No-code tools and platforms: The future of software development?

No-code tools and platforms: The future of software development?

Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez

The practice of no-code is becoming one of the growing tech trends in software development, and as a Nearshore development software company, here at Scio we take a look at what it could mean for our industry, and where the future of digital applications may be headed. Enjoy!

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From the very beginning, computers had the power to make our life easier as long as we knew how to speak in the same language as them, but as these machines became common in our daily lives, the way we interfaced with them changed, and little by little the prospect of building programs and products through them started to be, more inclusive of more and more people getting involved. .

A good example is the simple act of editing a text document on a computer; nowadays it’s as easy as opening a word processor and start typing, but there was a point in time when you needed to understand special commands, known then as “control codes” (the grandparents of modern mark-up code) to produce a legible, well formatted document.

Things like margins, font sizes, and line spacing had to be manually calibrated before you could write anything printable, so the practice of writing in a computer was out of reach of most people until the arrival of WYSIWYG, an acronym of “What You See Is What You Get”, which is a system that simplified this process, showing you the end result of a document as you worked on it.

In other words, there was a point where we understood the need to adapt the use of a computer as a tool for common people, offering the ability of accomplishing things, like writing a text, making a presentation or even creating a website without having to go through the lengthy process of learning code.

WYSIWYG was a huge step into making computer software friendly, and today we can consider it one of the first examples of “no-code”: the ability to create digital objects in a quick and simplified way, which now seems one of the biggest trends in software development. However, what would a future with a “no-code” ethos be like?

A growing demand

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Today, you can think of “no-code” as a way to program websites, mobile apps, and games without using codes, scripts, or sets of commands. There are many no-code development platforms out there that allow both programmers and non-programmers alike to create software through simple graphical user interfaces instead of traditional line-by-line coding, and they are becoming more common day after day by virtue of their simplicity. 

No-code is simply an abstraction layer over code. Meaning, it takes the fundamentals of code and translates them into simple drag-and-drop solutions — allowing creators to build modern apps and websites visually. A no-code development platform can deliver all of the functionality of HTML5, CSS, and Javascript, but you don’t have to know any of these programming languages to jump in and start building,indicates Webflow, a provider of such platforms.

Although low/no-code (LCNC) has been around for a while, it’s only recently that the software development community is taking notice. In 2018, Gartner predicted that by 2024, “low-code development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity“, and software development research firm Forrester has called low-code “the most significant trend affecting software development today.

The result is that today many platforms provide ways for users to create their own solutions, and developers have found it easier and more convenient than ever before to use them, in order to satisfy a growing demand from customers who want software quickly without having any hassle or stress attached. 

This, in turn, has led companies across all industries to not only develop these types of products but also hire people specializing solely in developing computer programs through no-code platforms — a trend known as “shifting left” by some industry veterans due to its increasing popularity among younger generations.

However, what’s driving this no-code movement? There are a few factors, and the main one is the increasing democratization of software development. In the past, programming used to be a dark art, known only to a select few who were brave enough to learn its secrets and understand how to apply them effectively. But with the rise of no-code platforms, the barriers of entry for software development are now much lower, and virtually anyone can create software, regardless of their coding ability. But what does this landscape look like?

The democratization of software development

If you are part of the software development industry, you have seen it: the demand for software developers of all kinds has skyrocketed during the last decade (especially when you factor in the sudden need for technological solutions after the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020),  so to satisfy this demand, many platforms have started to offer low-code/no-code alternatives that let people without prior experience in programming to create their own software; a sort of “Development-as-a-Service” (DaaS) paradigm where software development is increasingly accessible to the masses.

This, obviously, has resulted in the increasing popularization of digital solutions for businesses and entrepreneurs of every kind, who now are seeing the technological barriers of the past start breaking down, giving the chance to most people to “leap ahead” and participate in a world where software is increasingly critical to success, giving them the ability to develop some basic software to suit their needs”, said Luis Aburto, CEO and Co-Founder of Scio, about this new trend.

However, this democratization, although desirable and necessary in our modern, technologically-focused world, also comes with downsides that most enterprises should be aware of. And first and foremost is: how does innovation work when an organization depends on quick, ready-made solutions for its unique challenges?

