Applications that automate business processes are what helps companies spend less time and money on solving day-to-day tasks. The main problem here is that most off-the-shelf applications address a standard set of processes and can’t meet the requirements of businesses of different sizes or fields. So in order to solve a task that’s pretty specific for your business, you may need to build an application of your own.
To create a business-specific application that solves a number of unique problems, you can either hire a professional team of developers, testers, and designers or use low-code development platforms. With the help of these platforms, even people with limited experience can build a simple application that will handle a specific task or process.
In this overview, we take a look at five of the most popular low-code development platforms, their key features, as well as the pros and cons of each platform. But first, let’s talk about what is low-code development and how can you use it to the advantage of your business.
Low-code development: building applications without coding
Low-code development isn’t something brand new: the idea of building applications without having to write thousands of lines of code has been around for several years now. Basically, low-code is a concept of building and deploying software applications with minimal effort, close to no hand-written code, and in an extremely short time.
That’s true, with low-code development platforms (LCDPs), knowing how to code is optional. These platforms will be most suitable for non-developers who have a specific task they need to accomplish.
Developers who want to spend less time on coding also can benefit from the use of LCDPs: while having a large selection of ready to use templates and drag-and-drop user interfaces, a number of platforms also allows writing your own code to add specific features and functionalities to the final product.
Here are some of the main benefits of low-code development platforms:
- Speed and simplicity of application development – you can build a simple solution within a few hours, with no code writing involved;
- The agility of business processes – LCDPs allow addressing very specific needs of not only a specific business but even a specific department within a particular company;
- Cost-efficiency – With LCDPs, you’ll need less time and money to build a new application than if using traditional application development approaches.
But how can you pick the platform that fits the needs of your business the most? One of the possible options is to determine a set of specific criteria for choosing your perfect LCDP. So in the next section, we talk about ways of finding a suitable LCDP for your business or specific project.
Key criteria for choosing the right LCDP
Since each company has very specific needs, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for choosing a perfect low-code tool. The set of key parameters can vary, and it’ll mostly depend on both the tasks you have at hand and the team you’re working with.
Here are some of the parameters that may help you find your perfect rapid application development tool:
- Easy to deploy – The simplicity of the development and deployment processes are the main advantages of low-code development platforms. So pay attention to the tools that allow you to deploy and maintain low-code applications without additional efforts.
- Scalability and security – It’s important for you to be able to scale your application if necessary. Otherwise, you’ll have to build a new one every time you add one more feature to the application functionality. Also, make sure all the valuable data in your application is well protected.
- Embedded visual development tools – Visual development tools play a significant part in linking together different modules of your application and making the user experience much more smooth.
- Available drag-and-drop interfaces – The number of drag-and-drop user interfaces you can use is also crucial, especially if you are going to build more than one application.
- Hand-written code deployment – If regular templates aren’t good for the job, look for LCDPs that allows implementing the hand-written code. This way, you can easily combine ready-to-use elements and custom features to get the most out of your low-code application.
- Documentation and support – Whether or not you have experience in programming, it would be much easier to deal with any issues if the platform of your choice has well-organized customer support and detailed documentation and guides on every feature of the platform. Community forums may also be a source of valuable and helpful information.
- Pricing schemes – While most platforms have a free trial, they all have different pricing schemes. For some platforms, the key parameter is the number of users working with the platform under your company’s account. The others limit the number of applications that you can build and deploy within a particular plan.
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular LCDPs.
TOP 5 LCDPs for building your low-code applications
The list below includes some of the most popular and useful platforms for building low-code applications. Here are five top low-code development platforms that we’ll be talking about today:
3. Microsoft PowerApps
Let’s see what’s so special about each of these platforms.
OutSystems has one of the richest sets of features: from drag-and-drop interfaces to workflow mapping. The platform also has its own marketplace where you can choose templates and pre-built application elements.
Pros of OutSystems:
- Large selection of features and pre-built components
- Applications can be deployed on-premises and in the cloud
- Integration with any system
- Offline data storage
- Scalability of created applications
- Direct publishing of the application to Google Play and App Store
- Interactive training for users
Cons of OutSystems:
- OutSystem integrated development environment (IDE) is only available for desktops
- Plans for enterprises are costly
OutSystems works best for scaling up the productivity of experienced programmers who are working on mobile, web, or even enterprise-grade applications. It also lets you publish the developed application directly to consumer application stores.
Appian is the best choice for those who want to build an application without writing a single line of code. It offers intelligent automation capabilities alongside a large selection of drag-and-drop features and integration with third-party applications. Appian also allows using pre-built applications from the platform’s marketplace.
Pros of Appian:
- No-code development of simple applications
- Has built-in features for task management and team collaboration
- Has a decision engine for complex logic modeling
- Provides native AI services
- Allows integration to AI/ML platforms through Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon AWS
Cons of Appian:
- Coding knowledge is required for fixing bugs and enabling integrations
- High prices
Appian works well for both experienced developers and business users, especially when it comes to building mobile apps. The platform allows building secure, efficient applications for improving business processes and employee efficiency.
3. Microsoft PowerApps
Microsoft PowerApps is a popular tool for building mobile and web applications. The platform allows creating applications from scratch as well as building them based on models or databases. PowerApps has a rich set of features, from workflow automation to application sharing.
Pros of Microsoft PowerApps:
- Supports integration with cloud services
- Has a large selection of free templates
- Web-based applications can be compatible with popular mobile platforms
Cons of Microsoft PowerApps:
- A little bit complex user interface (UI)
Due to its UI complexity, Microsoft PowerApps will be a nice choice for experienced developers.
Mendix is one of the few open-source LCDPs available on the market. It provides a large set of controls and can be easily customized to your business needs. Applications build on Mendix can be deployed on-premises, in a public or private cloud.
Pros of Mendix:
- A large set of pre-built templates and reusable components
- Allows running automated software tests
- Has a built-in application performance monitoring tool
- Provides you with detailed application analytics
- Has full documentation and live chat support
Cons of Mendix:
- Can be a little bit complex for non-experienced developers
- High costs
Mendix is a great choice for developers who need to speed up the application development process.
Radzen is a desktop application that can be used as a low-code development tool. Using Radzen, you can build angular applications and customize generated code the way you need. The platform offers a rich variety of drag-and-drop features and built-in templates to use in your applications. Applications can be deployed to IIS, FTP, and Microsoft Azure.
Pros of Radzen:
- Has an open technology stack
- Supports database integration
- Offers a rich set of user management features
Cons of Radzen:
- Moderate performance
- Requires extensive knowledge of coding
- Not really suitable for complex applications
Radzen is a great option for experienced developers who want to quickly build an application and don’t need adding any overly complex functionality to it.
Low-code app development platforms can significantly simplify and speed up the process of building and deploying business applications. While all LCDPs share the same goal, they often target different audiences. Some applications are more suitable for experienced developers while others can be used even by users with no coding experience at all.
The list of the most popular tools on the low-code development platform software market includes OutSystems, Appian, Mendix, Microsoft PowerApps, and Radzen. When choosing the LCDP that works best for your business, you need to take into accounts a number of important parameters. Among the most important criteria are the ease of application deployment, the possibility of combining ready-made application components with hand-written code, and scalability of the developed application.
Fahim is Founder of Technoxyz and a passionate blogger. He loves new Gadgets and Tools. He generally covers Tech Tricks, Gadget Reviews etc in his posts. Beside this, He also works as an SEO Analyst at Technoxyz.