Modern businesses have multiple options when it comes to planning and designing their software platforms and apps. A key area of debate in this realm is whether to use low-code or pro-code. Both can achieve the same goals and issues but in different ways. In this article, I detail their strengths and drawbacks, and the key differences between them to help you make an informed choice.
Low-Code and Pro-Code Defined
Low-code development refers to a development approach that does not require the developer to manually type out the code that powers an app. Low-code platforms typically abstract pieces of code into visual artifacts and enable users to manipulate those artifacts with drag-and-drop tooling. Low-code is different from no-code – a completely code-free development approach – in that it still usually involves some application of manual code along the way.
Pro-code is the term we're using to refer to conventional professional development. It consists of a trained software engineer manually writing code in accordance with best coding practices.
What Types of Projects Are Using Low-Code?
Low-code adoption is hampered by fears around a lack of flexibility. Many companies think that low code may not be feature-rich enough to help them build their custom apps.
In an industry survey on the use of low-code, 50% respondents said they utilized it to build partner- and customer-facing web apps or portals, and 49% indicated that they used it for employee-facing web apps or portals. Low-code is also used to create mobile apps for customers, employees, and partners. A good 31% of businesses stated that they have utilized low-code to build solutions to extend or replace their existing legacy platforms.
Importance of Low-Code
The above stats reveal that low-code can be leveraged by organizations to develop important applications for their business. It is especially useful for creating web and mobile apps with sensitive delivery timelines that serve business partners and customers.
Low-Code Use Cases
Digital core platforms: You can use low-code to develop business-critical solutions and deliver digital re-platforming and legacy modernization programs. A low-code solution can improve the agility of digital core platforms and facilitate effective governance and risk management.
Consumer digital experiences: Provide engaging self-service applications, captivating experiences, and attractive portals to your users and customers. Low-code tools are enabling businesses to reduce delivery times from months to just days and offer more robust products based on user feedback. You can effortlessly produce engagement platforms that meet current and future consumer requirements.
Digital operations: Develop brilliant mobile and web workforce apps, operational dashboards, workflows, and employee portals to support all processes.
A low-code platform can improve digital operations and transformation by decreasing time-to-market, bridging gaps in IT skills, and boosting efficiency. It can be used to create and optimize company processes, minimize operational costs, and facilitate transparency across multiple kinds of operations.
You also needn't worry that low-code may not allow you to create solutions that utilize the latest technologies like blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), or the Internet of Things (IoT). In the above survey, 69% of respondents said they used low-code to accelerate digital transformation and innovation. 55% used it for the purpose of reducing IT backlog and increasing business responsiveness. 38% revealed they wished to decrease reliance on hard-to-find technical skills.
Other purposes include protection from technology changes (16%), freedom from legacy systems (19%), and enabling citizen developers (21%).
What Types of Projects Should Use Pro-Code?
Pro-code use is inevitable, as there is no single logical pattern that can cover all scenarios and conditions of software development. This makes it impossible to create a set of drag-and-drop coding components that account for every edge case. Today, raw programming has been pushed to the background as software development is all about platforms, stack, database, data sources, APIs, network layers, and security mechanisms that you utilize to create client-server solutions.
At the same time, qualified professionals are needed to build secure, scalable custom apps, and a trained eye is necessary to build protected authentication infrastructures with sophisticated user interfaces. A low-code system can handle the stack, including software layers such as the container platform, hosting, micro-services, database servers, client applications, workflow objects, and all the APIs, security, libraries, and artifacts that make the app work. However, you'll need to tackle the logic.
For instance, in the retail sector, pro-code permits specialists to accurately perform complicated pricing computations for thousands of products that are stored in several warehouses. These items may be delivered by dozens of suppliers. Thus, pro-code is necessary to configure this integrated suite of microservices and to transfer the complex regulations of purchasing to a centralized solution.
This would be far too complex of a workflow for existing low-code tools, but pro-code allows you to seamlessly integrate all systems of record and rigorously document the data flows you have created. Pro-code is the best way for you to maximize the abilities of your different teams.
How Can You Use Both Low-Code and Pro-Code to Create a Project?
It's not desirable to restrict low-code to single-purpose, simple apps, or only for front-end design. This prevents agile development and creates a barrier between teams. A better solution would be to combine low-code's capabilities with the expertise of full-stack and citizen developers to enable smooth collaboration between pro-code and low-code (a citizen developer is a business user with little coding knowledge who can use low-code tools to build apps for others' benefit).
The important point is not to restrict the data from business logic solutions only to front-end apps. Instead, you can allow full-stack developers to produce an intermediate micro-services layer that exposes the main features as APIs. This can make the data more easily usable in the low-code system.
The above method makes your low-code platform a key part of your app infrastructure. It enables IT architects and full-stack builders to consume information from any database or business system and boost the data streams by producing platform-agnostic business and IT logic. This includes merging with the low-code solution configuration by producing visual models of the user interface, process flows logic, and data. The approach enables you to lift the business domain above individual applications and apply agility and innovation across both your IT and business teams.
By combining pro-code and low-code, you can maximize the potential of cross-functional teams who can configure front-end apps for different user segments in a model-driven, low-code, easy-to-use designer product. This platform can support user needs across the spectrum and provide each user group with a useful digital product for their needs.
Pros and Cons of Low-Code
Now, let’s consider the advantages and drawbacks of low-code:
Pros of Low-Code:
- Enhanced development agility and speed
- No need to use correct command formation and syntax – express tasks as high-level ideas
- Rely on algorithms and libraries to produce most of the app codebase
- Low-code solutions facilitate more rapid software development and can also accelerate changes and updates to the created product
- Minimize the risks created by rogue or unsanctioned programming such as shadow IT
- Enable non-programmers to develop software and apps
- Track code and impose standards automatically for an auditable codebase
- You can still request developer intervention to help with optimizations, fixes, and other types of support
- Impose common controls over the preferences and rule sets used by the platform to create the code
- Monitor users and alterations to produce auditable change and activity logs.
Cons of Low-Code:
- Third-party integration support is limited
- Low-code minimizes your ability to optimize source code
- No control over application performance
- Apps possess bigger codebases because code libraries need to handle numerous conditions and tasks to meet an array of low-code purposes
- You don't know if the code is compromised, which can pose compliance and security risks for a business.
- Confined to common use cases supported by the platform
Pros and Cons of Pro-Code
Next, let's evaluate the benefits and downsides of pro-code:
Pros of Pro-Code:
- Allows you to develop early prototypes which you can then build on top of in order to make your app a reality
- Enables your team to better comprehend the product's structure
- Accurately estimate the time it will take to create a new feature
- Easily delve into the code and find and fix bugs
- Build new synapses within the product
Cons of Pro-Code:
- Labor-intensive process can draw resources away from other projects
- Skilled professional developers are hard to find and expensive to employ
- Learning programming takes a lot of time and talent, and non-technical employees may be able to assemble app logic even if they don't know how to program
Crowdbotics for Low-Code and Pro-Code
Crowdbotics offers the best of both approaches by providing a low-code platform with on-demand access to managed app builds from experts.
Crowdbotics' automated app scaffolding and drag-and-drop visual tooling is faster than coding from scratch. The platform also includes a preview window, plugins, text inputs, storyboarding view, pre-built templates, an integrated IDE, and more. Moreover, projects developed on Crowdbotics can be exported to GitHub for full coding flexibility.
If you have a need for conventional custom development Crowdbotics also offers managed app development by our expert PMs and developers. Get in touch with us today to discuss a quote and timeline for your custom app.