No-code, low-code… What advantages and what disadvantages for these simplified development solutions?

Announcements and fundraisers have been raining down for months. The rise of “no-code” (ability to create an application without having to type a line of code) and “low-code” (between 20% and 30% code to write yourself) is supported by very active investors but also by historical actors (Oracle, Microsoft…) having understood that this new way of developing applications was going in the direction of history. Gartner also estimates that by 2024, 65% of applications will be developed in low-code.

Last September, one of the iconic players in the sector, the unicorn Airtable, raised $185 million (Series D), bringing its valuation to $2.5 billion. The service provided by Airtable is a mixture of online spreadsheet, database and project manager. The strength of Airtable, in addition to being accessible in SaaS mode, lies in the richness of its ecosystem. It is indeed possible to connect Airtable (thanks to Zapier) to thousands of third-party applications such as Mailchimp (emailing), Pipedrive (CRM) or Typeform (forms and surveys).

Another prominent startup, Unqork, raised $207 million (Series C) last October. Its valuation is now estimated at $2 billion. The young shoot offers large accounts a platform allowing them to create, deploy and manage complex applications without writing a single line of code. We can add to the list of recent fundraisers the $140 million from Webflow (CMS) and the $6 million from Bubble (creation of no-code applications).

No-code platforms as a solution to CIO bottlenecks

“In companies, especially with large accounts, the business teams have a large number of application development projects in their boxes. Unfortunately, due to a lack of time and resources, the technical departments are not able, most of the time The support functions, particularly affected by this shortage of IT resources, come to censor themselves on their software needs“, says Francis Lelong, founder of the Alegria.tech agency.

“To date, there is no reason that a no-code tool cannot deliver the same service as a traditional tool. We rarely encounter limitations in functionality, especially with the Unqork platform, of which 80 % of clients are in the banking/finance sector. In this field, projects relate to complex calculations, ‘KYC’ regulations – Know Your Customer – credit scoring or onboarding applications. It cannot be said that these are simple applications!”adds the leader.

“One of the few limits that I nevertheless see in current no-code tools concerns native mobile applications, in particular iOS applications. No-code solutions are still far from being at the level of traditional tools. They do not currently allow to go into very high levels of abstraction”notes Francis Lelong.

Patrimoine.com: a no-code V2 seven times cheaper than V1
Maxime Di Mascio, founder of the start-up Patrimoine.com, a platform for connecting wealth management professionals and individuals, called on the services of the Alegria.tech agency to create the second version of his site.

“The Patrimoine.com site was initially entirely tailor-made, which for me was very limiting in terms of autonomy and flexibility. I then decided to take a 180° turn and go for a no-nonsense solution. -code that would give me more flexibility. We use Webflow as a CMS, Memberstack for account management and Airtable for the technical management of the site. All these tools are linked together thanks to Integromat”says Maxime Di Mascio.

According to the founder of Patrimoine, this second version cost him seven times less than the first and its design time was divided by three (two and a half months against nine months for the first version). The startupper stresses, however, that he could never have carried out this type of project alone. “No-code is not synonymous with ease of implementation. In this type of project, the bulk of the work must be done by people who master the tools. Alone, I could not have done it. I couldn’t I have neither the technical skills nor the time required. The real added value is in the ‘after’. Once the site is launched, I am completely autonomous. I can add features, manage my CRM, customize certain modules. .. What I couldn’t do with a tailor-made solution”notes Maxime Di Mascio.

Is the no-code version of the Patrimoine.com site destined to last? “Tomorrow, if the site registers 200,000 connections per day, I will need server and network capacity that no-code tools can no longer offer me. And tools like Airtable are limited in number of registrations: 50,000 lines per database in the ‘pro’ package. I will then have to hire around twenty developers and do some custom work. But we’re still a long way off. Many start-ups are making their first round table with a no-code site. And no-code platforms are progressing so quickly that, in two or three years, it will be time to reconsider my position“, analyzes Maxime Di Mascio.

