Native Vs No-Code Development for Business: What You Need to Know

5 July 2024


Software Development Company

What is no-code app development? Imagine a typical scenario. A young startup has a potentially world-changing idea and the ambition to conquer the business world but a limited budget. It’s just the beginning and only a business hypothesis that hasn’t yet met the reality of user needs and customer pain points.

A few decades ago, this startup’s founders would have started with a comprehensive business plan for at least five years and a long list of technical requirements for a full-cycle custom software development project. Today, we have the magic of no-code app builders. The idea is anyone can easily build a mobile app within just a few days.

Is it, however, that simple in real life? And does it really mean the days of native development are over? We summed up some hard facts about different approaches to software development.

A no-code developer is rearranging icons corresponding to the app's features.

What Is No-Code Development?

How does no-code work? Put simply, no-code (zero-code) is the process of programming without writing code. In other words, it’s creating applications using a system of predefined objects and their relationships, similar to constructing something with a set of building blocks. In this approach, users can create objects based on templates, configure the system, design screen forms, and set up processing logic without manually writing code.

Imagine building a website using a drag-and-drop website builder. You assemble components like images, text boxes, and buttons without the hassle of writing intricate code.

The key idea is that application blocks and their integrations are already developed and coded, and artificial intelligence can be used to generate the necessary code automatically. This approach aims to simplify the development process by allowing users to build applications through visual interfaces and predefined components, reducing the reliance on traditional coding skills.

A quote explaining what no-code development is

No-Code Programming: Pros and Cons

Like any other approach to software development, no-code has advantages and weaknesses. Here are the main points summed up.

No-Code: The Advantages

These are the main reasons why businesses opt for no-code development.

  • It’s accessible.

No-code platforms are user-friendly. Even novice programmers can quickly create websites and applications.

  • It’s fast.

On a no-code platform, most of the development is done through a drag-and-drop interface with pre-built modules. It accelerates the website building and testing processes.

  • It’s cost-efficient.

Having it done more easily and faster, businesses can hire fewer professional developers, potentially reducing development costs.

  • It increases productivity.

For the same reasons as in the previous point, there is more time available to focus on other tasks, leading to increased overall productivity.

  • It’s adaptable.

Unlike traditional manual coding, where changing functionality can be challenging without deep knowledge of a programming language, no-code applications make even new logic implementation faster. Changes can be launched within a few hours.

No-Code: The Disadvantages

Despite all the advantages, there are some critical points many business owners often overlook.

  • You need to know exactly what your final product will be.

To do no-code development well, you need to really understand what you want the final product to be. Since no-code platforms have their limits, it’s crucial to verify if these limits might affect how you want your website or app to work.

  • The templates are rigid.

No-code platforms don’t offer endless options for components. The rigidity of available templates can limit creative flexibility and make the design less unique.

  • Lack of control causes security implications.

Unlike native development, a no-code mobile app builder doesn’t give you full control over the application. It can lead to security and reliability issues like the platform suddenly closing or changing owners. As a result, vital systems might become open to risks, including the possibility of harmful code getting in.

  • Migration becomes complex.

If you decide to switch from the first development platform, changing to a new one can be tricky. Even if you get access to the source code, it’s harder to manage and update the code because there aren’t clear instructions and documentation.

What Is Low Code Development?

The term “no-code” is often used together with the term “low-code,” but there is a significant distinction between them. No-code platforms allow users to build software without modifying the underlying code. Typically, they employ a visual interface that guides users step by step through the development process. In many cases, these tools utilize drag-and-drop functionality.

On the other hand, low-code platforms may require limited knowledge of scripting languages (like Python, JavaScript, or PHP). These solutions usually consist of a mix of visual interfaces and coding sections with some guidance, where users might need to write small commands and data processing scripts.

Picture using a platform that offers pre-built components while allowing you to inject custom code for added flexibility. It caters to both simplicity and customization, making it suitable for more complex projects.

Low-code development platforms are typically designed for applications that are more complex or critical to the business and require manual control from a skilled developer (in comparison to no-code).

A visual quote explaining what low-code development is.

