No-Code vs. Low-Code: A Comparison

Benjamin Babb

Low-code and no-code tools are everywhere these days. But what is the difference between low-code vs. no-code? In this post, we look at the features and characteristics that distinguish low-code tools from no-code tools. We also consider the best use case for each and review some examples.

What is no-code?

No-code refers to a development tool that doesn’t require coding skills or experience. Instead, users (typically those on the business team) access the features of the no-code platform through a visual interface. For example, by using a drag-and-drop menu or another intuitive visual interface. No-code lets non-technical workers — such as business team members or citizen developers — create applications or automate their workflows using an IT-sanctioned set of building blocks. 

When to use no-code

No-code platforms are ideal for use in situations where non-technical users (i.e. non-developers) need to be able to develop or modify apps, automations, or workflows without burning through IT resources. No-code tools are also ideal for creating front-end solutions or managing repetitive or manual tasks, such as moving data from spreadsheets to databases or automating tasks that occur frequently. 

Here are some examples of typical use cases for no-code platforms: 

HR

HR teams manage some of the most complex workflows and processes in any business. HR professionals can use a no-code platform or app to customize forms and workflows or to create automations that manage notifications, approvals, or status updates. 

Finance

Finance teams manage a wide variety of workflows and processes, often with several layers of approval. They may receive requests from multiple channels and data from multiple apps. Finance teams can use no-code tools to build and modify processes, forms, and automations. 

Customer Support

As with finance, customer support teams manage a core business process. This means that their activities are essential in that they provide value to customers and impact revenue. Customer success teams may have a variety of workflows and activities that change often, in order to keep pace with customer needs. No-code platforms can help them stay agile and responsive. 

IT

IT teams can also benefit from the use of no-code tools. For IT teams, no-code functionality helps them conserve developer resources and provide solutions for other teams more quickly than if they have to manually code every change that needs to be made.

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What is low-code?

Low-code platforms are similar to no-code platforms in that both are designed to minimize the amount of code that’s needed to build apps, solve problems, and automate workflows.

What’s different about low-code tools is that they can be used to create more complex solutions, albeit, with some coding required. Low-code tools feature the visual interface element of a no-code solution, but they also offer a higher degree of customization and creativity on the back end. 

When to use low-code

Low-code tools are a good option when a high degree of collaboration between business and IT teams is required. Business teams are able to develop some of their own solutions without having to send every change to the IT department. That’s where the visual interface comes in. But more complex changes may require some work from the IT department. For example, if an app or workflow needs to be integrated with a new data source, or if unique customization is needed. 

In this way, low-code helps IT teams manage their resources and reduce their backlog without compromising security or compliance. In other words, low-code simplifies the development process so that IT only has to get involved when complex needs arise. And throughout this low-code development process, IT always has control and oversight. 

Here are some examples of use cases in which a low-code development platform will be helpful: 

Process automation

One of the most common uses for low-code platforms is process or workflow automation. Low-code automation tools allow business teams to build and modify their workflows using a visual interface, so IT teams won’t have to manage day-to-day changes or updates. Workflows and processes often cross department boundaries and may depend on multiple data sources, so process automation ensures that data moves freely between the components that may require some input from the IT team. 

Platform integration

As new apps and systems are added to the existing tech stack, IT teams will likely spend some time ensuring that databases are connected and that security and compliance policies are being followed. 

UI design

Low-code solutions can automatically generate interface code for an application UI that can be quickly overhauled as user preferences change.

API generation

Low-code API generators can automatically build APIs based on existing application code.

Differences between no-code and low-code

At its core, the difference between low-code vs. no-code comes down to who is using the platform and what they are doing with it. No-code platforms are designed for non-technical users to manage front-end tasks without any support from IT. Think of the apps on your phone — no-code platforms are designed with this level of ease of use in mind. 

Low-code platforms allow non-technical users to take some actions and develop some solutions on their own, but they also offer more complex solutions that may require assistance from the IT team. Like no-code, low-code platforms are designed to conserve developer resources and speed up development time. 

No-codeLow-code
UsersNon-technical or non-developers– Non-technical and developers
– Supports collaboration between IT and business teams 
Use cases– Front-end and simple solutions

– Usually related to repetitive tasks 
– Front-end and simple solutions, process optimization, workflow automation

– Can also be used for more complex or even custom solutions 
Usability– Intuitive interface designed for ease of use, similar to a cell phone app – Intuitive user interface that allows non-technical users to access most features with ease

– Low-code platforms give developers additional functionality on the back end 
Customization– Closed system limits the amount of customization that is possible – Where customization is needed, an open system allows custom coding to expand the types of solutions that are possible 
Stack extensibility– Limited extensibility of current stack components– Unlimited extensibility of current stack components through

– API integrations and customizations
Examples– Creatio
– Glide
– Betty Blocks
– Quixy
– Jotform Apps
– Pipefy
– Appian
– Salesforce
– Unqork
– WaveMaker

Primary benefits
– Simplicity: Solves only the problem it is meant to solve  

– Virtually no learning curve
As intuitive as a cell phone app

– Reduces the number of requests sent to IT

– Less expensive than developing in-house solutions


– Intuitive: Implementation is straightforward and most features are easy to use

– Collaborative: Business teams have access to the features they need, IT maintains control 

– Adaptable: Can be easily modified to solve additional problems or keep pace with changing business needs 

– Conserves developer resources Less expensive than developing in-house solutions 

– Far less expensive than customizing legacy stack components   

Evolution of no-code and low-code

No-code and low-code tools may seem like recent phenomena, but they’ve actually been around for decades. They may seem like new technologies because their popularity has exploded in the past few years. 

