Ever since the introduction of software development, the usual users have always seen app development as a total mystery. It’s no secret that programming can be exhausting, and sometimes even the simplest things can take weeks to be implemented. It seems frightening, doesn’t it?
Well, despite being hard and expensive to build, most applications have one thing in common – user experience design. Take a look at some of your favorite applications. Do you notice a pattern? That’s right, buttons all look very similar, the screen is split into at most two portions, and menus are pulled from the side of the screen.
Taking all the above into consideration, in case you are running a small business and need an application to be built, but don’t have the budget for it, believe it or not, you can do it yourself! But how exactly and is it worth your time and money?
What is ‘No-Code’?
With the similarities of all the different applications, it can’t be hard to draft an application that checks all the boxes of a commercial product, right? Well, yes, but actually no.
In case you are writing an application intended for filling orders and looking at the restaurant menu, merely adding a few text boxes, imagery, and the contact form will get the job done. This is where ‘no-code platforms’ come into the game.
These platforms (like apprat.io) are a type of design tool, rather than the development tools. In regular coding, the developer’s job is to describe the way an application behaves. With no-code, the user defines what an app does, rather than the way to perform it.
Yes, this can be seen as a limitation in today’s world, and you may be thinking that the final product would look unprofessional, but just like we’ve seen previously, most apps today share so many things in common. No-code platforms allow you to take all the building blocks and put an application together in this fashion.
The way this work is impressive as well! You might expect them to require at least some technical knowledge, but in reality, all you do is drag and drop the different types of blocks, and there is a lot of these to discuss. What’s more, there are loads of already created, professional-looking templates.
This is one of the perks that come with app builders or ‘no-code’ solutions like apprat.io. At the moment of writing this, there are no viable programming languages that can be used for both mobile and web development, although there have been multiple tries at achieving such results in the past.
Using the same set of tools to develop from multiple platforms can have many different effects on the final products, mainly performance and display issues. Not all the platforms support the same color formats, fonts, geometry, and, most importantly, don’t use the same architecture. With enough testing, achievable results are still pretty decent.
‘Low-Code’ or ‘No-Code’?
Often you will hear people use ‘low-code’ and ‘no-code’ interchangeably, but these two refer to slightly different things. The so-called ‘no-code’ environment allows you to build applications from scratch for multiple platforms and publish them. This means that all the phases of development are covered.
In contrast, ‘low-code’, just as the name describes, needs a little code for the application to be complete. This does not mean you will need to write code for every piece of application, but rather that development is possible, but not entirely.
Yes, you will be able to create an application, but that application will not only lack lots of behavior but also will have styling issues. It is more of a prototype solution, rather than the complete application development toolkit since eventually, a trained developer will have to jump in.
This isn’t to say that you should not use ‘low-code’ though. In practice, using a solution of the type and paying a single developer or a tiny team is much more cost-effective than merely hiring a developer from the very start.
What is Achievable With ‘No-Code’?
Up until recent times, professionals considered ‘no-code’ to be a toy, intended at amateurs. But actually, you’d probably be stunned by how much you can get done with a platform like this.
There is an option to add imagery, videos, and text elements, but these do not seem so impressive. Something interesting, though, is that you can change all kinds of properties about these, and you’ve got pixel-perfect control over them.
For example, if you wanted a rounded image, you could easily do that by ticking a box. Need rounded corners? Just specify the amount and apply changes! Maybe an image needs to be a bit noisier, salt and pepper got you covered, and you can probably see where this is going.
But besides the ‘boring’ elements, there are somewhat or much more advanced options. All sorts of menus, buttons, checkboxes, sliders, and other ways of interaction are there.
We believe it is also worth mentioning that these modern and stylish types of typography, color schemes, and templates come bundled with the tools making it even easier for you to get up and running.
These apps don’t have to be static and can produce some fascinating results and communicate with other servers. Some platforms offer great integrity with YouTube, Spotify, Genius, Twitter, Amazon, PayPal, and other popular APIs.
Other core elements of applications are there, too, including push notifications (which can also be customized to suit your needs) and seamless integration with Google’s advertising services to include monetization.
You Can Even Build Games!
Yes, you’ve read that, right! Although it may sound impossible, solutions such as BuildBox and Construct have evolved over the past couple of years, one being ‘no-code’ and the other being ‘low-code’ solution.
Construct works in a quite fascinating way, so let us talk about it first. You do all the design and implement game logic by dragging the prebuilt components. An interesting part is that this is not the only way to achieve game logic. Instead, you can combine multiple pillars of programming visually and come up with any game mechanic.
