Feasibility of No-Code Solutions for Web and Mobile Application Development
The phenomenon of no-code development is a relatively stale concept that appeared back in the 1980s with the introduction of spreadsheet programs, including Excel developed by Microsoft Corporation. Its further evolution resulted in the appearance of Microsoft Access and Lotus Notes, which remain in use for data analytics and graphical presentation. These programs had one common trait, namely, they did not require the knowledge of coding to work.
The next step in the progress of no-code development occurred in 2003-2004 with WordPress and Shopify. WordPress is still supporting 38.5% of the internet. After it became apparent that the no-code tools have a substantial level of demand in the market, many new ones started taking their market shares, including Airtable, Bubble, Power Apps, Zapier, and many others.
Their capabilities increased significantly as well, allowing them to build mobile apps, websites, CMS, landings, and other consumer and business-focused products. Since these tools are becoming critical to the modern development infrastructure, it is important to understand their relevance, benefits, drawbacks, and future potential.
Developing Apps: Main Approaches
When considering app development, it is possible to choose one of the three options:
- Code-based (traditional development) – the most powerful approach with minimum limitations, but high requirements for expertise and required capital expenses.
- Low-code – the simplified version of the code-based development that reduces the amount of hand-coding, making the process faster and cheaper.
- No-code – the option requiring no coding skills, commonly utilizing the drag-and-drop approach that has very specific limitations.
No-Code Mobile App Development Tools
When it comes to selecting a specific no-code mobile app development tool, it is possible to choose from a range of options:
The service has been supporting its clients with a low-code development option since 1999. In supporting customers of various sizes, it specializes in Business Process Management (BPM) apps. The platform allows developing a wide range of apps to optimize business operations, ensure compliance with the regulatory base, and enhance the customer experience. Bayer, an international company, used Appian software to reduce the reporting time from hours to minutes.
One of the prominent features offered by the platform is supporting cooperation between the departments by breaking down heavy database operations, UI customization, and object mapping. The platform has a free trial version with a monthly subscription of $60.
Appy Pie falls in the category of the most popular no-code platforms supporting over 3 million small businesses globally. The platform has been demonstrating explosive growth with 1.5 million apps developed in 4 years because of a wide range of unique features offered and competitive pricing.
In addition to several deployment options, including SaaS, Cloud, and Web-Based, Appy Pie supports PWA and web apps, iOS and Android, as well as assistance with publishing to Apple App Store and Google Play.
The platform is particularly valuable to entrepreneurs and companies working in the industries actively utilizing apps since there is a high chance that Appy Pie already has templates for a similar type of business. The main challenge with using the templates relates to the difficulty of adding new features.
The platform falls in the category of the low-code application development for mobile devices while also allowing cross-device business functionality. Given the cloud-based operational base of the application, it does not require a direct download to the computer. The backend based on the cloud also enables API-based cross-app and cross-system integration.
The tool supports iOS, Android, web apps, mobile apps, as well as PWAs through code generation in various languages and frameworks. App testing, data mapping, a visual design containing customizable elements, customer console, cooperation tools, integration services, as well as deployment are the main component features. The App pricing starts from a minimum of $25 per month with the free trial available.
BuildFire is an iconic no-code platform allowing app development in various industries and currently supporting over 10,000 applications. The platform offers a range of features, such as retargeting and analytics, flexibility for scaling, and a library containing a range of themes. It is also possible to hire designers and engineers for customizing each app directly through BuildFire. The support covers iOS, Android, as well as web mobile applications assisting with the publishing processing. The free trial is available with the price starting from $159 per month.
The prominent platform specialized in eCommerce and content management with over 30,000 applications published. With 50 available templates, the quality of design features received strong reviews. GoodBarber supports progressive and native web apps, including iOS and Android. It is possible to assess and publish apps on App Store at €25 per month following the free trial.
Main Weaknesses of No-Code Platforms
In addition to the underlying strengths of no-code development, it has its shortcomings:
- Problems related to integration – using low-code platforms complicates integration and migration of third-party systems with the app.
- Shortage of complex solutions – any no-code solution has its limitations requiring professional development, adjustments, and transfer to full-code for obtaining advanced features.
- Insufficient customization – similarity in functionality and pre-built designs impair the competitive positioning of their users. Customized applications are unique in terms of their ability for responding to particular needs with testing, design sprints, and user journey maps.
- Initial efforts required – the no-code approach requires learning mobile application testing and the notion of wireframe in web design as the underlying basics.
- Scalability – it is possible to face obstacles in case of the need to change the design, implement advanced features, adoption of new technologies, evolving architectures of content, and other advanced processes.
- Vendor-related limitations – vendors fully control the backend, tying apps to the platforms. As a result, significant issues related to the platform translates to the developed apps. The extent of this issue includes the potential of the app shutting down in case a vendor is ceasing to exist.
- Costs – the no-code app development may contribute to the higher price tag because of the limited supply and high power of vendors, leading to inflated prices for the products or excess charges for additional features.
The Superiority of Custom Web Development
Aside from the simplistic entry-level solutions offered by no-code platforms, they remain inferior to the existing code-based platforms for the following reasons:
- Paying for the delivered value and eliminating excess costs – the pricing of custom web development is preferable because of the direct cost allocation with the particular required features. At the same time, the no-code platforms charge higher prices for the additional features. Code-based platforms ensure flexibility, effectively evolving naturally over time.
- Time-saving capability – the no-code alternatives require learning, especially in case of the need to integrate complex integration. Furthermore, each element of a platform necessitates entails a strong understanding of their principles for supporting their accurate functioning.
- Implementation of complex solutions – custom coding enables introducing more difficult solutions with their implementation and utilization. These approaches support enhanced responses to the complex issues identified by customers.
- Avoidance of compromises – a high level of customization implies minimum compromises when developing specific features corresponding with particular business goals.
- Ease of maintenance – maintaining no-code sites is more difficult because of their limited capabilities and additional efforts required for implementing additional features. The resulting competitive advantages of the code-based solutions include full support of the developed product, as well as its consistent maintenance.
- Data security – no-code solutions are unable to offer control over backend processes and data. Furthermore, many platforms offer no relevant certificates and open data by default, limiting data security potential.
- Full control over the developed solution – this control stems from the ability to ensure independence from vendors and reliability over time.
The Future of No-Code Approaches
Despite several fundamental strengths of no-code development and its continuous improvement, it still remains an underdog relative to code-based development. Still, the expectation is that the no-code will revolutionize IT in various aspects. Specifically, the inherent simplification of the product development and digitization will lower the costs, increase the speed of the process, and minimize the time resources necessary. Thus, businesses and individuals would obtain new opportunities with the developers relocating time from maintenance towards innovation and challenging tasks.
The forecasts also include the projections that the low-code and high-code will produce the new development version, namely the flex-code. This combination will be able to adjust the shares of the two coding approaches depending on the particular needs of teams. Developers will gain an ability to maintain and scale the high-code version reflecting their workflow needs and limitations, while other process participants will benefit from the streamlined low-code versions. The code-based development will remain prevalent in this mix because of the higher involvement of developers in the process.
Essentially, the no-code solution is suitable to startups with limited funds, people, and organizations seeking easy solutions and modifications without the long-term plans for scaling, as well as a low level of necessity for third-party integration and data transfer. It is vital to accept the limitations related to no-code vendors while allocating sufficient time for learning the documentation of a platform and coding the app. Custom web application is a natural next step allowing scalability, growth, development, customization, and stronger competitive positioning.