Low-code vs. no-code refers to visual interfaces that allow us to build websites or applications without having to have a computer science degree or advanced programming knowledge. If you have great ideas but don’t know how to code, then you might be considering something that involves as little pro as possible.
When starting a project, it is vital to see if there is demand for your idea in the first place. However, traditional methods require a deep understanding of programming or a technical team to bring an idea to life. Instead of building a complex app from the ground up, consider a no-code or low-code solution.
In today’s article, we’ll explore the difference between low-code and no-code. We’ll discuss a few of the pros and cons, and talk about different use cases where they might apply. We’ll even get into a few of the best low-code and no-code platforms. Let’s get into it!
Low-Code vs. No-Code: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Initial Skill Required||Introductory Programming Experience||None|
|Learning Curve||Medium — Knowing a language or having some programming experience is necessary||Minimal — Platform-specific rules will need to be learned|
|Target audience||Developers wanting to speed up their flow or people with limited experience||People with little to no coding experience such as business professionals or citizen developers|
|Interface||Visual with text interface aspects||Visual only|
|Cost||Can be cheap but as your project scales your costs will quickly scale to match – up to thousands of dollars||Extremely affordable, even the most expensive plans likely won’t be extremely costly.|
|Purpose||Anywhere from simple portals or data collection to core business applications||More simple or departmental apps – single use-case or tailored use-case applications|
|Customization||Extensive — Able to integrate with most legacy systems and can be extended as necessary in most cases||Extremely limited — Unless the platform has specific extension tools, you are limited to what is provided|
Low-Code vs. No-Code: What’s the Difference?
When looking at the no-code and low-code, it’s easy to see how similar they are! Both offer a visual approach to quick app development. Plus, they are more accessible and abstract away a lot of the actual code and even build the architecture necessary to run a web application.
In the software world, we call this a Platform as a Service, or PaaS for short. The solutions are data-driven, meaning you can do everything you need — as long as you know the data your application will need to work with and what the application uses that data for. This is to make development accessible to anyone and to make the process much faster overall. These are where most of the similarities end, so let’s explore both of these more in-depth.
Initial Skill Required
No-code, as the name implies, requires no coding knowledge at all to start out. The interface is visual, and the components are specific to the platform. So, anyone starting out will be on the same playing field. All you need is the ability to learn about the specific no-code platform you’ve chosen.
Low-code, however, has a bit of a curb to jump over before you can really make something. Despite still having a visual interface and premade components, you will need a basic understanding of programming to get any real benefits from low-code.
As mentioned previously, no-code systems only require you to learn the specific rules of the platform you’ve chosen. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. Typically, platforms do have resources available to help with learning.
But you’ll still need to spend some time figuring out what each component does, and how you can achieve your project goals. Conversely, no-code systems benefit from having a low-skill floor — and a low-skill ceiling, as well.
No-code systems can be limiting. Unless your PaaS provider decides to add more features or extend their platform to have direct integrations with other services, what you see is what you get.
It’s not uncommon for providers to update their services, especially to keep up with demand or to expand their offerings. But don’t expect to meet your super-specific needs if you find yourself needing a particular component.
Low-code systems, on the other hand, offer extensive customization. Connecting to existing systems, third-party systems, or adding functionality not present to the platform is all possible.
No-code systems are not only accessible, but they are usually much cheaper than traditional and low-code solutions. Both low-code and no-code have a free-to-start model, but if you’re going to use your project at scale, even in small cases, you’ll need to switch to a paid plan.
Since no-code Platforms optimize the components and templates available to use, they can allocate their resources more efficiently. These savings are passed on to the consumer through lower prices. Low-code systems tend to have higher plan costs overall. But this is because they have less control over how optimized your system may be.
Since you’re allowed to edit base components, even if the scope of what you build is entirely premade, they have to account for inefficiency — and even the infrastructure to take and run new code. So, costs will be higher. Depending on the amount of freedom the platform’s users have, you might unknowingly create inefficiencies that lead to higher operational costs.
No-code is the perfect option for those with zero coding experience. No-code platforms aim themselves toward business individuals and people who don’t necessarily know programming. But they’re especially good for trying a concept or idea without having to spend a lot of money and manhours to achieve a working product.
For those with programming experience, low-code is great, as it strikes a happy medium between no-code’s speed and traditional development’s extensibility. Low-code also boasts the ability to work with existing systems, so it could be a bridge between existing solutions and the extended function needed to grow. If the needs of your project could approach the enterprise level, then low-code is the way to go.