BuildBox works similarly to app builders; hence it is not a ‘low-code’ solution but the ‘no-code’ one. It is a much more restricted approach, though. You simply pick a template and organize your game according to it. This means that you are using one of the stereotypical game genres and perhaps customizing it only slightly.
Say you wanted a platformer, a jumping game, an infinite scroller, etc. all of them are there. But inventing a new genre certainly is not an option.
What’s even weirder is that some of the most popular games ever created, such as the infamous ‘Color Switch’ were built using the same technique. We’ll have to disappoint you as a 3D engine of this kind still wasn’t created…
So What’s the Catch?
‘No-code’ can indeed handle many different types of applications, but there are still limits to it, and it is certainly not a perfect solution.
The biggest problem, at least for now, is the lack of versatility, primarily when inventing new features or scaling the app for different devices.
In traditional development, one can always write their grid or scaling system to automate layout scaling and changes at a different resolution or when including/excluding elements from the canvas. ‘No-code’ platforms can handle this, but this simple action requires a lot of effort to get done and restyling the complete screen at numerous different resolutions.
You Don’t Own Your Code
Another one of the things that come with ‘no-code’ is that you have no access to the source code. Suppose you found a provider that suits your needs better, well transferring the application is no longer an option; instead, you will have to recreate the entire thing.
Although you do indeed get access to the source code, most likely, you will have no idea what’s going on under the hood. All you will get is complex, computer-generated spaghetti code, without any proper documentation. Even if you figure out some things on your own, the chances are that indentation is non-existent, leaving us with a one-liner that spreads across thousands of lines.
‘Low-code’ is different in this regard, as it is designed in a way that you must take the code and complete it by yourself. But this feature comes at a not-so-appealing price.
No Control Over The Tech Stack
The final global issue with a tool of this type is the lack of control on your end. Knowing what your app does gives you no information on how it does it, and this can have a major impact on both the security and stability of the app.
There could be major, even fatal errors caused by this, users’ data may not be encrypted, there could be an internal security issue with the servers, causing the application to fail, or perhaps there could be some malware injected into it. Yes, all of these are very unlikely to happen, but you have to be aware of what could occur.
What’s The Limiting Factor?
A drag ‘n’ drop solution is designed to support only a certain amount of objects, and that means there are many features we simply cannot implement yet. This means that this type of development often requires sacrificing features to save money.
But what if that’s not an option? Well, you will have to scrape the whole project and start over or pay for the source code, which is most often very costly.
Working with databases is close to impossible as well. Even if it were possible, your access is quite restricted, management is pretty restricted. Did we mention that you’ll have no idea what stack is used under the hood?
But after all, we still tend to believe that a serious company looking to work with databases will opt for a more expensive, versatile, traditional option.
Lastly, there is no option to access and retrieve system information. Writing mods, customization software, and doing any scientific work will just not work in this case. The same holds for complex mathematics or simulating algorithms.
So Is ‘No-code’ Taking Over The Programming Space?
‘No-code’ development is relatively easy to grasp, and in just a few weeks, one could become a true master of the platform. On the other hand, this comes with its limits. Just like we’ve mentioned, there’s a whole lot of things that are, but also the things that are not achievable in this way.
The benefit? It costs a lot less than custom development. Instead of paying four developers up to $150 an hour, you could spend only about $30-40 a month. Imagine how many things you could buy using the savings!
But be careful when choosing a platform. We highly advise researching the exact features that you are looking for in the final product. This involves sketching out the application, writing down all (not most) necessary components, and checking whether a provider has those. In case you fail this step, your money will be wasted; maybe your neighbor wasn’t the dumb one to hire the developer?!
Generally speaking, this means that any kind of business application, such as a restaurant, club, or cab agency, will probably be easily ‘programmed’ using such a solution. On the other hand, electronic banking, social networks, complex systems, trackers, or any type of innovative approach are simply not possible. After all, you have to work with the components somebody’s already built in the past.
This statement clearly explains why ‘no-code’ may be useful, but the dinosaurs from the past certainly aren’t going anywhere. There are still many places where having a skilled programmer, database manager, game designer, or web designer will come in handy.
But hey, at least in this day and age, even the non-tech-savvy have an option to market their own business while not spending a fortune! Who knows what we’ll see in a year or two? Solutions like apprat.io or WebViewGold already look promising.