Unique qualities of a low-code mobile app

Software 2.0 – No code / Low code platforms

Remember when software was eating the world? The trendy observation these days is that artificial intelligence (AI) is eating software.

Even Google CEO Sundar Pichai has spoken about software that “automatically writes itself.” And certainly, if you consider software development to be little more than the creation of oft-repeated segments of code, then the rapid advances in AI would give software engineers a pause.

Traditionally, developers have written software as a series of hard-coded rules:

If X happens then do Y. The human instructs the machine, line by line. That’s Software 1.0. But Software 2.0 recognizes that — with advances in deep learning — we can build a neural network that learns which instructions or rules are needed for a desired outcome.

The argument right now is that would we really write more codes Or  We’ll be just finding data and feeding it into machine learning systems. In this scenario, we can imagine the role of software engineer morphing into “data curator” or “data enabler.” Whatever we call ourselves, we’ll be people who are no longer writing code.

However, software engineering is not going away anytime soon. Even if a new role evolves — be it Software 2.0 engineer, data scientist 2.0, etc. — there are ways in which this technology shift will empower the practitioner of Software 1.0 or existing software engineers.

The three evolutions of no-code technology

The term “no-code movement” is fairly new in our common vocabulary. The concept that became no-code began in the 1990s as the software was starting to pick up. 

Phase 1: The all-in-one platform and single-function software (the 1990s)

In the early 1970s, computers were entirely command-line driven. If you couldn’t code, you couldn’t use a computer. By the 1980s, early graphic user interfaces (GUIs) designed by IBM made it possible to operate basic functions on a computer without needing to know code, but building and using most software was still code-driven.

By the 1990s, innovators like Microsoft and Adobe had built all-in-one programs that massively democratized how many people could use the software. Programs like Word, Excel, and Photoshop were built so that end-users didn’t need to know code in order to use the platform’s core feature set. 

These platforms made it easy to accomplish a specific task without code, but you would have to buy another piece of technology to accomplish a different task. Further, if you wanted these systems to connect or communicate in any way, you needed to know application programming interface (API) development and code the connections manually. 

Phase 2: Extended functionality, plugins, and app ecosystems (the 2000s)

At the turn of the millennium, new players democratized who could use – and even build on – computers. Tech startup Automattic launched WordPress in 2003, revolutionizing how people built their own websites. With pre-built themes with pre-built customization options, the average person could buy a theme (or even access dozens of free themes) to get a basic website live in minutes. 

A year later, Automattic launched WordPress Plugins, which were one-click features that you could install on your WordPress site to extend its functionality. According to reports, the first plugins allowed you to sell products via your WordPress site and embed forms to capture visitor information. Salesforce brought this concept to the business world, launching its AppExchange in 2005. Marc Benioff famously purchased the rights to the name “App Store” ahead of Salesforce’s launch, but ultimately chose the name “AppExchange” instead. He gave the “App Store” rights to his mentor, Steve Jobs, as a gift, which Apple used when it launched the App Store in 2008. E-commerce giant Shopify followed suit with the Shopify App Store in 2009.

The promise of apps and plugins was that people could easily extend the functionality of their site without code (or with only a few lines, instead of having to build whole features by themselves). Each app offered standard functionality and many offered premium options. Becoming an app or plugin developer not only became a full-time job for many companies but became a lucrative independent business model that paved to way for the future of no-code.

Phase 3: The ability to build apps without code (the 2010s – Present)

Throughout the 2010s, no-code platforms like WordPress, Salesforce, and Shopify continued to upgrade their core systems to make it easier to build and customize their platforms without code. App creators on these ecosystems also focused more heavily on additional features and customizability – whether in their free plans or adding these features as premium upsells.

But another innovation happened: no-code platforms started popping up to empower people to build whole apps without code. Instead of relying on plugin developers to make the feature you needed, you could build it yourself. Even API connections got the no-code treatment from no-code platforms like Zapier. 

The future of no-code movement

The earliest iterations of no-code builders helped with wireframes and prototypes, but people assumed you’d need to move to code eventually. Modern no-code builders, on the other hand, are capable of scaling up to thousands of users without ever needing to touch a line of code. This opens up significant opportunities for the future of no-code.

1. The no-code tech company

No-code is reaching levels of scalability and customizability that we’re likely to see whole tech companies running on products built without code. This not only democratizes who can build tech companies, but it also creates more opportunities for freelancers and other independent entrepreneurs to build “micro-SaaS” products – like online marketplaces, e-learning platforms, custom client portals, or subscription communities – that bring in great lifestyle revenue streams. 

