No-Code Development - A Return To True Innovation

No-code development – A return to true innovation

Autoren: Angelo Cioffari und Yuanyuan Xiao

The rapid development and application of modern digital technologies have wrought rapid changes to our daily life and work patterns. These changes have placed a number of demands such as agility, efficiency, quick response, automation, low cost, cross-functional teamwork, etc. on the internal organization, the operation model, and the external activities of companies. Faced with these digital transformation challenges, many companies such as Toyota, Netflix, DELL, Salesforce, etc. have chosen no-code development platforms as an appropriate solution in recent years. Earlier this year, Google acquired AppSheet, a leading no-code application development platform that provides solutions for companies in a variety of different industrial sectors, thereby expanding Google’s cloud business and applications and underpinning its optimistic outlook for the future of no-code development.

What is no-code development?

In communication and information processing, code is usually a set of ordered numbers or letters written in assembly language by professional programmers, thus also source code. Most source code cannot be run directly on a computer, instead, it requires executable programs to be run directly. From source code to executable program, this transformation requires several steps such as precompiling, compiling, assembling and linking. The generation of software must first start with the analysis of requirements and needs, followed by the functional design, formulation of the overall architecture, division of the functional modules, definition of algorithms of each module, and the writing of specific code, in order to finally generate the corresponding software. In other words, the code carries the functions and logical structure of the software.

Well, what if you develop a software without writing any code? This is the premise of so-called no-code development. By using a no-code platform, a software application can be developed without manual coding, but in a way that the business parameters are configured directly by the method of human-computer interaction, such as pre-built drag-and-drop elements coded for reuse and scaling. In fact, this can be roughly understood as developing software applications to be used like “LEGO building blocks” for software. It allows non-programmers to develop software and create applications for scenarios such as website design, development, and marketing without having to master special programming skills.

Why is no-code development so attractive and what are the challenges?

No-code development is increasing and encouraged mainly due to the following advantages:

  • Improved efficiency and agility: By using no-code platforms or tools, the development of applications can be simplified using a drag-and-drop interface and metadata model methodology. Business developers and non-programmers can therefore participate directly to deliver more quickly and independently develop business, web and mobile applications. This saves a lot of programming time and accelerates the path to launch making it particularly suitable for initial prototypes, mockups, MVPs and proof-of-concepts.  
  • Saving resources and reducing costs: Developers and engineers are not cheap and generally more expensive than marketers. By using no-code tools, it is not only possible to develop applications with exactly the functionality needed without requiring costly developers and engineers or with low production costs, but also entails potential massive reductions in maintenance costs for legacy applications over time. So if any changes need to be made to the product during or after the final phases, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Costs can simply be reduced and project progress can be accelerated thanks to the unlocking of IT resources.

Despite its outstanding advantages no-code development also has some disadvantages:

  • Insufficient security and reliability: Since the application is not developed by proprietary code, there is the possibility of losing control over the application, i.e. it entails a certain risk. For example, if the no-code development platform is attacked, the applications based on it are also immediately exposed to risks and vulnerabilities.
  • Lack of adaptability and expandability: Since the components of a no-code development platform are modular, business processes must sometimes be adapted to meet the set and restricted capabilities of the platform – a cutting of one’s suit to match the cloth so as to speak. In addition, when special features and further customization are required, integrating this new custom code can be more costly than a traditional code solution.

As with all other technical solutions, there is no one-size-fits-all solution in this context. In summary, no-code development can currently be a practical solution, especially for short-term application scenarios, but for customer-specific needs with high quality and security requirements, the classic approach of custom software development can still be the best solution today. But with its further development and evolution it is foreseeable that no-code development will be an important building block of software development in the future.

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