So, where did no-code and low-code platforms come from? In short, companies like Apple and Microsoft began looking for ways to minimize the amount of coding required to build new technologies. Apple’s development of Hypercard is one example of an early version of low-code functionality. Microsoft’s Excel product is sometimes considered one of the first no-code tools since spreadsheet formulas eliminated the need to code every function in every cell.

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How do low-code and no-code tools work?

Low-code and no-code (LCNC) tools work by providing reusable blocks of code that can be rearranged and organized to develop new apps, workflows, and solutions. This method of reproducing code through replication reduces the amount of time and effort required to build new apps and solutions. 

Both no-code and low-code platforms rely on a visual user interface to allow non-technical users to access features and develop solutions. Low-code platforms provide additional functionality to developers and IT teams by allowing them to create custom code when needed. 

Benefits of low-code and no-code platforms

Companies choose low-code and no-code platforms for a variety of reasons. Regardless of why they adopt a low-code or no-code approach, these tools deliver many benefits. 

Conserves resources

The point of no-code and low-code tools is to reduce the amount of code needed to develop apps, solutions, and workflows. Since they allow business teams and non-technical users to solve some problems on their own, no-code and low-code platforms help companies conserve developer bandwidth. 

Enables faster development

Low-code and no-code tools rely on reusable blocks of code to create new apps and solutions. Since new code isn’t required each time a change is needed or a new solution is developed, solutions and workflows can be created much more quickly than with conventional development methods. 

Contains costs

Since no-code and low-code tools require fewer developer resources, and because they can deliver new solutions and apps quickly, these types of platforms can also be an effective way to contain costs. This is especially true for low-code tools that can be modified and adapted across teams and departments. 

Builds IT and business team collaboration

Both low-code and no-code tools improve the collaborative dynamic between business teams and IT. They do this by giving the business team an IT-sanctioned toolbox they can use to solve some problems on their own.

Reduces the need for shadow IT

Shadow IT happens when the business team’s need for solutions outpaces the IT team’s bandwidth. As a result, business teams cobble together their own ad hoc workarounds. This makes it more difficult for IT teams to standardize processes and enforce security requirements. 

Enhances stack extensibility

Low-code tools help teams get more from their existing apps, a feature known as stack extensibility. Low-code tools can be customized, which means a single platform can be used to solve an unlimited number of problems. 

Low-code tools integrate with existing stack components to fill process gaps and solve the ad hoc workflows that arise whenever a new system or app is added. 

When to avoid no- and low-code platforms

Although there are many benefits to using low-code and no-code platforms, they aren’t ideal for every situation. In some cases, a viable solution that meets all the success criteria will simply have to be hand-coded from scratch if you require any of the following: 

High-performance apps

It’s easier to achieve strict performance goals by manually coding an app. Auto-generated code from a low-code platform may not be optimized for performance.

Accessibility

Low-code platforms may not meet accessibility requirements as well as applications purpose-built to work with screen readers, voice input, and other assistive technologies.

Total customization

Apps and solutions that require 100% customization might not be a good fit for low-code or no-code tools. In order to achieve this level of customization, hand-coding simply cannot be avoided. 

Examples of LCNC platforms

No-code platforms

According to review site G2, no-code development platforms “provide drag-and-drop tools that enable businesses to develop software quickly without coding.” Some examples of no-code platforms include: 

  • Betty Blocks is a no-code development platform designed to help more people in your company create and deploy apps. 
  • Creatio is a no-code platform that allows teams to automate workflows and CRM. 
  • Glide is a no-code app builder that lets users create apps from Google Sheets, Excel, or Airtable. 

Low-code platforms

  • Pipefy is a low-code automation platform that allows business teams to build, modify, and automate their processes and workflows using a visual interface. 
  • Appian helps organizations build apps and workflows rapidly with a low-code automation platform. 
  • WaveMaker is a low-code platform that accelerates app development and IT modernization efforts.

The future of low-code and no-code development

An ongoing shortage of developer talent and IT workers will continue to drive increases in the adoption of — and investment in — low-code and no-code tools. Since these technologies are designed to conserve developer bandwidth and shorten development times, they will continue to be in high demand as business agility continues to be a defining feature of market leaders. 

See why CXOs are turning to low-code and no-code tools to manage IT backlogs. 

Learn more about Pipefy’s low-code automation software

Pipefy gives business teams the tools they need to stay agile and optimize their workflows and processes. Pipefy is adaptive and can be used to manage any workflow in any department. A visual interface flattens the learning curve so teams can scale solutions quickly and without delays. 
Pipefy’s low-code automation integrates with the components of the existing stack to build a system of engagement and help teams achieve process excellence.

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Written by
Benjamin Babb
Senior Writer at Pipefy, where I focus on helping businesses manage workflows, optimize processes, and deploy automation. I'm also a ghost story aficionado who listens to more Enya than anyone should.

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