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An Introduction To Low-Code App Development

An Introduction To Low-Code App Development

The apps we use to order food in our personal lives or manage inventory at work have become so sophisticated that creating software now feels more than merely a technical discipline. App development seems to have become almost an art form. And unfortunately, not all of us consider ourselves

The apps we use to order food in our personal lives or manage inventory at work have become so sophisticated that creating software now feels more than merely a technical discipline.

App development seems to have become almost an art form.

And unfortunately, not all of us consider ourselves artists.

When you’re trying to grow a relatively young business, for example, your mind is probably focused primarily on how best to market yourself and attract customers, or how to close deals once they’ve shown some interest.

Creative work like app development might feel like a luxury, and something beyond your skill set anyway.

No matter the industry in which you operate, however, you’re bound to run into more examples of competitors, partners and even customers who are using apps to accomplish a wide range of tasks.

Not having any apps of your own may start to feel like an area of weakness.

This becomes even more challenging when you finally begin to figure out the next best step. Do you hire an outside firm, even if you’re not sure how best to evaluate them, or do you bring on internal developers?

What kind of budget can you afford? What’s a reasonable timeline and what scope of functionality is essential?

Making things even more confusing is the variety of approaches that are now available. Tools describing themselves as “all-code,” “low-code” and even”no-code” are now everywhere, but parsing such jargon probably feels as time-consuming as learning to program yourself.

Rather than give up, use the next few minutes to read this primer on low-code app development, which may be the quickest, easiest and best way to overcome traditional barriers to creating outstanding software.

What is low-code app development?

You may know little about computer programming, but you’ve probably cut and pasted text from one document to another, or dragged some numbers between rows in a spreadsheet.

Low-code tools were designed in recognition of the fact that, even if someone isn’t a professional developer, they might have a good idea for an app and how it should be put together. To execute on those ideas, though, it needs to be as easy as word-processing or managing an Excel file.

Imagine an online portal or console where you see the features and functions you want in an app represented in little blocks on one side. Adding to the app involves literally clicking on the boxes you want and moving them over to another area of the page.

All the underlying elements, like the code a developer would write manually, are still there. They’ve just been abstracted into visual elements that a non-technical person can easily manipulate.

How does the low-code app development process work?

Low-code is different than “no code” in that some technical work will still be involved. This could include ensuring your app integrates properly with back-end systems —like connecting an HR app to your payroll system, for instance.

Besides easing the process of creating an app for a business professional, low-code tools help whomever manages your IT infrastructure, too.

The underlying “plumbing” that would normally take a lot of time and effort from those with a developer’s skills is minimized, so that they can focus on releasing and continually improving the app. Or simply focus on more critical IT issues.

How should I evaluate low-code development tools?

Even if this is your first time seriously considering a mobile app to support your business, you can spot the kind of low-code development platform or tools you need by making sure they meet the following criteria:

  • Extensible and open: Ask if the technology you’re considering supports any form factor, and if dedicated logic or code needs to be maintained (it shouldn’t).
  • QA-oriented: Quality assurance is everything in an app development project. Look for automated testing features, real-time performance management and quality monitoring.
  • Rapid deployment: What will it take to not only develop an app but connect it to the cloud, whether it’s private or public?
  • Continuous integration: This is kind of like making sure everyone is always referring to the latest version of a document. You should be able to make changes to an app easily without having to redo everything.
  • Reusable: Some of the elements that went into making your first app could apply well to the next one. Verify you won’t be starting from scratch with each project.

What kind of apps can I make via low-code development?

Brainstorming is often the fun part. Your first projects may be a case of trying to catch up to the rest of the industry or stay competitive with what rival firms offer.

In other cases inspiration could strike unexpectedly as you identify processes that could be improved via automation, or where apps could close the gaps in terms of communicating information to employees or customers.

Try this: as you learn more about the low-code development resources available to you, group your ideas into a few key categories. This could start with “legacy apps,” that let you build mobile capabilities to free you up from things that chained you to a desktop environment.

Next might come apps to streamline operations, such as getting an alert when stock needs to be replenished or a part needs to be repaired.

And don’t overlook apps that help make your customers more engaged, whether it’s an app that lets them sign up to hear about your latest products, browse your catalogue, place orders or self-service tools to relieve the burden on your customer service team.

These are by no means the only kinds of apps low-code tools support, of course. Use your imagination, or tap into that of your team, your partners and customers.

You might be surprised at the range of creative ideas you’ll come up with. And before long, you might even start to feel like you’re getting closer to the art of outstanding software development.

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