Software development has changed a lot over the years. Beginning with the now-outdated waterfall development model, it has seen new methodologies like Agile and SCRUM dominate the landscape. The catch with these newer methodologies is that, though they are proven to deliver and ship fully functional software, they require skilled developers to harness them, are very expensive, and are out of the reach of everyday businesses.
So what, then, is a feasible solution? The answer is low-code application development platforms.
What is low-code?
Low-code application development platforms offer a visual development approach, with drag-and-drop builders to architect applications using minimal conventional programming. This approach accelerates the entire process of application development, with low-code platforms effecting a 10x faster time to market when compared with traditional application development approaches.
The low-code situation today
Many low-code platforms are available on the market now, and they’re a diverse bunch. They range from fully cloud-based platforms to integrated development environment (IDE)-based solutions. Choosing the right low-code application development platform is crucial to succeeding when taking this approach to building apps.
How to choose the right Low-Code platform
There are many low-code platforms out there, and choosing the best low-code platform for your organization is no easy task. But don’t worry—you can use the following framework to choose the one that fits your needs:
5-step checklist for selecting the right low-code platform for your business
1Is it affordable? Does it fall within your organization’s low-code budget?Pricing is perhaps the most essential criteria to evaluate when choosing a low-code platform, as most organizations are limited by their budgets— especially when they’re just starting out on their low-code journey.
Taking a look at low-code platform pricing, we can observe some things:
Most offer a subscription-based model. You can subscribe on a monthly or a yearly basis, with the latter being more economical.
The pricing takes into account several factors, such as the number of applications that can be developed, the number of users who can access the applications, the type of support offered, the number of integrations the apps built can utilize, and what platform-specific features can be used.
The one observation to be made when it comes to the pricing of low-code platforms is: the more features you want the more you’ll have to pay.
Very few platforms offer a pay-as-you-go option for feature access, so being judicious when it comes to evaluating low-code platform pricing is vital.
2How easy is it to get started?The next step in evaluating a low-code platform is gauging its ease of adoption:
Some platforms require the installation of software on your machines to begin building applications. While this benefits organizations by giving them better control over their installation, this complicates the process of getting started, as sometimes your machine may not support the low-code platform’s software.
Some platforms require just a browser and an internet connection. This is generally the most user-friendly approach.
Some platforms are hybrid, so they need both software installed on your machine and a browser to access their web-based platform to supplement development. This option is a trade-off with the other two options discussed above.
3Does it cover the features required by your organization?Organizations will require certain features to get the most out of a low- code platform. These generally include:
Auto-scalability: The apps built should automatically scale with the increasing number of users and growth of the organization. In conventional software development, scalability is a separate endeavour in itself. With most low-code platforms, this is a default feature.
Built-in security: The apps built on low-code platforms are inherently secure, compared to coding separately for security in conventional development.
Stability: Low-code platforms offer freedom from frequent software crashes due to technical snags.
Continuous availability: This is a major reason organizations opt for low-code platforms. Many low-code platforms offer over 99% uptime and availability, which is difficult to achieve without tremendous effort in conventional development.
4To whom is this platform more friendly? Line of business users or developers?There are two kinds of people who develop apps: developers and business users. While developers generally have their pick of platforms, business users are the ones who are most empowered by low-code platforms. Consequently, low-code platforms can be:
Developer friendly: These platforms arm developers with rapid prototyping powers, enabling them to churn out highly capable, functional software with minimal coding in a short span of time, with a few trade-offs, such as the higher cost of utilizing a developer-friendly low-code platform.
Line of business user-friendly: These platforms empower line of business users—people with little or no technical knowledge—to develop applications. These type of platforms are the most sought after, as anyone with any level of technical expertise can build and deploy fully functional apps on these platforms. The trade-off? To implement complicated custom logic, a little bit of scripting is required.
5What deployment platforms are supported by the platform?This evaluation criteria matters a lot, because:
Some low-code platforms deploy to all major platforms: the web, Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
Some low-code platforms deploy only to specific platforms.
So if you need your apps to be universally accessible, you should ensure that the low-code platform you choose deploys to all platforms.
