Author: Susan Coleman, Content Marketing Manager, Appian
What is low-code? Low-code allows you to program a machine through a visual interface, such as by drawing a workflow diagram. As the name suggests, low-code is a way to develop software using little to no coding. Instead of writing tons of lines of code using a computer language, such as Python, Java, or .NET, low-code allows developers to build business applications with the help of simple visual interfaces, similar to creating a flowchart or designing a website using pre-built components. This makes it a much more intuitive and human way of interacting with a machine than coding. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
Even people with no hands-on application development experience probably know what traditional development looks like: extensive planning and requirements gathering followed by the actual coding, where specialized programming languages are used to write thousands or even tens of millions of lines of code—or more—depending on the complexity of the application or system being developed.
Building applications with low-code works much differently. The foundation for this approach is a low-code application platform (LCAP), also known as a low-code development platform (LCDP). The LCAP already contains the intelligence, components, and ability to translate visual input into the code needed to create an application. So what the software developer sees, instead of a blank screen where code has to be typed in from scratch, is a much simpler, graphical workspace.
Creating a process model.
When creating a business application with a low-code platform, developers map out the process the application is going to support within a process modeling view. As with a flowchart builder, the process modeler’s workspace provides visual elements for sketching out the process, including the following:
The components and connectors help software developers visualize the process steps as they relate to specific actions that will be carried out within the application, for example, adding a unique number to a new vendor account, or as mentioned above, obtaining approval for an invoice that exceeds a set value threshold. The components can represent both actions carried out by machines and activities that require human intervention. By defining the tasks and actions, connecting them in the proper sequence, and assigning them to either a human or machine to carry out, you can create a model of your process that clearly depicts the logic from one step to the next. You can then combine multiple processes to create end-to-end workflows. Examples of workflows include creating, routing, and tracking payment of invoices; onboarding a new hire; or creating a new customer or vendor account.
With your process in place in the modeler, you can start adding more functionality and user interfaces to carry out tasks and activities. Low-code platforms offer a wide variety of ways you can deliver this functionality, some still using the same drag-and-drop method and others requiring additional coding for customization. However, the use of code here is still minimal, making for much faster turnaround times for your development projects.
Building applications with low-code.
Some examples of ways you can add powerful functionality to your business applications include the following:
It’s probably clear by now that “low-code” can perhaps more accurately be described as “hidden code.” Low-code offers a secure and scalable method of application development that delivers many benefits when compared to high-code development, including increased speed and flexibility and lower cost and maintenance burden. An LCAP comes with much of the code already in place in the form of pre-built, standardized elements, including components and connectors, interface elements, and other tools that allow you to configure decision rules, visually impactful dashboards, and other user-friendly interfaces.
Want to learn more about low-code? Check out the sequel to this beginner’s guide for some more in-depth information on low-code platforms and the types of application functionality they deliver.
Posted: January 28, 2022