Low-code and no-code: What’s the difference?
As more and more enterprises start to realize the potential of visual application development, the terms “low-code” and “no-code” have become a part of the tech vocabulary. However, these two terms are not interchangeable, and professionals should use caution when evaluating platforms.
Low-code is the original term, coined by John Rymer in Forrester research in 2016. A low-code application development platform provides a development environment (IDE) to create applications through visual modelling and model-driven engineering rather than traditional hand-coding.
Low-code vendors can be (roughly) divided in two categories based on their target developers:
- Low-code for application development and delivery (AD&D) professionals, and
- Low-code for citizen developers – often referred to as “no-code”
The distinction between these two types of platforms is not “how much code” it is possible or necessary to write, but whether the target developer has some tech/developer background or is a citizen developer.
This distinction also makes the functionality and feature-set of the two types of low-code platforms more clear:
No-code platforms (“low-code for citizen developers”):
- Focus on ease of application development
- Targets simpler applications for smaller groups of users, often competing with solutions based on spreadsheets
- Are often front-end focused with limited capabilities for back-end development
- Focus on single-purpose apps for business departments rather than becoming an integrated part of the enterprise IT architecture
Low-code platforms (“low-code for AD&D professionals”):
- Focus on functional completeness, advanced features, and scalable architectures
- Targets core enterprise-wide applications and complex application scenarios
- Offer full-stack visual development
- Must have enterprise-grade capabilities (security, scalability, performance, governance, etc.)
- Offer superior integration capabilities
- Deliver a platform for enterprise application development rather than single-purpose applications
Is it possible to be confused by the naming of these two directions? Yes! The truth is that there are no-code platforms that require some level of coding, whereas some low-code platforms are completely codeless. Further, some no-code platforms rely on code generators to produce the running applications, whereas some low-code platforms rely entirely on metadata interpretation.
Regardless of their differences, both types of low-code/no-code platforms aim to increase the speed of development, enable more people to participate in application development, and empower those who develop applications with better tools. “No-code” is just another term for “low-code for citizen developers”, and when you choose your application development platform – remember to consider who your target “low-code developers” are.