Low-code tooling does not replace the need for traditionally-built enterprise applications. There will always be needs for pro-developer built solutions such as critical APIs, low-latency, high-performance web applications, or even native mobile apps”, says Software Architect and Vice-President of OneStream Software, Ryan Berry. “Low-code tooling builds a bridge to allow the business to enhance portfolios of both commercial off-the-shelf and in-house built applications, allowing citizen developers the ability to rapidly build applications such as input forms, data validation applications and remote monitoring or management tools.

And although this is an important step toward digitalization, software development is much more than just building a product; compliance, scalability, security, and even the need to touch all the points of an organization to make sure the product is actually achieving a goal is not something that can be built with a few clicks in a platform. Ultimately, even no-code solutions require expertise and management to ensure success in a project.

Security, in particular, is the bigger concern with the rapid adoption of DaaS and NC/LC software, where depending on a single platform, accessing sensitive data can be a trivial task. One problem with some low-code and no-code platforms is that end-users are sometimes in a position to make decisions about configurations, permissions, and access controls. […] There are inherent risks in how customer data is siloed and partitioned in these platforms”. 

This has given rise to the (very cool sounding, if we are honest) concept of “shadow IT”, or “the use of IT-related hardware or software by a department or individual without the knowledge of the IT or security group within the organization. It can encompass cloud services, software, and hardware”, as defined by Cisco. Because with the increased offer of platforms, services, and apps that could help to simplify a project, comes an increasing comfort in using such tools without proper vetting or research. The result is an IT or security department left in the shadows when trouble comes.

With the consumerization of IT, hundreds of these applications are in use at the typical enterprise. The lack of visibility into them represents a security gap. Although some applications are harmless, others include functionality such as file sharing and storage, or collaboration, which can present big risks to an organization and its sensitive data. IT and security departments need to see what applications are being used and what risks they pose”, continues the same organization.

No-code: An imperfect solution?

Despite its challenges, the rise of no-code is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that “traditional” programming is going away. Although no-code platforms give people a starting point to build and digitalize their own ideas, it has its limits. As we mentioned, innovation and scalability are difficult to achieve with these tools, and every organization, sooner or later, faces unique challenges that sometimes cannot be solved with “one size fits all” software solutions.

“Since low-code/no-code platforms are optimized for simple use cases, employees or practitioners must work within tight, platform-specific constraints when problems arise. Tools with limitations will produce limited results”, indicates the IT journalism site Ciodive (no relation).

Custom-made, proprietary software built to the specific needs of an organization or market will always be the better option in the long run, especially as organizations mature and specific expectations have to be met, so what “no-code” solutions offer is a way to bridge the gap between programmers and non-programmers to build better products as a whole. 

And even then, today the options to build or expand existing products are more vast and convenient than before. Nearshore development, for example, offers a way to bring expertise to an existing project within the same language and time zones, making the prospect of developing software and testing ideas easier than ever. Although the solutions offered by no-code platforms are a great way to bridge the need between technology and practicality, there’s still some UX, UI, and expert development insight needed to create flexible, scalable, and cost-effective solutions that meet their specific business needs. So if you’re looking to get ahead of the curve, contact us today, and let’s talk about how we can help you embrace the future of software development.

The Key Takeaways:

  • Software development is going through a democratization process that allows non-programming people to digitize and use technology to their advantage.
  • The biggest expression of this is “no-code”: the ability to create software products without the need of coding.
  • Although this is a solution that works for many, it’s not the end all of software development, as there are many areas (like security, scalability, compliance and so on) that are limited with a no-code solution.
  • Today, however, options like Nearshore software development offer a way to bring the expertise necessary to create and develop software when an organization is mature enough to do so.

Scio is an established Nearshore software development company based in Mexico that specializes in providing high-quality, cost-effective technologies to help you reach new heights. We have been developing since 2003 and our experience gives us access not only to the knowledge but also the expertise needed when tackling any project. Get started today by contacting us about your project needs – we’ll be happy to help you achieve your business goals.