Best Low-Code Platforms

The low-code approach is taking the development world by storm, but how do you pick the best low-code platform for your specific needs?

Best low-code platforms

6 Things to Consider When Looking for the Best Low-Code Platforms

The world of low-code platforms is a complex space, and no single vendor offers a perfect platform that covers every possible scenario.

If the application you need to build is relatively simple, most low-code platforms will meet your needs.

If, however, you are building/upgrading complex enterprise applications, you need to carefully consider multiple aspects of the low-code development to narrow down a list of platforms that fit your specific needs.

1. Deployment

All low-code platforms offer some form of “push-button” deployment.

If you need a managed deployment with a minimum of headaches, the best low-code platform for you is likely to be either Outsystems or Mendix.

Both have managed deployments complete with analytics and monitoring tools to make the whole process a breeze. If your application is relatively simple, such that it can be built completely within a visual tool, and you’d prefer to pay someone else for hosting, you should put these platforms on your shortlist.

If you prefer to deploy on your own, or perhaps there are regulatory requirements that prevent you from hosting with a low-code vendor, you should look at the Reify low-code platform.

Reify platform has an option to deploy on your own, and also offers an on-premises solution with automated, managed deployments to private clouds.

If you need more control over deployment, and especially if you already have a private cloud, Reify is probably the best low-code platform for you.

2. Focus / Industry

What kinds of applications do you need to build?

If your requirements are relatively narrow, for example, you need to automate a basic business process where some order / document / request needs to be shuttled around to various parties to act on it, then you are looking for a BPM (Business Process Management) tool.
The best low-code platform in the BPM space is likely Pega.

Are you in finance?
If so, Forbes has an excellent article on the future of low code and no code tools in the financial markets space.

If your need for low-code applications is centered around CRM, then SalesForce, while not often considered when talking about low-code, may be the best low-code platform for your needs.

3. Collaboration

Who will be building your applications?
Will it be exclusively developers, or will product managers and business analysts get involved?

If you think of low-code/no-code approach primarily as a developer productivity benefit, then Outsystems is probably the best low-code platform for your needs. Outsystems offers a downloadable tool rather than a web-based tool, it’s more developer-oriented, and junior developers can get a lot done with Outsystems’ tools.

On the flip side, if you want to produce applications entirely with “less technical” staff, Appian or QuickBase are probably the best low-code platforms. While there are clear limits to these tools, they are friendly to non-developers.

Reify low-code platform provides a mix of the two: it’s a web-based tool where everyone can collaborate:

  • Non-developers can build screens visually and can complete and deploy pretty sophisticated apps.
  • Developers can also jump in and help with coding the complex parts of the app.

Reify provides a neat model for how these two groups can collaborate. So, for organizations that see low-code adoption as involving closer collaboration between design and developer teams, Reify is likely the best low-code platform for you.

4. Pricing

Most low-code vendors price their platforms on a per-end-user basis. 

If you have a small number of end-users, you can get a deployed, managed app for ten users for as little as $500/month from Mendix, SalesForce, Appian, and other vendors. 

Prices are even lower if you don’t need all the features, but price can go up fast if you have multiple apps.

Do watch out for pricing pitfalls. 

Pricing is generally per end-user per month, but it is tiered by feature requirements, with the top tier (“Enterprise”) being rather expensive (e.g. $100/user/month).

Sometimes, you have a simple app, but it needs just one feature that is only available at the “Enterprise” tier, so you end up paying for Enterprise-level service for a pretty basic app.

Even worse, this might be something you only discover as you go from version 1.0 to version 2.0 with an already deployed, working application. At that point, you have little leverage in terms of working out better pricing.

Similarly, you might have a feature in your app that every employee needs access to, but very rarely. If you’re at a large business, suddenly you are considered to have 10,000 users, even if there are only five concurrent users, and your costs explode.

As long as you can avoid these pitfalls, multiple platforms offer very affordable hosting.

If you think per-end-user pricing might bite you in the future, Reify is probably the best low-code platform for you.

Reify offers pricing based on the number of designers who use Reify to create applications, not the number of end-users

You can either deploy your app on your own or, if you choose managed deployment, pricing is based on resource usage (CPU time, bandwidth). Reify gives you a consistent price structure with no pitfalls.

5. Mobile vs. Desktop vs. Both

Your needs as far as mobile vs. desktop support can easily determine the best low-code platform to use. This is one of the areas in which it may make sense to use multiple vendors, each for different projects.

First, be aware that some vendors offer mobile-adaptive design, which means that you design a single UI, and that UI automatically adapts to the device that is in use – this includes both Mendix and Reify.  

Other vendors, such as Outsystems, require you to design a separate UI for mobile. Either approach might be better, depending on whether you need a fully-functional mobile version of your app, or whether you prefer your mobile version to be greatly simplified.

Second, as far as mobile support, do you need a true native mobile app (as in downloadable from Apple and Google App Stores) or do you just want a PWA (Progressive Web Application)?

PWA is basically just a web application that is well-adapted to mobile use, including enhanced caching (HTML5 manifests) and perhaps certain mobile-aware features (like allowing users to choose photos, or even opening the camera to take a picture).

If you have your heart set on a true native mobile app, the best low-code vendor for that project is likely to be Outsystems, who have heavily automated the process of getting a mobile application into the App Stores.

If you need mobile support, but you don’t want the extra work, Reify may be the best low-code platform for you.

Reify apps do a really good job of automatically switching behavior on mobile: side-by-side layouts automatically switch to pane-at-a-time navigation, pickers automatically switch to full-screen mode, etc.

A fun fact is that the Reify design tool itself works on smartphones. You wouldn’t want to spend all day trying to design an app on a 6″ screen, but, if you need to check something quickly on the go, it does work, and that shows you how good the automatic mobile adaptation is.

6. Complexity & Range

Where do you want to use Low Code? 

Ideally you use it everywhere, but is that possible?

The well-known “incumbents” of this space – SalesForce, Outsystems, Mendix, Appian, etc. – all offer some ability to extend their platforms with custom code, and in some cases custom components.  

That approach usually works, but, you do want to carefully analyze your application’s requirements before starting with this category of tool. 

If you hit a wall with a requirement that the tool can’t handle, you may end up starting over from scratch!

Reify low-code platform is a standout here.

You can build just parts of your application in the low-code style, and then plug those parts into a larger application. 

This is quite useful, because it means that you can apply the low-code approach to any application, not just the simpler ones.

You can even use Reify to incrementally upgrade legacy applications by adding new screens built in Reify (also known as “application modernization”).

Wrap Up

Low-code is a new methodology that enables much faster application development.

There are many vendors in this space, each with strengths and weaknesses. There is no single best low-code platform, and the best strategy is almost certainly to choose more than one based on your requirements.  

The only thing you definitely cannot do is sit on the sidelines and watch your competitors gain an advantage over you via low-code!

Let us know what kind of app you are trying to build.

We will evaluate your needs and give you honest advice, even if it involves sending you to another company!