Both no-code and low-code approaches have limits, so a project may quickly reach the functionality ceiling. To get past this, the software might need to be completely rewritten. Typically, after hitting these limitations, projects shift to native development. So, low-code and no-code are excellent for hypothesis testing and prototyping. After that, if things look good, money can be set aside to do it properly.

What is Native Development?

Native development means creating applications specifically for a particular mobile platform. If you want to make an app for both iOS and Android users, you need to write a separate version for each operating system.

One of the main advantages of native development is that it provides high performance for the app. It directly interacts (as much as possible) with all the device’s resources and can access most functions provided by the OS (like photo and video shooting, geolocation, and the use of sensors).

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It’s a way to build better apps. However, there are drawbacks. Developing native apps for multiple platforms can be costly and time-consuming. They require constant support and updates. Many are related to adjusting the software to meet the latest requirements of operating systems. And you have to do it separately for each system.

Native development is suitable for those who are ready to take the task seriously, do it with high quality and commitment, and understand how to make the investment worthwhile.

A visual quote explaining what native development is.

Common Myths About No-Code Development

Recently, no-code development has become a buzzword heavily promoted by numerous online schools and marketers trying to sell it as a universal solution to all software development challenges. While this approach can be advantageous (when done right), there are five common misconceptions misleading many startupers.

Myth #1: You don’t need any specific app development knowledge.

No-code tools promise quick app development, but mastering UX/UI design and database handling is crucial. Most platforms overlook UX, lack quality in UI, and ignore database intricacies.

Moreover, specific knowledge, like iOS guidelines and Android design, is essential. Some platforms demand programming skills like JavaScript. No-code courses might lead to basic apps, but true proficiency requires mastering design and database concepts.

Myth #2: Constructors make development 10 times cheaper.

Claims of 10 to 20 times faster development with no-code constructors are exaggerated. While they speed up development, the actual acceleration is around threefold.

Cost-effectiveness may become about 5.5 times cheaper, but further acceleration risks compromising app quality. Creating clones of major apps post-course is unrealistic; complex products always need professional teams.

Myth #3: No-code products are on par with code-developed native apps.

No-code apps differ in functionality and quality based on underlying technology. PWAs (e.g., Bubble or Glide) lack native smoothness and gestures. Cross-platform frameworks (e.g., React Native or Flutter) have drawbacks like larger size and lower performance. Native code (e.g., AppMaster or IDE DePro) generally leads to more robust applications. Constructors, even the best, are geared toward MVPs and lag behind native apps.

Myth #4: No-code products are easy to scale and expand.

No-code claims of easy scalability and expansion are often overstated. Many constructors lack true scalability, slowing down as users exceed 1000. Some rely on third-party tools, incurring extra costs. Declarations of scalability by tools like Xano lack clear implementation details. Expandability is limited, and users may switch to code after the MVP stage if a constructor’s capabilities fall short.

Myth #5: There are millions of no-code developers.

Claims of millions of no-code developers and applications are inflated. The reality check comes from app store statistics. Google Play Store, for example, adds about 1 million applications (including games) each year, and even more apps get removed. It happens as the app store introduces new policies, safety rules, and increasingly automated app reviews that sometimes remove even legitimate programs. As a result, the Google Play Store currently hosts around 2.6 million applications, and the App Store has even fewer.

Significantly, the statistics for new app additions show no sudden spikes, suggesting that the proportion of applications developed with no-code platforms in the Google Play Store is very small.

What Do You Really Need No-Code Development For?

Let’s put everything in its place — different approaches to software development serve different purposes. If you have a business hypothesis that needs quick validation, a no-code solution or low-code development will help you do that at a relatively low cost. In this case, you quickly build a functional yet limited minimum viable product (MVP) and either test your idea or get a flashy prototype ready to attract your first investments. Or both.

No-code and low-code shine in testing hypotheses, rapid prototyping, and swiftly translating ideas into functional applications. Once validated, these projects may transition to more robust native implementations.

However, if you are working on a large, user-focused product with high productivity, unique design, and comprehensive functionality (including fancy sensors and complex payment integrations), be ready to opt for native development.

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