How does No-Code/Low-Code Application Development platforms compare with traditional coding?
To build an application through writing code, you first decide on a targeted platform like Windows, LINUX or iOS for example, after which you choose the relevant language supported on each platform, for example C# on Windows. You can then start building your application by writing code in C# and compiling your code, before deploying it on a Windows Server. The dependencies you then have are the version of the .Net Framework that you targeted with your code, and you would need to refactor and recompile your code to maintain it appropriately, as Microsoft upgrades the .Net Framework periodically. Now when you put in all the effort to upgrade the App to target the latest version of the .Net framework, the Business User sees no incremental value, as no new functionality has been added.
If your custom code is not maintained over time, in a few years the code is termed legacy code, as it is built on an old version of the framework, and may not be following the new best practices, and the business may keep delaying an upgrade to the latest version of the .Net Framework, as they get no incremental value in terms of functionality by doing so. And when the business requests for new features or functionality in the application developed, you need to edit your code to add the functionality, and then recompile and deploy the updated application, which is a time consuming and expensive process.
The No-Code World:
In the No-code or Low-code world, there are foundational differences architecturally on how an application is developed and deployed. True No-code products like ClaySys AppForms are 100% metadata driven development platforms. This means that all the application functionality created by a developer is maintained as Metadata (Data that describes data). This Metadata is then interpreted when an application runs, to render the App Interface to the end users.
The key components of a No-code Metadata driven platform are a Designer Interface, where you can use a Drag and Drop Experience, to create the functionality required. Typically this means designing a library of integrated forms that interact with the necessary business data in Databases, Web Service End Points or any other target data API. The output of the No-code Designer when you publish any functionality created, is a Metadata file, where in the case of ClaySys AppForms, we generate a JSON Metadata file. This Metadata file is maintained on the ClaySys AppForms Server. The End User who then consumes or interacts with the App created using ClaySys, connects to a module we call the ‘App Browser’ which interprets the Metadata behind an App deployed, and dynamically renders the App UI in HTML5 for the End User in their Web Browser.
So in summary, for a No-code Platform, you have a Designer Tool that generates Metadata, you have a Server and you have a App Browser to renders the HTML5 App UI to the End Users.
The advantage of this architecture is that when newer versions of the Designer, Server and App Browser are released, and when a customer upgrades the ClaySys Platform version, all functionality created using the platform in the past continues to work. So in this respect, any functionality created using a No-code platform is ‘Future-proof’, in the sense that the functionality created continues to work with future versions of the platform. So the experience is like Microsoft Excel, where with each new release of Excel, the old Excel files created in earlier versions of Excel, continue to work.
Advantages to creating applications using a No-code Platform:
- Lower Skill set Required – Since No-code/Low-code platforms provide configuration based design experiences, the skills required to create functionality are similar to the skills required to configure an Excel Spreadsheet. This widens the group of individuals who can participate in building applications, as there is not developer level skillset required.
- Speed to market – Since configuration is significantly faster than writing, debugging and compiling code, end user functionality can be created exponentially faster. In our testing we have seen productivity increases of 6x to 10x depending on the complexity of the App being developed.
- Security – Since all Web Form Vulnerabilities are hardened in the App Browser module, any Web App created using ClaySys AppForms has a much higher level of security, compared to typical web applications. This is because any new vulnerability identified needs to only be fixed in the App Browser module, and all Forms and Apps already created now inherit the latest security protection. This is simply not possible in the traditional coding architecture, and the code behind each form or module will need to be edited to build in the necessary defences.
- Agile Change Management- Since Metadata driven platforms like ClaySys AppForms support metadata versioning for any changes made to applications, it supports true agile development and change management, as you can roll back a change that broke something with a single click. This options builds confidence, and the business can roll out changes rapidly, after basic testing, and if a showstopper issue is identified, they can quickly roll back that particular form or module to its prior stable state.
Once the benefits of building business applications using No-code/Low-code platforms like ClaySys are experienced, it really opens up the opportunity to feasibly build business applications both at the department level and the enterprise level, to continuously automate, monitor and optimize business processes.