In a recent video on his YouTube channel, Neil Ward Dutton discusses the “cyclical” nature of no-code or low-code.
First, he does a quick refresh on what no-code offerings are, which I’ll recap with my own spin here:
- First-off, it should mean writing no code to get the desired task done.
- Second, to be effective, no-code solutions are domain-specific. A completely generic no-code option likely won’t solve any problems.
- No-code solutions all have constraints – they solve one problem well, but perhaps can’t be used to solve others.
If anyone tries to tell you that you can build anything with a no-code or low-code tool, ask them if they built their own no-code platform with itself, or did they instead write code to do it in something more foundational. We already know what the answer is.
Neil points out that an Amazon or Wal-Mart aren’t going to use a no-code platform like Wix or SquareSpace to build their e-commerce sites, but a small business might do well with a no-code website builder. That’s just one example of a no-code solution of course.
Low-code solutions offer more flexibility, and the ability to solve a wider array of problems, but at the cost of specificity – you’re still going to write code frequently.
Both types of solutions may cause death-by-property-sheet.
Developer-focused tools offer all the power, and with proper use, the most robust solutions. But there’s a cost in terms of speed of implementation. Personally, I prefer tools that offer low-code for many components (e.g. drag-and-drop UI building), but also allow me to tap-out to write code in a way that is fully supported and integrated with the overall solution. It’s the best of both worlds, really.
But, there’s some hope for the no-code space. When you build for a domain specific problem, you can really eliminate a lot of unnecessary or rote coding. In fact, the folks at BP3 have built several no-code solutions for our clients that work on just that principle.
Let’s get to Neil’s notion of the cycle: a new architecture comes along, and the market will first build the foundational tools to help early adopters take advantage of the new architecture paradigm. As the market matures, specialized tools proliferate on top of those foundational tools. And eventually, you see no- or low-code tooling emerge on top of those more specialized solutions (or even on top of the foundational layers).
Everything seems to settle out – until a new paradigm with advantages that can’t be exploited by the current no-code tools comes along and then the whole process starts again.