Low-code no-code movement: a game-changer for the world of digital services

06 Dec 2021

Understanding the secret code that powers the work of software has long been the privilege of developers. For them, it’s not a mystery at all — just the professional use of a programming language. Non-tech-savvy people have not even dreamed of creating digital experiences, and every change in an app or a website usually required the developer’s input with coding.

All this has been true until the emergence of the low-code/no-code movement. Our team is interested in exploring this trend because our website development services are based on one of the platforms that offer great opportunities for non-tech-savvy people — Drupal. Read on to find out more about the low-code/no-code movement and how it influences the software creation world.

What is low-code no-code movement?

The low-code no-code (LCNC) movement empowers both programmers and non-programmers to create, modify, enhance, or integrate software with the help of a graphical user interface with little to no coding. The term “low-code” was coined by Forrester, a research and advisory company, and brought to the masses by Gartner, a technology research and consulting company.

The main principle of the movement is that technology should facilitate software creation instead of being a stumbling block on the way to it. The movement is aimed at making software development more accessible to a wider audience and increasing the productivity and efficiency of the workflows.

LCNC development removes the abyss between programmers and non-programmers. In this context, the movement has given us a new term — citizen developer — that we are going to discuss next.

Citizen developers: who are they?

Citizen developers are employees without formal training in software development who can build apps or websites or their capabilities using LCNC platforms. The term “citizen developer” was introduced by Gartner. The official definition in their information technology glossary goes like this:

“A citizen developer is an employee who creates application capabilities for consumption by themselves or others, using tools that are not actively forbidden by IT or business units.”

A citizen developer is not a job title — it’s a user persona with the corresponding skills. This can be anyone in a company with minimum technical knowledge. In their organizations, citizen developers are part of some departments other than IT. They are business users, and the LCNC opportunities enable them to implement business ideas.

Low-code/no-code platforms

LCNC platforms are visual development environments that allow for creating websites or apps via a graphical user interface instead of program coding. They focus on development simplicity and ease of use. Additional coding may not be required at all or be helpful for implementing specific requirements.

These platforms offer a wide range of options from creating a website or app from scratch to managing their content on an everyday basis without a developer’s help. This can also be something in between development and content management (for example, building a new landing page of a website in a sequence of small and intuitively understandable steps).

Instead of tons of code lines, one can use libraries of templates, visual cues, drag-and-drop features, WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editors, customizable design elements, and much more in LCNC frameworks’ arsenal.

The difference between no-code and low-code

These two terms are part of the same movement and are often used interchangeably, but here are some differences between them.

No-code Low-code
Development involves no code writing. Development still uses the code writing option in addition to working with the Graphical User Interface of the framework.
Tools are primarily targeted at marketers who need to solve basic functional use cases. Tools are successfully used by developers to achieve their development goals faster by assembling software of visual blocks resembling Lego bricks.
Frameworks have a focus on simplicity and drag-and-drop features and enable the creation of basic but functional apps, yet customization is a weak point of these apps. Frameworks are something in between no-code and fully manual coding, allowing for more extensibility and scalability while offering great visual interfaces as well.

Still, there is always a programming language behind the software, so the difference between LC and NC in practice is often blurred. The reality shows that it is difficult to create fully-functional business apps with no coding. According to Forrester, “no-code” has become a marker for products aimed at empowering business users and it is an aspiration and only sometimes a reality.

Across the web, you will often see this difference defined by Gartner:

  • ‘No-code’ is a marketing term, implying the tool is for non-professional developers.
  • “‘Low-code’ tools often support scripting for capabilities beyond only a “no-code” approach.

Gartner now has an updated description of the difference in the Quick Answer section of their website’s glossary calling these two terms overused. According to Gartner, the terms are “confusing application and software engineering leaders about which development tools to choose. Leaders should focus on evaluating these tools based on their fit to use cases and skillsets, rather than the labels used to describe the products.”

The impact of the movement on digital services

This LCNC approach has revolutionized the world of IT services as it has given huge powers to non-technical people. Businesses get a great degree of independence from development teams. They can reduce their development expenses, improve their software’s time-to-market, and respond to their industry’s ever-changing trends more efficiently.

The question that often arises in relation to the movement is whether the developers’ work is no longer so much needed for businesses. However, LCNC is not a replacement for the services of a development team — they co-exist in a win-win partnership. While organizations save on their budgets, reach their goals faster, and focus on how to make the product more efficient and attractive for end users, software developers are relieved from simple, repetitive, and routine tasks and devote their time to technically complex ideas that are going to bring a higher value.

Both business users and developers can also collaborate within the same project and offer valuable input from their perspectives. The collaboration between IT and business teams, just like between the IT and other departments within an organization, is greatly facilitated by the low-code/no-code platforms because all participants have an understanding of what is going on.

And, of course, a good reason why software development services will be needed anyway is that relying on out-of-the-box functionalities of the LCNC platforms cannot satisfy most businesses. Organizations often need to add specific features that help them solve their business goals in the preferred ways or make their software stand out. This is especially true for spheres like third-party integration and reporting. As a result, at least some parts of business applications usually need to be coded anyway. For this purpose, the services of development teams are indispensable. At this point, we would like to mention a very good Forrester’s recommendation — to have realistic expectations about low-code and know that your organization’s software delivery speed and flexibility will increase even if your projects require some coding.

In addition, LCNC frameworks still require a good understanding of their principles of work, so developers’ support is needed in many cases in order to prevent “low code” from resulting in “low quality.” Given the above, the partnership between businesses and IT is here to stay.

What’s next? A glance into the future

The recent Gartner’s forecast says that despite the pandemic-related cost-optimization efforts, low-code adoption has grown due to the surge in remote development. The market of low-code development technologies is expected to reach $13.8 billion in 2021, which is a 22.6% increase from 2020. The largest share in the low-code development technology market will belong to low-code application platforms (LCAP) — they are projected to increase by nearly 30% from 2020 to reach $5.8 billion in 2021.

Drupal as a low-code no-code platform

The Drupal CMS empowers non-coders through its user-friendly UIs, a robust core package of modules for creating a website, and tons of contributed modules for building various features with no necessity to touch the programming code. With each new release, Drupal is getting more equipped with new solutions that help you do things through the UI — a handy drag-and-drop Layout Builder for creating pages, Drupal’s web services for easy third-party integration, automatic updates, and many other features.

This was discussed by Drupal’s creator Dries Buytaert as he gave his DrupalCon North America 2021’s keynote about the latest Drupal 9 development news. He said that the journey of many Drupal-ists starts with feeling quickly empowered by Drupal’s low code approach. According to the feedback, this is the key thing that makes people love Drupal. Drupal enables them to build ambitious things quickly and easily through the user interface. These are more complex and powerful things than they would be able to build with other tools.

“They could do all of this with sort of low code or no code or — whatever you want to call it — minimum code,” — said Dries. He emphasized that, with Drupal, you can write some code or a lot of code in Drupal if you want to, but the fact is that you can do so much through a UI.

Interested in the opportunities of LCNC development for your business? Let’s talk!