Hey! 👋 Help us make the show better by taking our listener survey!

61: Building Apps with Low Code/No Code Development Tools

Published January 19, 2021
Run time: 08:10
Listen to this episode with one of these apps:

With a proliferation of low code/no code development tools on the market, these platforms can be an attractive option for businesses looking to build an app quickly without the use of an experienced software developer. But these tools have their limitations. Tim chats about the benefits and challenges of this development approach to help businesses determine if low code/no code apps are the right solution for their project.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How low code/no code tools work
  • Benefits to using this development approach for a business
  • Challenges to these types of tools

This episode is brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group, where we make sense of mobile app development with our non-technical approach to building custom mobile software solutions. Learn more at https://jmg.mn.

Recorded January 14, 2021 | Edited by Jordan Daoust | Produced by Jenny Karkowski

Episode Transcript:

Tim Bornholdt 0:00
Welcome to Constant Variables, a podcast where we take a non technical look at all things technical, and Tim Bornholdt. Let's get nerdy.

Before we get into this week's episode, I have a small favor to ask. We're conducting a survey of our listeners to hear your thoughts on the show, and help us plan content and guests that matter to you. We also want to know what some of your favorite podcasts are that you like to listen to. So if you have a minute, please head to constantvariables.co/survey. You can even fill it out while you're listening to this episode. That's constantvariables.co/survey.

Today, we are chatting about low code or no code development platforms. So these low code and no code tools have been growing rapidly due to a lack of skilled software developers and the need to improve turnaround time for development projects so business problems can be solved more quickly. So we're going to dive into the benefits and challenges of this development approach.

So what is a low code or no code development platform? Well, traditionally, the way that developers write code is by going into like a text editor of some sort, and typing out all the code line by line and then hitting compile, and then you're done. Well, low code or no code tools allow anyone to build an app using a friendly drag and drop interface. Back in the day, we used to call it WYSIWYG, an acronym for what you see is what you get. Meaning you can take these visual components and drag them around and align them in the way that you want to so the user can put it in the flow that they want.

There's a few benefits to this approach to development. You don't have to be a software developer, or hire one, to build an app. That's probably the biggest pro. You can just do this yourself. Everyday workers and teams can collaborate to build business apps to help them do their jobs. So for example, you can turn a repetitive task like some sort of form you have to fill in by hand into a mobile form. You could build some sort of project management tool using these.

Probably the best approach that I would recommend using these for is if you're going to prototype out a bigger app. So if you want to just get an idea down and get it in front of people to try it out and see what they think, this is a great way to do it.

The other major benefit to a low code or no code solution would be it frees up your development team from mundane programming activities. So if there's a really basic quick idea that you want to get out yourself, you don't even have to bother your development team. They can just go out and do it. If your development team is going to do it, they can build these apps much more quickly cecause they're not writing each line individually. They're just grabbing these pre written types of functions and dropping them in. As a result, they are able to spend more time developing custom apps that provide differentiating value to their organizations. There's a lot more value in writing custom code than there is by dragging around these little individual elements, so this obviously frees them up to actually write code that's going to generate a lot of value for your company.

So we covered a couple of pros. But it probably would come to no surprise that as a software developer, I recognize that there are a lot of challenges to these low code or no code tools. First of all, I think they don't provide a great user experience. Many of these solutions are just HTML webpages that are wrapped in an app, which means that you don't get a lot of the things that are built in when you build natively. So things like grabbing from the left edge and swiping to the right if you're trying to go back a page, for example, some of that stuff just isn't part of the solutions.

Accessibility is also another thing that isn't considered. Sometimes when you're building these solutions out as a organization that releases the tool itself, you don't consider accessibility first and foremost. So that can mean that even if your app works when you're tapping through it, if you have a visual impairment, and you need to use some of the accessibility tools that are baked into your phone, you might not be able to actually use them. So you're kind of hosing over some of your other potential users.

Another issue with the user experience is that you're going through a middleman to access some of these hardware components. So things like Bluetooth, GPS, especially if you're trying to connect to a custom Bluetooth device, that's not going to happen with one of these tools. You can really only build very basic, simple apps.

Another challenge is that these apps may not work across all devices. If you have older devices, for example, they may not be able to run these types of apps. Now you have this challenge to with native apps, but it's not quite the same as these no code solutions.

Another challenge is that while you may be saving some money on the outset, eventually, these tools can become more costly than if you're building natively. If you find that you spend a lot of time getting your app working right in this no code solution, and then you find that point by which you want to add something custom, more often than not, you just need to start from scratch with an actual native app in the first place.

And finally, perhaps the most important consideration, and the biggest con to using a low code or no code solution is the same con that I give when you're talking about building with a hybrid solution, like React Native. You don't have control. You are putting your destiny in the hands of another organization. Again, if you think of in your left hand, you've got yourself and in the right hand, you've got the iPhone, what you've got in the middle between the two is a middleman who has to translate what you're doing with the no code solution into something that the phone can understand. So if the company that is doing that middle translation part decides that, Hey, this isn't a good line of business for us anymore, we're done, then all of a sudden, you have to move to another tool, and that can stink. And it happens all the time with these types of solutions. We see companies come in all the time who started with a low code solution, and then they find out halfway through that, Oh, you know, we actually need to do something different. So that's probably the biggest challenge, which leads directly into my final thought.

Understand that low code and no code types of apps certainly have value and purpose. I see them as another tool in your toolbox. You have to know which nail you're going to hammer with this particular hammer and make sure that the problem that you're trying to solve is simple enough and basic enough that it can be achieved with a type of app like this. So my advice if you're going to invest in a no code app, make sure you do your homework upfront and make sure that you understand where those limitations are going to be. And if you are confused as to what those limitations might be, that's when you can reach out to me and I would be happy to help you understand when this would work well and why it wouldn't.

Well, that was a quick one. Maybe not for Jordan. He has to edit all of this. But for you the listener, this was a quick episode. Thank you so much for tuning in.

Today's show notes for this episode can be found at constantvariables.co. You can get in touch with us by emailing Hello@constantvariables.co. I'm @TimBornholdt on Twitter and the show is @CV_podcast. Today's episode was produced by Jenny Karkowski and edited by the feisty Jordan Daoust.

If you have a minute quick before you leave, I would love it if you left a review on the apple podcast app. It really doesn't take much time at all and it helps new people find our show. Just head to constantvariables.co/review and we'll link you right there. This episode was brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group. If you're looking for a technical team who can help make sense of mobile software development, give us a shout at jmg.mn.