Low-code, a logical extension of no-code?
Do no-code platforms meet all needs? Pierre Launay, co-founder of the Cube agency, puts things into perspective. “The ideal is to go as far as possible in no-code and then switch to low-code. Low-code makes it possible to enrich the standard functionalities offered by the platforms. Because, at some point , we are necessarily touching the limits of the tools”says the manager.

This is what Margaux Scalisi, founder of the start-up vefa-on-line.com, has experienced, a market place linking real estate developers with institutional buyers (social landlords). Her site was designed by the Cube agency in just two months, between May and June 2020, for a budget five times lower than what she would have spent with a traditional agency.

“The vefa-on-line.com site is a BtoB market place. My specifications included a certain number of specificities, so I needed a tailor-made product. This is the reason why I did not focused on suppliers of traditional marketplace solutions, more e-commerce calibrated, nor on no-code platforms. With low-code, we are able to iterate very quickly. After a month, we have made a stop, beta testers came into play and we were able to develop the site quickly”explains Margaux Scalisi.

“Six months after this MVP [Minimum Viable product, ndlr], which allowed us to show that the project was viable, we carried out an update on the design and we returned to cruising speed. Low-code makes it possible to create additional functionalities and plugins, to go beyond the generic functionalities offered by the platforms. In 2021, we will release new features, and it will always be low-code”says the startupper.

Cenareo, a company specializing in digital signage solutions, has also adopted a low-code approach. On a daily basis, to manage her blog, contact forms, emailing campaigns and many other workflows, she uses the Hubspot inbound marketing platform. The latter is characterized, like many digital marketing tools, by features that can be activated by a simple drag and drop. However, Cenareo calls on a web developer from time to time to make minor adjustments, particularly to the back-end part of its site.

SMEs and large accounts: who are the principals?
The previous examples show that start-ups are heavy consumers of no-code / low-code platforms allowing them to put their MVP or the first version of their site on the market in a few months. But what about projects carried out by SMEs and large accounts? Who are the principals? Who are the operational contacts for the platforms or agencies?

“Within SMEs, our interlocutor is often the boss who does not have the means to pay for a technical director but who has understood that digital is now everywhere. Some of these SMEs, leaders in their regional market, sometimes find themselves in front of start-ups that have raised funds, such as We Maintain (7 million euros in 2019) or Murfy (10 million euros, including 8 million in October), which do not necessarily need to be profitable right away and which have a great capacity for innovation. These SMEs are wondering what they can do to avoid being disrupted. They therefore need to accelerate their digital transformation.”explains Francis Lelong (Alegria.tech).

“Within large accounts, the principals are most often the technical directors, the CDOs, the marketing directors or the heads of business lines. Once the decision has been made, our daily contacts are the business teams: CFO, logistics, BI, commerce… We work with them in Agile mode, in sprints. We deliver micro-services to them which they test immediately. The tools we use allow us to go faster in designing screens, building workflows or implement algorithms”says Francis Lelong.

Don’t improvise “citizen developer” wants
As we have just seen through previous testimonials, no-code / low-code tools provide much appreciated flexibility and speed of execution as well as reduced costs. But don’t improvise “citizen developer” wants. A minimum of technical background, a solid knowledge of databases and a real appetite for UX and UI are necessary to carry out the majority of projects.

Also, market platforms are not as easy to learn as you might think. “Take Bubble, a low-code tool that we use a lot at the agency. The learning curve to master it is certainly much shorter than traditional development, but you still have to spend four or five months on the platform before to correctly develop applications”notes Pierre Launay (Cube agency).

Finally, when choosing a no-code or low-code platform, the quality of the code produced should be carefully considered. Because there is always code, it’s just that we don’t write it ourselves. “We believe that if no-code tools allow better accessibility and appropriation of technology by project leaders in order to keep control over their product, the fact remains that even with no-code, there is has more or less good ways of ‘no-coding’. Indeed, the performance of an application depends intimately on the way in which it has been developed, whether it is done with or without code, justifying the presence of a partner technical”concludes Pierre Launay.

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No-code, low-code… What advantages and what disadvantages for these simplified development solutions?


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