Low-code application development is nothing new. In many ways, it’s simply an offshoot of the 4GL trend of the 1980s and 1990s. But in today’s fast-changing technology world, low-code has become more critical than ever.
According to Forrester, the global market for low-code development will eclipse US$10 billion by 2019. That makes sense, since the strengths of the methodology (rapid iterations, simple collaboration and easier long-term maintenance) perfectly complement the needs of enterprises needing to efficiently bring to market applications for desktop, mobile, cloud and client-server architectures.
Put simply, if you need to compete in today’s burgeoning software marketplace, you need low-code development. Here are five reasons why.
1. Near-real-time collaboration between business and IT: Applications are made by developers; they’re not necessarily made for developers. No matter how sleek the UI, how intuitive the UX or how rich the overall experience, an application that doesn’t mesh with business goals is, on some level, a failure.
(Related: Newly independent QuickBase seeks low-code software)
Fortunately, this is where low-code development particularly shines. Because the amount of low-level manual coding is so dramatically reduced (hence, “low-code”), development proceeds extremely swiftly. What takes days or weeks with legacy development methodologies can, in many cases, be accomplished in hours. As a result, business stakeholders can see their vision take shape quickly, leaving time for rapid adjustments. Developers and business users enjoy near-real-time collaboration and exchange of ideas, rather than the traditional “meeting-programming black box-repeat” flow.
Furthermore, in model-driven low-code development, business rules are integrated with the application at a core level. App behavior is driven not just by code, but by this logic itself. In such a scenario, business requirements and the application are inextricably linked: The app must conform to even the most exacting business rules, since they are “baked in.”
2. Increased developer focus on functionality: Companies hire knowledge workers to be exactly that: knowledgeable. When working in a low-code development platform, developers spend less time writing code and more time creating objects representing the functionality of many lines of code. This dramatically increases the potential productivity of each developer, with the end result of more work getting done faster and better utilization of their unique skills.
3. Transparent deployment, regardless of paradigm or platform: In a low-code project, developers spend their days defining models and focusing on UX and UI, rather than worrying about how the application will be deployed across various architectures. Deployment of a low-code app is completely transparent. No matter the paradigm or platform (cloud, server, Web, mobile, anything), all data pulls from only a few locations in the model, with very little extra coding and configuration necessary. Developers can thus focus on making the app great within the context of the business requirements and not worry about the deployment environment, as many of the low-level tasks involved in deploying an object-oriented application are eliminated.
4. Uniquely suited to long-term use: The speed and ease with which a low-code application can be modified doesn’t end at deployment. Since such apps remain remarkably simple to maintain (with model-level tweaks affecting many individual elements), they’re uniquely suited to long-term use. Adding support for a new technology or platform is simple, and shifting business requirements can be accounted for extremely efficiently.
5. A single, clean codebase with less room for error: In traditional waterfall application development, it’s common to see a gradual decline in quality and usability. The first iteration looks great, but there are tweaks and changes to the user requirements. Another iteration is completed, and the same thing happens. As deadlines loom, the app starts to become barnacled. Late additions are implemented hastily, and varying levels of quality are immediately apparent. This is compounded by the fact that many late changes deal with critical pieces of the application, creating a counterintuitive situation where the most important functions are given the least thought.
In low-code development, by contrast, developers work off a single, clean codebase. Modifications are made once, and propagate throughout the application. And because the overall development process is streamlined, business users can provide feedback earlier in the process, multiplying the benefit. Changes to requirements and specifications can be addressed methodically and thoughtfully, rather than in a pre- or post-launch rush.
By eliminating much of the need for manual low-level coding and increasing the time developers spend on high-value tasks, low-code development allows teams to rapidly produce applications that closely align with business goals. Deployment, no matter the platform, is simple and consistent, and applications retain a high level of quality well into the future. It’s not the answer to every programming challenge—there will always be a place for Java, .NET and other object-oriented frameworks—but low-code is increasingly finding its place within modern development teams.