Now that we’ve gone over how to narrow down the search for a low-code platform to digitize your organization’s processes and empower your line of business users, let’s take a look at some of the best players in the game right now:
65 low-code platforms to help you automate your business processes
Microsoft Power Apps
The low-code platform offered by Zoho Corporation, Zoho Creator, has been in the industry for 15+ years now. It features intuitive visual builders, like:
A drag-and-drop form builder – Creator’s form builder has 30+ fields, including AI fields to build forms which can collect data.
A drag-and-drop page builder – This page builder allows you to build visually appealing dashboards just by dragging and dropping page elements. This makes crunching data and visually presenting it a walk in the park, as it is done without coding.
A drag-and-drop code snippet IDE – These drag-and-drop builders enable users with minimal coding experience to develop and deploy enterprise-grade applications on the platform.
Strengths of Zoho Creator
Creator offers a host of features for rapid application prototyping and development. Notable among them are:
A unique one-of-a-kind IDE that allows you to drag and drop code blocks to create scripts with ease. You just have to input your variables in the scripts after dragging and dropping the code blocks.
One-click deployment to the web and mobile. The platform allows you to deploy your apps hassle-free to the web, iOS, and Android with one click.
Holistic application lifecycle management. This feature allows you to seamlessly manage your applications’ lifecycle, from ideation to deployment.
Integration with 600+ other applications, including Zoho’s own suite of 50+ applications.
Weaknesses of Zoho Creator
Familiarity with Zoho’s scripting language Deluge is required if complex custom logic needs to be implemented.
Zoho is known predominantly as an SMB/SME player and only in the last 5+ years is Zoho seeing consistent success in the enterprise space.
Zoho Creator pricing
Zoho Creator has a flexible per-user pricing model. This makes the platform affordable for organizations of various sizes.
When it comes to pricing, Zoho Creator’s model is that of affordability. There are two plans: Professional and Ultimate.
The Professional plan starts at $25/user/month billed annually, or $37/user/month billed monthly. It includes 5 apps, 20 integration flows, and a flexible user count.
The Ultimate plan is $400/month billed annually (this plan comes with 10 users in the pack and $25 is charged per additional user). It includes unlimited apps, 100 integration flows, and unlimited BI & analytics.
You should choose Zoho Creator if…
You want a platform where you can rapidly and easily build sleek applications. You can leverage Creator’s drag-and-drop builders to build forms, dashboards, reports, and workflows with minimal coding.
You don’t mind learning a bit of Zoho’s user-friendly scripting language, Deluge, to implement complicated application logic.
You want your applications to integrate with lots of other external applications.
Mendix was founded in 2005, and it empowers both line-of-business users and professional developers to create applications. It accomplishes this by providing two platforms:
Mendix Studio for line-of-business users to create applications without coding.
Mendix Studio Pro for professional developers to code and develop applications programmatically.
Strengths of Mendix
IDEs for line-of-business users and developers.
To integrate with external systems, Mendix offers a unified data hub.
Weaknesses of Mendix
Users have to create a data model as the first step in developing applications.
High availability is the responsibility of the application developers themselves.
Application developers have to follow the platform’s guidelines and best security practices to ensure application security.
As the platform is built on Java, runtime errors can sometimes creep into applications.
Mendix offers two pricing categories—one for “one app” and the other for “unlimited apps”:
One app pricing: The basic plan starts at 50€/month, offering 5 users, with an additional cost of 10€/user/app/month. It offers access to log files, 9/5 support, and a 99.5% uptime guarantee.
The standard plan is 800€/month, with an additional cost of 10€/user/ app/month. It offers everything in the basic plan, along with added features, such as a dedicated customer success manager, enhanced deployment options, and vertical scalability.
The final offering in this tier is the premium plan, which is by quote only. It includes all features in the standard plan, plus a private app store, 24/7 support, and enhanced vertical and horizontal scalability.
Unlimited app pricing: Under this category, Mendix offers quote-only standard and premium plans, similar to the one app pricing’s standard and premium plans.
You should choose Mendix if…
You want to simultaneously equip your organization’s line-of- business users and professional developers with the ability to ship applications on their own. You can achieve this using the Mendix Studio and Mendix Studio Pro tools.
You won’t be extending your applications beyond Mendix’s Java framework.
OutSystems is a low-code company founded in 2001. It’s an industry veteran, having been in the low-code space for over two decades now. It is very developer-friendly and offers an installable IDE to develop applications.
