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Low-Code is a Tool, Not a Toy: Embracing Efficiency in Modern Development

In the rapidly evolving landscape of software development, the emergence of low-code platforms has been met with a mix of curiosity and skepticism. Some view low code as a simplified, amateurish approach to programming, others recognize it as a powerful tool to help streamline the development process. In reality, low-code is a legitimate tool that holds huge potential to transform the way we develop software.

In this post I shed light on why low-code is an important asset, how it has the potential to take the brunt of the workload from traditional coding, and why programmers shouldn’t be too quick to fear or dismiss low-code.

The Legitimacy of Low Code

Low-code platforms provide a visual interface that enables developers to design applications using pre-made, drag-and-drop components and a minimal amount of manual coding. Contrary to misconceptions, this doesn't mean that low-code development is simplistic or unsophisticated. Instead, it empowers developers to focus on high-level design and logic, while the platform handles the underlying intricacies.

The following are a few of the benefits that low-code platforms offer.

Rapid Prototyping and Deployment

Low-code allows for the swift creation and deployment of applications. With pre-built components and intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces, developers can design functional prototypes in a fraction of the time compared to traditional coding.

Accessibility and Collaboration

Low-code democratizes development by allowing professionals with varying levels of coding expertise to contribute. This fosters collaboration between business stakeholders, designers, and developers, leading to more agile and effective development cycles.

Reduced Maintenance Burden

The visual nature of low-code platforms simplifies debugging and maintenance, as it's easier to identify and rectify issues. This leads to more stable, reliable applications with fewer post-deployment headaches.

Visual Interface

Low-code platforms provide simple, visual interfaces for creation of applications which help to speed up development and aid accessibility. Some people are more visually-minded, and low-code interfaces allow these people to develop programs and applications without the need to deal with the sometimes complex grammar and syntax of a coding language.

A woman typing code at a computer. Created by Bing Image Creator

The Shift from Traditional Coding

While traditional coding has been the bedrock of software development for decades, its dominance is gradually waning in the face of technological advancements. This comes not just from low-code solutions, but also a wave of AI-powered programming co-pilots that are just now entering the market.

High Learning Curve

Traditional coding often requires extensive training and experience, making it less accessible for newcomers. Low-code, on the other hand, allows individuals with diverse backgrounds to contribute meaningfully to development efforts.

Too Many Options

According to Wikipedia, over 80 programming languages have been created since 2000, and this doesn’t even include non-executable languages such as markup languages (e.g. HTML). Different sources place the current number of programming languages at anywhere between 700 and 6000. As a developer, trying to pick the best language or languages to learn for your career can be a daunting and difficult task.

Enhanced Productivity

Low-code streamlines the development process by reducing the need for manual coding. This results in faster project delivery and increased productivity, a critical advantage in today's fast-paced business environment.

Focus on Creativity and Innovation

With low-code handling routine coding tasks, developers can redirect their efforts towards creative problem-solving and innovation, leading to more inventive and user-centric applications.

Two young software developers shaking hands. Created by Bing Image Creator

Friend, not Foe

One of the arguments against low-code I’ve heard a few times is that it isn’t ‘real development’. The feeling is that because the developer doesn't execute every step of the creation process themselves, the end result is somehow de-valued; that the developer is somehow less skilled. I can imagine that’s how machine language programmers may have felt when the first high-level programming languages came out.

Similar shifts have occurred in other industries without undermining the industry or causing the quality of output to drop. Rather, they have fostered new opportunities for creativity and innovation. Take the music industry, as an example. The advent of Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) and home studios didn't replace professional musicians, but instead opened up a world of possibilities for artists and producers to experiment, collaborate, and bring their visions to life. Similarly, low-code isn't about replacing programmers, but about empowering them with a more efficient tool-set.

By embracing low-code, coders can evolve with the changing landscape of software development

Building Blocks

Developers already rely heavily on pre-made elements. Libraries, functions, and methods are the building blocks of coding, allowing developers to make use of existing solutions and focus on higher-level matters. High-level programming languages such as Python already offer a short-cut in not needing to write directly in an assembly language, which in turn is a short cut from writing raw binary.

Low-code is a natural extension of this principle, providing an even more efficient way to implement common functionalities. Rather than reinventing the wheel for every project, low-code allows developers to accelerate their workflow by using pre-built components, thereby freeing up time and mental bandwidth for more complex and creative tasks.

Best Practices

Low-code actually helps to enforce and propagate some of the best practices of coding by simplifying the reuse of components and encouraging free use of commenting and notation. Many low-code tools include built-in functionality to set common design guidelines and best practices and enforce them across all projects and modules.

In essence, low-code isn't a threat to traditional coding, but a boon. It complements the skills of developers, enhancing their capabilities and enabling them to deliver higher quality software in less time. By embracing low-code, coders can evolve with the changing landscape of software development, positioning themselves as more versatile and effective professionals in the modern age. It's not about abandoning what we know, but about using new technologies to push the boundaries of what we can create.

Coders make the best low-coders

A firm understanding of coding best practices and sound knowledge of at least one language is still a prerequisite for using low-code solutions. After all, low-code isn’t no code. Despite the sales hype that anyone can program an application within minutes with zero training, the reality is that you do need to be able to code to use low-code solutions, even if it's in small amounts. Understanding the tenets of good quality coding - such as re-usability; readability and maintainability - is also essential to creating good quality products, regardless of whether you’re coding, or low-coding.

Consider traditional coding as crafting a complex dish from raw ingredients, where you have to painstakingly chop, measure, and prepare each component. In contrast, low-code is a bit more like baking, where you have a well-stocked pantry of pre-measured ingredients, enabling you to focus on the art of combining flavors and textures. There will always be a place for skilled chefs (and skilled programmers), but you shouldn’t need to understand how to build an oven in order to bake a cake.

Wrapping Up

Low-code isn’t just a toy, it’s a powerful tool that holds the potential to greatly increase efficiency in software development. As we witness the evolution of the development landscape, it's crucial to recognize that low-code is not a replacement for traditional coding, but a complementary approach that maximizes efficiency and creativity. By embracing low code and other new innovations such as AI co-pilots, developers can unlock new levels of productivity and innovation, propelling the industry forward into an era of streamlined, accessible, and collaborative software development.

Felix Oehl
Competence Lead RPA | Business Automation Consultant at Ordina

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Maurits van der Kamp

Solution Lead Teams & Power Apps Innovation