Do low-code and no-code platforms spell the end of traditional software development?

Low-code and no-code platforms allow you to develop things like webpages, apps, automated workflows and so on, either with only very little coding, or no coding at all.

These platforms work to reduce the amount of programming expertise a user needs to develop an application. They allow anyone to have a go at development — making the app development process accessible to more people.

With these types of platforms growing in use, the question starts to emerge:

If you don’t need to know code to develop an app, is it the start of the end of traditional software development?


Definitions

Low-code: A programming application that requires a limited amount of programming knowledge for effective use.

No-code: A programming application that doesn’t need any programming knowledge for effective use.


A recurring question

This is not the first time that the ‘end’ of traditional software development — the end of coding — has been floated as an idea. The idea of graphical and other systems to remove code from software development has been around for many years.

For example, Microsoft’s Visual Basic – an attempt at “visual programming”. Then there was UML, unified modelling language. Unfortunately, a UML description ended up just as complex as code and harder to work with.

There are also WYSIWYG platforms, pronounced ‘Wizzywig’, which stands for ‘what you see is what you get’. This is another category of no-code programs. WordPress is one of the most popular examples.

The point is, low-code and no-code have been around for the better part of three decades — yet they are yet to have replaced traditional software development. If history is anything to go by, then, low-code and no-code platforms will not be spelling the end of programming.


What low-code and no-code can do

Low-code and no-code platforms bring a number of benefits to businesses. Plus, they can also support developers in traditional software development roles.

The most successful low-code and no-code platforms are those that deal with problems that have already been solved. That is, the simple applications that can be broken down into building blocks. These platforms come with the technical decisions and coding already done for them. All they need to do is apply their data and choose from a few variables.

Plus, low-code and no-code platforms support traditional developers with easy tasks so they can get things done quickly. They’re great for providing a basic foundation, or a simple app.  

A good comparison is automation software. It’s not there to replace humans (or in this case, developers), rather, it’s there to support them.

Low-code and no-code platforms mean that organisations no longer need to rely on a team of developers to develop software applications, automated workflows, etcetera. It can also make it easier to update and change the software made using them.


Traditional software development

Building software — no matter how you do it — means specifying exactly what we want a computer to do. And that is an intrinsically complex task.

Low-code and no-code platforms are great for problems that are easy to solve. The things that have already been solved before. They allow small companies that cannot yet afford a development team to get started with basic applications.

But what about the sophisticated applications, the programs that bring complexity, that have high levels of customisation?

And don’t forget, there still needs to be someone behind low-code and no-code platforms. They still require traditional developers to maintain them, update them, provide new functionality, and keep them working well.


Not a replacement

Like many emergent technologies, low-code and no-code platforms aren’t a replacement for human experts. That is, they can’t completely replace traditional software development.

Rather, low-code and no-code platforms make basic problems accessible to solve. What they can’t master are the complex things. The heavily personalised things. The problems that haven’t been solved yet.

So, there will be room for traditional software developers for a long time yet.


Useful links

When code kills: are we headed for a software apocalypse?

Four common start-up myths that could be holding you back

The security risks of outdated software