Summary: As the low-code market grows, so does the confusion. Many businesses don’t quite understand low-code, or they believe some common myths and misconceptions that are floating around. In this article, we explore 9 of the most common low-code myths and explain why they’re false.
Since the term was first coined by Forrester back in 2014, Low-Code Software has exploded. Gartner estimates that the low-code market will grow 23% this year, reaching a market size of $5.8 billion. You’ll find hundreds (or even thousands) of software tools claiming to be ‘low-code’.
This is where the problems start. When low-code was first introduced, it referred to an evolution of RAD tools. In other words, software tools that built web applications with a minimum of hand-coding.
These days, the ‘low-code’ term is slapped on any piece of software that includes some element of visual programming.
The problem is, low-code software tools are bunched into one big category. For instance, an enterprise web application development tool can be ‘low-code’, but so can a website builder. Or, so can process automation software. Or, any other type of software that uses a point-and-click interface to generate code.
Do you see the problem? Low-code started as a way to define web application development tools. It has since spread to include a wide range of tools, many of which are unrelated.
But, it doesn’t stop there. You’ll find dramatic differences even within the same software product classes. For instance, low-code web application development platforms vary wildly from one to the next. Some are simpler and only provide basic functions. Others are enterprise-class and offer a wide range of features.
So, what’s the effect of all this? Confusion. The low-code market is surrounded by confusion and myths. Information about low-code tools is floating around that just isn’t true. We run across these myths on a seemingly daily basis. There’s a misunderstanding about low-code development in general.
Today, I want to dispel many of the most common myths we hear about low-code tools. Now, I’m specifically focusing on myths surrounding the original definition of low-code: Web application development platforms that create applications with a minimum of hand-coding. Sound good? Okay, let’s get into it. Here are 9 common myths that we hear about low-code software.
Myth #1: All low code tools are the sameLet’s start with this myth since it’s the root of the problem. As I explained earlier, the term ‘low-code’ applies to a wide variety of software and tools. Even if you narrow the definition down to low-code web application development you’ll still find a wide range of differing options.
This is a problem because people tend to make assumptions about the entire category based on their experience with one tool. If they try a low-code tool that provides a bad experience they often assume that all low-code tools are the same, creating a negative opinion about other tools.
Even worse, I still hear people passing judgment on low-code tools based on their experience with development tools of the past. Maybe they used a 4GL or RAD tool in the past that didn’t meet their expectations. They (wrongly) assume that low-code tools are one and the same. In reality, low-code tools have evolved dramatically since that time.
“Not all low-code platforms are the same,” says Rosaria Silipo, Ph.D., principal data scientist at KNIME. “There are good and bad platforms, as in everything. So, depending on how they are designed, they can be secure, flexible, exhaustive, and have a large coverage of functionality. But most of all, not all low-code platforms promise more than they actually deliver. Some are honest platforms that clearly set the expectations.”
The big takeaway: Every tool is different. Maybe you had a bad experience with one in the past, or you know someone who did. Don’t let that shape your opinion on different platforms.
Myth #2: Low-code development is only for simple applications
I can’t tell you how often I hear people say things like:
– “Low-code is only for simple apps”
– “Low-code creates internal apps but can’t be trusted for consumer-facing applications”
– “Low-code will not create mission-critical applications”
As explained in this article, low-code development tools go far beyond simple, internal applications. Businesses across the globe are already using low-code platforms for mission-critical applications.
“A common myth about low-code development is that it can only build a simplistic, non-complex solution,” says Tim Smith, COO & Managing Principal of Catalyst Consulting Group. “Although low-code development may be less “rigorous” and quicker to develop than code-heavy solutions, it is still possible to build elegantly complex solutions that leverage, say, automated workflows.”
Myth #3: Low-code makes developers obsoleteIn my experience, developers have wildly different opinions about low-code software. Some love it. Others hate it. Why do some developers hate the idea of low-code? It usually boils down to a couple of misconceptions:
Misconception #1: Low-code threatens developers
They view low-code software as competition. If the company adopts low-code tools, they worry it will replace their function.
