a vendor, and you’ll need the right questions to align your no-code/low-code strategy with their offerings. Consider this list as you start evaluating vendors.

1. Can the solution build enterprise-level applications with zero/minimal coding?

Most no-code platforms only offer basic and simple app development capabilities, meaning they might be effective for smaller-scope projects, but scaling the solution enterprise-wide will be difficult. A low-code platform can scale better and minimize the need for time-consuming, costly custom-coding and multiple niche vendors.

2. Will we need professional developers to use the platform?

No-code platforms allow business users to build applications themselves without any developer skills. Low-code platforms, which allow for some coding, provide deeper customization capabilities, and both business users and developers can configure the solution. Depending on your team’s capabilities, it’s important to check the level of coding proficiency needed for each solution.

3. How customizable is the platform?

Overly rigid platforms may require you to change your operations in order to accommodate their capabilities. Ask low-code/no-code vendors about the levels of customization their platforms offer. Low-code platforms tend to offer a higher level of flexibility.

4. What are the platform’s integration capabilities?

This gives you better insight into whether you can integrate the apps you develop on the platform with other platform apps or third-party systems. If you can, you’ll be able to speed up processes with instant information access, regardless of application.

5. How secure is the platform?

Ensure vendors’ platforms are natively secure (including mandatory security gates, threat modeling, code review and manual penetration testing), protected at every data state and have configurable security options you can integrate with other external security systems, if necessary.

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6. Is the platform extensible?

At any point in your business operations you may need to extend existing functionality. You should be able to do so without any challenges with the right low-code platform; however, extensibility is not generally a no-code platform feature. When choosing your low-code or no-code vendor, ensure you can easily expand, modify and improve the application to meet complex process needs or changing requirements. You may need to do this by integrating with a third-party system, so make sure your vendor has those integrations capabilities.

7. What is the platform’s deployment like?

Ideally, your chosen vendor will enable you to rapidly deploy applications with robust, out-of-the-box functionality via a simple point-and-click visual modeling system. This quick deployment minimizes expensive, time-consuming and difficult-to-maintain coding or scripting.

8. Where is the platform hosted?

While this question has less to do with deciding between low-code or no-code platforms, the platform hosting location matters greatly for operational resilience. Many businesses are moving to the cloud for this reason as it’s dependable, scalable, secure and available anywhere you need it.
Look for a low-code platform vendor whose platform is cloud-compatible, so you have the flexibility and availability you need into the future.

9. How comprehensive is the platform’s information governance management?

Your chosen platform should manage the lifecycle of your business information by maximizing its value while remaining secure and compliant with industry and regulatory requirements.
A platform that focuses on information governance management will provide unified access to information and streamline information flows by integrating with core business applications. It will also protect your organization and customer data by surrounding your information with layers of security and automating document retention and destruction.

10. How is it priced?

This purchase is a long-term commitment. You need to be confident the decision you make now will continue to be the right decision down the road. One way to do that is by making sure that the solution’s total cost of ownership (TCO) meets your expectations. Be sure to ask your vendor not only the upfront cost, but also about:

  • Maintenance costs
  • Technical support expectations
  • Third-party software that may be necessary to secure, encrypt and protect your data
  • Upgrade costs

Low-code is the future for enterprise technology

Seventy percent of IT implementations aren’t successful, but yours can be. For organizations looking for scalable, enterprise-wide minimal coding solutions, a low-code platform as part of an enterprise content services solutions offers expansive value. Hyland helps customers around the world quickly build agile, secure applications so they can:

  • Enable overwhelmed IT teams to shift attention to higher-value, customer-focused tasks
  • Provide a prudent path for dependable, cost-effective solutions
  • Reduce risk and total cost of ownership

Begin your journey into low-code application development with Hyland, so your organization can better meet your customers’ needs today — and in the future. You might also like: