With the rapid advancement of no-code during the past few years, it has now become a recognized approach for implementing various types of projects from start to launch. Therefore, today we usually distinguish between three approaches: no-code, low-code, and code development.
Each method has formed a strong community around it, and we can often hear that no-code is the future and everyone should switch to it, or that no-code is only suitable for building simple prototypes, and that coding is the only solution. So, although I represent a no-code startup, in this article, I’ve tried to do an unbiased analysis and comparison of the most common methods to identify the pros and cons as well as the most common use cases for each option and see if one really has to choose just one approach for a given project (spoiler: not really).
Code development and no-code are opposites, and their use cases and functionalities seem to be drastically different as well. Before we dive deeper, let’s first understand what no-code is. No-code is a set of tools that help citizen developers and not only build their projects without writing a single line of code.
No-code has many pros, some of which are:
- No-code is a great way to experiment.
- It is suitable for users without a technical background.
- No-code makes it easier for newbies to build and learn.
- No-code makes development easy and fun.
- Fast access to MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
- No-code helps to save time and cut expenses.
Thousands use no-code tools to build their web applications, mobile apps, and websites. In particular, people use no-code tools for their short learning curve and ease of use. Let’s consider some of the most popular no-code use cases to give you more context.
Client portals, employee directories, admin panels, CRMs, and even more can be built with no-code. In addition, users find it easier and safer to automate their workflows with no-code rather than with code.
Some of the best no-code tools for building internal tools are Softr, Jet Admin, Retool, Internal, and Stacker.
No-code tools help users build their marketplaces like Airbnb or Fiverr. Almost all no-code tools offer amazing templates for service or product marketplaces that will make the building process even faster and easier. Shopify is probably the most popular solution for this use case, but you can also successfully build marketplaces with Webflow, Bubble, Sharetribe, and some other tools.
A simple no-code side project could easily generate a couple of thousand dollars a month. It can literally be anything: a community, resource, or product directory, you name it. In theory, any no-code tool or a set of tools can be used in this case, but since most of the people working on their side projects have a limited budget and time, we’d recommend starting with platforms that don’t require too much time to master them and build a working product increment.
Now that you know some of the use cases where no-code can be successfully applied, let’s discuss the downsides of the no-code approach and when it’s not a really good idea to apply it.
Potential scalability issues
While we can’t say that it’s impossible to build large enterprise applications with no-code, scalability is always a concern when working with no-code platforms. When building a project that might require scaling in the foreseeable future, you should take into account potential performance issues (e.g., in case of a big number of users within a large enterprise system) and the ability of your tech stack to handle the system complexity. There are other important factors that are applicable to large-scale projects as well, which we’ll discuss next.
Normally, no-code solutions provide their users with pre-built pieces that can be easily and quickly assembled with a certain level of customization. Very often, the limitations on customizability are intentional so that the users, who are not professional developers or designers, don’t get lost in the variety of configuration options, thus getting stuck. Therefore, you should always consider the customization limitations of a particular tool when selecting it for your project.
Concerns with security and stability
Choosing a reliable solution for your project is highly important, especially if the nature and environment of your application require a high level of stability and security. Unfortunately, although no-code solution makers have started paying more attention to security and stability aspects in the recent years as their areas of application are expanding, it’s no wonder that no-code platforms still can’t provide the level of reliability that can be reached by custom-developed solutions that specifically address all the potential risks associated with the given project and are thoroughly tested and adjusted before the launch.
Low-code is another approach that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It basically extends upon no-code’s capabilities by providing space for applying custom code. As a result, compared to no-code, low-code development allows for more flexibility and scalability but, at the same time, requires coding skills. Today, several different low-code solutions exist, and here are some of the most common use cases when such a platform can be applicable:
- Integrating an internal tool with a user-facing solution: for cases where there’s no ready solution, implementing a custom integration with code may be the only solution.
- Extending the functionality of coded apps. Easily add new features using pre-built components on top of your code.
- Detailed prototypes and betas: While the core functionality can be coded, you can quickly add new features with low-code platforms to easily test and iterate.
Now, let’s see what code development offers as opposed to the methods discussed above.
Code development is traditional coding, which is the most widely known and used approach to development. There is no limit to code development since it allows you to build anything that comes to mind. It would be a lie if I told you code development is extensively perfect, but we will discuss its cons later in the article.
Let’s talk about why many choose to build their projects with the coded approach.
- Code is the only way to handle the complexity of the development process.
- Code means more flexibility and a sense of ownership.
- Code is the most scalable solution for more complex products.
- Code is known to be the most secure way to build digital products.
As a result, the coded approach has several advantages, among which are:
Endless possibilities: You can build anything you want with code.
Building in highly secure environments: For example, healthcare, banking, or insurance.
Highly complex technologies: Building with AI, blockchain, NLP, and other fourth industrial revolution technologies.
Every good thing comes with a cost. Code development is not an exception. It is fittable for any project idea you have in mind, but you should consider the following disadvantages of code development.
Code development is pricey
One of the main disadvantages is the cost of building projects with code. You will have to take care of all the expenses incurred in the development process. The cost of developing a project with code will vary depending on your requirements. In any case, even the minimal budget is much larger than the monthly subscription to the no-code tools.
Finding quality developers may be a real challenge
Sure, there are many skilled developers out there, but finding a truly qualified specialist is difficult, especially when you have limited time and budget. Some developers charge a lot for their services, and their schedules are set weeks in advance. You’ll have to wait a while to scale such a specialist on your team, anywhere from a few days to a few months, which doesn’t seem like a good idea. As a solution, you may consider staff augmentation model and contact YouTeam for scaling your development team with top-notch contract engineers in a short amount of time.
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Nowadays, we can often hear that no-code is the future, and coding will become redundant at a certain point. However, that’s not really the case. Code is becoming even more important, with low- and no-code solutions complementing it. Moreover, someone will still have to code the no-code tools, which are then going to be used by non-developers. As we tried to demonstrate, there’s no right approach, and the method and set of tools you pick depend on the nature of the project you plan to undertake and the environment in which your final product is going to operate.
No-code solutions can be more suitable for entrepreneurs and independent creators looking to validate their ideas quickly, build a side hustle project, create a simple marketplace, and so on (although that’s gradually changing, and no-code solutions are becoming more powerful). However, for larger and more complex applications (e.g., enterprise solutions for HealthTech, FinTech, and other industries), where security and stability are crucial, custom-coded applications are the go-to solution.
Further on, in some cases, a hybrid approach (a combination of no-code, low-code, and code solutions) may be more relevant than picking something specific. Thus, people and organizations should rather be concerned with the outcome and not the limitations. It’s important to decide on the outcome you want to achieve first and then see which approach or a combination of approaches and platforms is most suited for producing that outcome.