The reality: Low-code isn’t here to replace developers. Rather, it’s here to make their lives easier. It replaces many of the tedious coding tasks and lets developers focus on delivering solutions faster.
Misconception #2: Low-code limits developer’s abilities
Developers often believe that low-code tools limit their abilities. They view low-code tools as black boxes that cannot be customized and will only limit them.
In reality, this is only true for some. Quite a few enterprise-class low-code software tools offer complete customization, but we’ll dive into this more on the next point.
These beliefs are driven by misunderstandings about low-code tools in general. In reality, developers should embrace low-code. As explained below, they provide developers with some huge advantages.
“One common myth is that low-code tools put developers out of jobs (and so developers should avoid them!),” says Nisha Talagala, Founder of AIClub.World. “This is simply not true. Low code tools, when used correctly, increase developer productivity, freeing up the developer to focus on critical higher-level topics like usability, feature design, etc. One way to think about this – there was a time when developers wrote code in hexadecimal or machine instructions. Most of us don’t do that anymore – we use high-level languages that are compiled to machine instructions. Has it made our jobs any less critical? No – if anything it has expanded the number of developer jobs. This is an important myth to debunk since it causes fear of low-code tools and prevents developers from trying them.”
Myth #4: Low-code means low customization
As touched on in the last point, many falsely view low-code software as a ‘black box’ that can’t be customized. It generates code but they don’t know what’s going on under the hood.
Now, I can’t speak for all low-code tools (because I haven’t used all of them), but many modern enterprise-class tools will not limit your customization. They should let you:
- Add custom business logic
- Directly edit the generated code
- Customize your applications in any way you need
Again, I can’t 100% say that every tool offers full customization. But, it’s not uncommon and something you’ll want to verify before you purchase any tool.
“Another common misconception about apps built through low-code development is that they can’t be customized,” says Ivan Kot, Solution Consultant at Itransition. “Yet, most low-code platforms allow for custom modifications in the generated code and business logic.”
Myth #5: It’s only for non-techies / It’s only for developers
I’ll group these myths into one since they’re so common. There’s a lot of confusion about who uses low-code tools. In fact, I’ve run across misconceptions on both ends of the scale.
Some believe that low-code platforms are only for developers, and cannot be used by non-technical staff.
Others believe that low-code platforms are too basic for developers, and can only be used by non-technical staff.
The fact is, low-code platforms are used by all skill levels. Developers use low-code platforms to speed up application delivery. Low-code eliminates the repetitive coding tasks that eat up so much of their time.
End-users use them to create their own applications without the need to bother IT. Most enterprise-class tools offer security options that let developers control end-user and data access within the software.
Again–I can’t speak for all tools, but in general, low-code software is for all types of users.
“The most persistent myth surrounding low-code development is that it’s reserved solely for a certain category of users, namely non-techies,” says Kot. “Some believe the technology is too basic for software developers and is useless to them. Others argue that non-technical professionals, due to the lack of core development knowledge, will never be able to build full-fledged software with low-code platforms.
The truth is, low-code development is both accessible to business users and useful for experienced IT teams. Low-code platforms have functional elements built to high development and safety standards, meaning that business users can’t create apps with poor business logic or security loopholes out of ignorance. IT specialists, on the other hand, can leverage low-code development for basic, routine tasks and free up time for more challenging work.”
Myth #6: Low-code means low trainingI feel like mobile apps have fundamentally changed the idea of software training. People expect software to be intuitive like a mobile app. They should be able to pick it up and understand how to use it with minimal effort.
The problems start when these beliefs spill over into the world of low-code development. The reality is, low-code software always requires some level of training. Does that mean it’s not intuitive? Of course not.