Strengths of OutSystems
Developer-friendly IDE to develop low-code applications.
Asynchronous processes can be easily managed.
No-code methods are available to configure notifications, schedules, approvals, and payment workflows.
Rich integration ecosystem allows the IDE to be equipped with powerful modules.
Weaknesses of OutSystems
Web client has limited capabilities.
Platform requires knowledge of the .NET language for scripting.
Data management and analytics capabilities are dependent on hand coding.
Lots of effort is required to deploy native applications to mobile devices.
No offline setup.
Localization is difficult and time-consuming.
Installing upgrades and ensuring application security are cumbersome.
OutSystems offers three plans: a free plan, a standard plan, and a custom quote-only enterprise plan. The standard plan starts at $1,500 per month, billed annually. This plan offers on-premises or OutSystems Cloud hosting, full DevOps automation, and a 99.5% uptime guarantee on OutSystems Cloud. It also offers an option for additional production runtime environments.
You should choose OutSystems if…
You are a developer-focused organization, and you’d like to leverage OutSystems’ dedicated IDE to develop applications. Your organization’s developers are tech-savvy.
You have good financial resources.
Betty Blocks is a Dutch no-code platform founded in 2010 that advertises itself as a citizen application development platform. It states that its primary goal is to empower citizen developers to build apps all by themselves on its user-friendly platform.
Strengths of Betty Blocks
Easy setup and a short learning curve.
No-code platform abstracts away typical complexities that abound in app development.
Enhanced administrative control through features such as audit logs, user roles, and privilege management, as well as version control.
Ability to build web-based, mobile, and database apps.
Weaknesses of Betty Blocks
The platform offers limited extensibility to apps built on it.
No built-in payment gateway integrations.
No Android or iOS SDKs.
Betty Blocks pricing
Betty Blocks offers a free trial. It also offers a standard plan with unlimited applications, Betty Blocks-hosted cloud deployment, and 10 GB storage.
The enterprise plan offered by Betty Blocks offers 100 GB storage, on- premise and private cloud, unlimited environments, and a dedicated CSM.
The standard and enterprise plans are by quote only.
You should choose Betty Blocks if…
You want to equip your line-of-business users with the tools to develop applications on their own, without having to rely on the already overworked IT teams at your organization.
You’re willing to spend an unspecified amount of money, as Betty Blocks’ pricing plans are quote only.
You don’t mind not being able to deeply customize the apps you build on the platform.
Microsoft Power Apps
Power Apps is Microsoft’s low-code platform, seamlessly integrating with Microsoft Power Platform offerings such as Power BI, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, and Power Pages. The platform says it supports several types of developers, such as novice line-of-business application developers, as well as professional developers. It can create two types of applications: Canvas apps and model-driven apps.
Strengths of Microsoft Power Apps
Easy to access drag-and-drop UI.
Ability to customize app themes, layouts, icons, and more, without coding.
Automatic scaling and application versioning
User activity logs, audit trails, user roles, and control management.
Tight integration with Power Platform.
Weaknesses of Power Apps
Power Apps lacks built-in chart, page, and report building capabilities. It instead relies on Power BI to accomplish this.
When you import data into Power Apps, you have to cleanse it manually.
Only basic form building capabilities are available for online data collection.
Pricing is complex and tough to understand.
Power Apps pricing
Power Apps offers two categories of pricing:
Per-app plan: This plan is $5 user/app/month
Per-user plan: This plan is $20 per user/month
Per-app plan priced at $10 per active user/app/month
Aside from these plans, Power Apps offers:
Portals at $200 per month for 100 login sessions, or portals at $100 per month for 100,000 page views.
An AI builder at $500 per unit/month.
You should choose Power Apps if…
Your enterprise already relies on the Microsoft ecosystem.
You seek an affordable way to develop and deploy apps for your organization.
You want pay-as-you-go plans.
Low-code platforms categorized based on users’ technical expertise
Here’s a handy graph that categorizes the low-code platforms in this study based on their complexity:
And if you want a more in-depth look, here’s a page that compares Zoho Creator with other platforms: Zoho Creator vs the competition.
Do you want to discuss developing applications for your organization on Zoho Creator?
Click the link below to request a free proof of concept Zoho Creator application for your organization.
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