No-Code vs. Low-Code: 7 Must-Know Facts
- Both are visual interfaces made to allow users to build their solutions through drag-and-drop components, made to be more accessible than traditional methods of building a computer application.
- No-code and low-code refer to types of Platform-as-a-Service methods, where the actual infrastructure behind your program is abstracted away behind the visual interface.
- Learning will be a part of both options since each provider is different, but no-code has a lower skill floor to start and a lower skill ceiling to master, whereas low-code options will have an initial skill requirement. They will be much more powerful for large projects.
- You can use no-code for anything from personal websites and event forms to e-commerce and basic applications. Low-code is better for data analytics, mobile applications, and you can even use it to create a full enterprise application.
- These services are scalable. Most times, you’ll need a premium plan, but PaaS providers expect your product to grow rapidly, so data and design will be your main worries.
- A business or project may end up using both of these solutions, only one, or neither. The most important factor is the desired use case.
- Pricing varies from platform to platform, and it’s often not very simple to leave a platform once you’ve established your project there. It is critical to determine if the platform you choose matches the needs you have.
No-Code vs. Low-Code: Pros and Cons
|Speeds up developers of any experience level.||Requires initial programming skills to really get started.|
|Customizable and extensible, implement your own code with and around premade components.||Costs scale as your product does, and plan pricing factors in the ability to customize.|
|Community content, such as community-created components.||Vendors will still lock in the aspects of your business that they can.|
|Flexible to meet data regulation and compliance needs.||Updates to your platform can affect your modified or created code.|
|It is easy to start for anyone, from those with no experience to development professionals.||Limited to the tools you’re given.|
|Easy to use, focus only on your data goals.||Security is entirely on the PaaS provider.|
|Affordable for smaller projects.||Extremely abstracted; a lot of your data is processed behind closed doors.|
|Quick to get a project working.||Vendor Lock-In sets in quickly.|
|Minimal maintenance is needed.|
No-Code vs. Low-Code: Use Cases
Now that we have a decent understanding of both no-code and low-code, let’s clarify some examples of where you can use them and why these methods would better fill certain niches.
No-Code Use Cases
If your project would benefit from a website/application but would be bloated with a dedicated IT team, then no-code is likely your best option. Projects that focus on things like updating and displaying various content, projects that have simple forms and data tracking, or even projects that rely on established principles are all good fits.
No-code is extremely popular for budding entrepreneurs. If you are building a simple website to sell your merchandise, you can use a no-code site builder such as Wix or Shopify. Other good use cases for no-code platforms are:
- Training or Educational Sites
- Survey Sites or Feedback forms
- Calendar or Planning sites
- Niche Community Information Sites
Low-Code Use Cases
If an IT team would be a good addition to your project or if you have an existing IT team, then low-code is a great option! Low-code is great for a variety of project types because it allows for niche and custom uses, as well as for other businesses and existing infrastructure to integrate.
Low-code is more popular with larger businesses as opposed to single entrepreneurs. Companies will commonly rely on low-code platforms such as Zoho and Salesforce for managing their clients and employees. Other good examples include:
- Enterprise Resource Planning software
- Customer Relationship Management
- Business Workflow Automation
- Complex Mobile Apps
- Internal Business Sites
- Data Analysis and Visualization
- Business Middleware
No-Code vs. Low-Code: What Should I Use?
When figuring out which one to use, it’s important to evaluate your project’s scope. Look at things like budget, time available, data security requirements, existing resources, and, most importantly what you’re trying to achieve.
If you’re a single person with no coding experience but lofty ideas, it may feel tempting to pick low-code over no-code. But it is better to be able to complete a simple version of a project rather than waste time trying to finish something bigger than you could chew.
It also may seem better for an experienced developer to pick low-code because of the flexibility and scale it offers. But for creating a blog or basic project, you can save a lot of cost and effort by using no-code.
If the concept is simple enough or something that you can easily replicate, then you can most likely achieve it with no-code platforms. If it is something that wouldn’t need a dedicated development and IT team, then you’ll definitely be able to launch with no-code.
Projects that need to do complex manipulation and analysis of data also benefit from low-code customization, as no-code options may not be able to fill every need depending on the platform.
It’s also important to remember that despite vendor lock-in being a concern, launching your product or idea is the most important aspect. Even in the worst case, you may have to re-engineer your project entirely. However, being able to use your initial success to fuel your growth will be much easier than attempting to build the perfect project the first time. Some platforms also offer data export features, so consider this if you’re not entirely sure which option to pick.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©ArtemisDiana/Shutterstock.com.