Just think about the level of complexity that a low-code platform replaces. Low-code tools allow for web application development, workflow automation, mobile app development, and much more. How much time would it take to learn all of that on your own? Years. So the fact that you can be productive with a low-code tool in a matter of days (with training) is remarkable.
“There seems to be a misconception in the marketplace,” says Jesse Spencer-Davenport, Marketing Director at |BIS |Grooper. “People think that a low code / no code platform means the technology is easy to master. Or some think that low / no-code means low or no training and that’s just not the case. Complex tools solve complex problems and therefore require a requisite amount of training and experience.
Think about plowing 100 acres of farmland. A shovel requires no training and will do the job. But because tractors have been invented (there’s no reason to re-invent one), the field is easily plowed without any difficult work given the tractor operator has been fully trained on how to use it.
Coding is for inventing and when something does not need to be invented, you only need to learn how to use the tool to maximize your effectiveness.”
Myth #7: Low-code means low planning
Another common myth: Low-code handles both the development and planning of your application. Now, low-code tools do help non-technical employees create web applications. That much is true. But, the users still need to think and plan like a developer when creating applications. For instance, they need to:
– plan how everything will fit together
– understand where their data is coming from
– figure out how each process will work
The problem is, some users expect that low-code will simplify all aspects of the development process, from planning to coding. They’re disappointed to realize that they still need to plan out what they’re building.
Here’s a good analogy: Think of low-code software like power tools. If you want to build a table, for example, those power tools will make the job far easier. But, you still need to know how all of the wood will fit together to make the table. You still need to plan. The same is true for low-code development.
“Low-code development is an exciting way the technology industry becomes much more accessible to a wide variety of businesses and professions,” says Tom Winter, CRO & co-founder of DevSkiller. “However, there is a misunderstanding about the concept. One of the myths is the lack of programming. While low-code promises cutting out the syntaxes and processes that make coding intimidating in the first place, the programming mindset is still necessary.
While you won’t need to make mind-bending logic jumps to create products on these platforms, you need to understand what each process does and how and why these processes work. Most platforms support low-coding with visual and drag-and-drop representations that will help low-code programmers. However, you still need to think about what you want to make for yourself.”
Myth #8: Low-code means low portability.
Another common myth is the idea that low-code tools are like a walled garden. You’re stuck using whatever features are offered by the tool and nothing else.
Now, I can’t speak for every low-code tool, but the vast majority of enterprise-class options are not closed systems. That would severely limit low-code platforms in general. Rather, they let you consume APIs and integrate outside services with your applications.
Of course, this is still something you need to verify before adopting any low-code tool. But, as explained below, most tools allow for custom code and APIs.
“It depends on the tool you use,” says Blake Burch, Co-Founder of Shipyard. “Some platforms allow you to execute your own code snippets, so you own those. Some open-source the underlying tech, so you can recreate it on your own if needed. Some provide robust APIs with which you can gather tons of data and integrate with other applications.”
Myth #9: Low code means low power
It’s a common question: Should you choose a low-code platform or just purchase off-the-shelf software?
On one hand, low-code delivers high customizability. You’ll create a solution that perfectly fits your business.
On the other hand, off-the-shelf software is often believed to have more power and purpose-built features.
But, is that really true?
In reality, applications created with low-code software can be as powerful as you need. There is no limit to the number of features you can build into your applications.
“A common misperception is that low-code applications are inherently less powerful and function than custom or off-the-shelf software,” says Steven Uecke, SE, PE, P.Eng, CEO of REX Engineering Group. “Many low-code applications are developed specifically for non-technical users to create robust and highly functional tools.”
While low-code tools can certainly build powerful applications, they also provide flexibility. There’s no limit to what you can build or the off-the-shelf software you can replace. Think about that for a minute. Using a low-code platform, you can replace various software packages that you’re currently paying for. The best part: You get software that perfectly fits your business.
These are just a myths about low-code, but I’m sure the list could be longer. Would you add anything to this list? Feel free to comment below!