Low-code or no-code? Some vendors use these terms interchangeably or are overpromising. In particular, we cringe when we see or hear “low-code/no-code” — as if those two things are the same. Don’t be confused, don’t be deluded; here is what’s going on.

Businesspeople hankering to deliver their own apps love the “no-code” message. Thus, “no-code” has become a marker for products aimed at empowering business users. However, customers report that even powerful low-code platforms in some cases can’t produce apps without any coding. So what does this mean for the “no-code” promise? Simply put, “no-code” today is an aspiration and only sometimes a reality. Why?

  • Some app projects require tooling that the low-code platform doesn’t provide. In this situation, portions of the application can only be completed using code. The result is likely to be faster delivery than coding alone, but if you’ve planned on no-code, that’s hardly what you expected, especially if 20% or 30% of the app must be coded. That’s a lot, and it’s hard to estimate at the outset.
  • When required, coding addresses three common areas: integration, UI, and reporting. In our surveys, both pro and “citizen” developers tell us that when they require coding, it is to integrate their apps with other systems, create custom user interfaces (UI), and address their reporting requirements.

The term “low-code” acknowledges this reality, which is why we selected it for this category of development platforms back in 2014. We treat “no-code” as a wonderful software-delivery outcome when it occurs but advise against banking on it for all application projects. Begin your low-code journey with realistic expectations, knowing that even if your projects require some coding, you’ll still raise your organization’s software delivery speed and flexibility.


* (Image source: websites of the following low-code platform vendors)