2. Internal apps will be no-code

No-code makes it easy to build custom apps that are secure and user-friendly with no coding required. That means more companies are likely to turn to no-code tools for employee-use-only applications such as internal communications, time tracking, and even task tracking. This could especially be the case in startups that don’t have the budget to buy existing SaaS platforms or have unique needs because of the innovative nature of their company.

3. Entrepreneurship accelerated

New founders won’t need to go through the old process of building a wire frame and fundraising to build their MVP. Instead, future no-code tools will make it easier than ever to launch a tech company. You can build a prototype or even a full version one in a few days completely solo, then start testing and selling the product immediately. This will have profound effects for people that want to solve local business problems with technology, but that don’t have a large enough market to interest venture capitalists or software engineers to build a code-based solution. 

4. Going beyond business

Beyond business use cases, the no-code movement will make it easier than ever for community groups, nonprofits, and charities to build purpose-built apps for their causes. Outside of organizations, individuals can also build no-code apps for their own life – communicating with friends, managing their personal community, or building automation to make parts of their life easier or more powerful.

Evolution of low-code/no-code tools

Low-code/no-code platforms stem from earlier rapid application development (RAD) tools such as Excel, Lotus Notes and Microsoft Access that likewise put some development-like capabilities into the hands of business users (i.e., non-IT professionals).

However, those tools required users to thoroughly understand the business apps and their development environments in order to build capabilities. In contrast, with low-code and no-code options’ drag-and-drop features, users need either minimal or no knowledge of the tools or development in general.

Furthermore, development with RAD tools generally produced capabilities used by the individual who created the functionality, or by a limited number of users associated with the creator (usually a work group or business unit). Apps produced with low-code or no-code platforms, on the other hand, are robust enough to be used across departments and throughout the entire enterprise, and even by external users such as customers and business partners.

Unique qualities of a low-code mobile app

Low-code vs. no-code development platforms: What are the differences?

Low-code and no-code systems offer the same fundamental benefits, but their names indicate the key difference between these two methods of application development.

Low-code development requires users to do some level of coding, albeit much less than is required with traditional application development. Professional developers and programmers use low-code to quickly deliver applications, and to shift their efforts away from commodity programming tasks to more complex and unique work that has bigger impact and more value to the organization. Non-IT professionals with some programming knowledge also use low-code tools to develop simple apps or expanded functions within an app.

No-code development targets nontechnical users in various business functions who understand business needs and rules, but possess little or no coding experience and programming language skills. These citizen developers can use no-code to easily and quickly build, test and deploy their business apps, as long as the chosen tools align with these commodity functions and capabilities.

There are also some distinctions in how users apply no-code and low-code. No-code is typically used to create tactical apps to handle simple functions. Low-code can be used in those cases as well, but additionally to create apps that run processes that are critical to a business or to an organization’s core systems, such as certain integrations and digital transformation initiatives.

The line between no-code and low-code isn’t always clear — and this carries over into the low-code and no-code platforms themselves. Many technology product analysts consider no-code part of the low-code market, as even the strongest platforms require some level of coding for parts of the application development and deployment process. Vendors drive much of the distinction between low-code and no-code platform capabilities as they position their products for different groups of customers.

Generally speaking, no-code platforms are a specialized type of low-code cloud platform in which the required visual components address industry-specific functions, a specific line of business (LOB) or support a specific company’s corporate branding. Low-code platforms, on the other hand, may require the assistance of in-house developers to make small changes to back-end code so the new app will align with other business software.

Low-code development platform vendors

Dozens of mainstream and niche software vendors offer low- or no-code platforms, many of which run in the cloud. Gartner ranks nearly 20 in its “2020 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms.”

An incomplete list of some of the most common low-code platform vendors and tools includes:

  • Appian
  • Claris FileMaker
  • DWkit
  • Google AppSheet
  • Looker 7
  • Mendix
  • Microsoft PowerApps
  • OutSystems
  • Robocoder Rintagi
  • Salesforce Lightning
  • Sisense
  • Skyve Foundry
  • Temenos (formerly Kony)
  • SIB Visions VisionX
  • Wix Editor X
  • Yellowfin 9
  • Zoho Creator

No-code development platform vendors

Many low-code platforms offer no-code functionality as well, such as Appian, Mendix, Microsoft PowerApps, OutSystems and Salesforce Lightning.

Other vendors that offer no-code development platforms include:

  • Airtable
  • AppGyver
  • AppSheet
  • Appy Pie
  • AWS Honeycode
  • Betty Blocks
  • Bubble
  • Carrd
  • Glide
  • Gumroad
  • Kissflow
  • Memberstack
  • Nintex
  • Notion
  • Outgrow
  • Payhere
  • Quickbase
  • Shopify
  • Stripe
  • Umso (formerly Landen)
  • Voiceflow
  • Zapier
  • Zudy Vinyl