With the recent rise of technologies such as AI, mobile, and cloud computing, low-code development platforms (LCDPs) are more relevant than ever. We have therefore dedicated a few articles on the topic to educate and satisfy everyone’s curiosity. In this article, we will answer the burning question; what is low-code?
To do that, we have to start at the beginning. LCDPs trace their roots back to fourth-generation programming languages (4GLs) and rapid application development (RAD) tools of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. These visual and declarative development tools have been available in various forms since then, and vendors have applied those techniques to both narrow and broad application development. Each of these declarative tools and platforms have lowered the bar for skills needed to build increasingly complex business applications without the need for formal programming. Each of these platforms have also presented us with new scenarios for progressing from terminal applications, to client/server, to web, and now to mobile and omnichannel apps.
Forrester Research defines low-code development platform (LCDPs) as “platforms that enable rapid application delivery with a minimum of hand-coding, and quick setup and deployment, for systems of engagement.”
Simply put; low-code is a way to design and develop software applications fast and with minimal coding. It enables people to deliver value more quickly and more reliably. Using visual modelling in a graphical interface to assemble and configure applications, developers skip all the infrastructure and re-implementation of patterns that would normally delay them and focus directly on the unique features of an application.
So, even though the concept of end-user development existed previously, low-code platforms have brought some new ways of approaching this development. While in its early stages, low-code development was focused on smaller, departmental apps with limited functionality, today’s low-code is about building, using, and changing enterprise-grade applications that help even the largest of organisations run smoothly. Low-code is based on the principles of model-driven design, automatic code generation, and visual programming. It relies on declarative development tools, including domain languages, WYSIWYG user experience (UX) definition, flow diagramming, and visual data modelling, instead of programming languages. This means that developers will be able to develop custom apps many times faster with low-code platforms than they can by using programming languages.
A popular way to describe low-code is to use a Lego-like approach for an example; these predefined shapes can be seen as ‘digital building blocks’ to build apps faster. This is a clever analogy, but to take a different approach, we will compare it to manufacturing cars; most of what was once done by hand is now automated. The machines involved in the automation doesn’t determine what the car will look like, but it accelerates the assembly and delivery process. Low-code is to software what assembly lines are to the auto industry; both automate manual tasks that are difficult and time-consuming to free up people to do things that are more important. Most of the time spent hand-writing code for applications is pretty much wheel spinning. There is no need to tread the same path each time a new project is launched. Low-code enables you to create applications visually, using tried-and-tested fundamentals.
Ultimately, low-code development platforms transform ideas into innovation by removing the traditional barriers between business and IT, and allowing the rapid build, launch, and change of powerful apps. It presents a way for developers to get more done by spending more time creating and building, and less time on repetitive work, enabling them to innovate faster and work smarter. This all results in enhanced customer experience, improved operational efficiency, thereby staying on top of ever-changing risks and regulations. What’s not to love? Be sure to read our next article on why you should consider low-code and what benefits it could offer your business.
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