Understanding the Difference Between No-Code and Low-Code
If your organization is like many, you’re considering whether you could benefit from a no-code or
low-code application development solution. Sales of no-code and low-code technologies will
grow 23% in 2021, for instance, and by 2024, two-thirds of application development will involve
these approaches, Gartner predicts.
In fact, some development pros are even specializing in no-code or low-code, with 2.57 million
developers, or 11% of the global development population, now a no-code or low-code specialist,
according to IDC.
What’s driving the growing interest in no-code and low-code? Primarily it’s rapidly shifting
customer demands, disruptive new business models, tightened IT budgets, and shortened
development cycles – all of which no-code and low-code can help address.
But vendors and analysts alike sometimes use “no-code” and “low-code” in the same breath –
even though they’re not the same thing. Each has strengths and potential weaknesses, and
each is appropriate for different situations. To understand which will work best for you in which
scenarios, it’s smart to recognize the differences between no-code and low-code development.
At the user interface level, there’s not necessarily a lot to distinguish between no-code and low-
code. Both platforms provide reusable, drag-and-drop application elements that citizen
developers or business users and programmers alike can leverage to quickly assemble
But the terms themselves offer a clue to their differences. No-code tools enable creation of
complete, usable applications without any manual programming. Low-code solutions, on the
other hand, reduce the coding required but don’t totally replace the need for programming
No-code solutions enable citizen developers to quickly and easily create value-adding
applications that make workflow processes more efficient and effective. Users build software by
dragging and dropping reusable software elements onto a design canvas. Behind the scenes,
the no-code tool assembles a functional, stable and secure application. If business needs
change, users can easily go back and fine-tune the software with new capabilities or process
No-code tools also offer advantages to IT departments. Programmers can use no-code as the
basis for sophisticated, custom applications, dropping in user interfaces, forms, workflows, and
repeatable process steps. Security and interoperability are already built into the components in
effective no-code solutions. IT departments can also offer a no-code tool in their technology
stack for use by citizen developers across the organization, which frees up IT capacity and
helps reduce the backlog of IT projects.
No-code might not be right for every situation. High-availability, mission critical processes might
be best reserved to custom developed applications, with their extensive design, development,
testing, and debugging cycles. But IT departments are embracing no-code approaches as they
recognize the value in empowering citizen developers to create their own applications, workflow
tools, web portals, and mobile apps.
Low-code solutions enable programmers of varying skill levels – as well as fairly technical
business users – to develop software rapidly and with less manual effort. Programmers can
avoid having to learn a new programming framework, code an entire application from scratch, or
test and debug every aspect of their software.
Low-code can help programmers focus on the most differentiating aspects of their new software
while accelerating repetitive tasks and the creation of standardized forms, interfaces, search
features, and other common software elements. But low-code does require manual coding and
customization to make reusable components work together and deliver advanced functionality.
And programmers employing low-code might adhere to standard processes they would follow in
traditional application development.
Should You Use No-Code or Low-Code?
No-code and low-code can each offer advantages in different situations. In many cases, no-
code can provide reusable yet customizable components to make programmers more efficient
and effective, while offering ease of use that empowers even the most non-technical users to
create business-enabling software. Low-code, in contrast, is best seen as a tool for augmenting
a programmer’s capabilities. In fact, low-code can involve a learning curve even for skilled
When selecting a no-code or low-code environment, focus less on product category and more
on capabilities. Some vendors call their solution “no-code” even though it requires some
technical knowledge. Others claim to offer both no-code and low-code features in the same
package. What’s important is that the tool you choose delivers technology that integrates with
your infrastructure and capabilities that meet your needs.
Ultimately, the rapid application development solutions you invest in should reflect your
development resources, industry and market conditions, and business and technology needs.
By understanding the differences between no-code and low-code development, you can make
an informed choice that will drive the business results you want.