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Should startups use ‘no-code’ solutions instead of traditional development, for websites and web applications?

So, you finally applied George Polya’s four-step method to develop the OUT-OF-THE-BOX web application idea for your business or startup. To reach this point, you must have gone through countless sleepless nights, done significant research, and finally analysed the problem that the web application you have designed for your business could change the world.

Now what? Now you simply want to execute your excellent plan. That’s right, you need to build it. As for the execution, you already know about the crucial role of having a solid online platform, which as you know, includes a business website and potentially also an accompanying web application. After all, you’ve spent many months considering how all these factors play into it and how your plan will fall into place.

So, I guess at this point you’re excited to execute it, and why shouldn’t you be? I mean you’re the one who created the plan. Now all you want is to execute it. You want to ‘look back and reflect’ in a few years’ time – because after all this hard work, you deserve to enjoy that sweet feeling of “Yep! Finally, I made it”. 

But wait!!! Isn’t the above paragraph too optimistic? Are we jumping ahead of ourselves? After all, we haven’t even built it yet. But, yeah, I know we should always look to the bright side. Instead of being a pessimist, we should think “this idea and this web application will be a huge success”, but they say being cautious is a good thing, right? After all, you don’t want your idea to fail due to some “silly factor” that you ignored during your ideation stage.

Now, the bad news. On a daily basis, hundreds of people come up with excellent business ideas, but they fail to execute them correctly. The mistakes made during the initial phases of their startup have, in fact, ruined the entire future of their idea. Or, at the very least, made their lives exceptionally difficult or expensive to scale.

In Web application development no-code method has its own drawbacks

Now, you’re at a critical decision-making point as a business owner, and now you face a dilemma between two options:

  1. Hire a team and go with the traditional method (coding from scratch)
  2. Building it yourself using a ‘no-coding’ solution/online platform

So, which method do you choose?

As GitHub’s CEO said –

“The future of coding is no coding at all”

Consider your scenario, i.e. low on budget, don’t have the time and resources, you are considering opting for the no-code solution because it seems cost-efficient. You don’t have complex processes like hiring a team, writing a set of requirements someone will understand, and overseeing the development stage involved in the traditional method of web application development. Also, not forgetting: planning your workflow, wireframing the UI, architecting your database, developing a front end, and building the back end, etc.

There are plenty of platforms for everything you need to get your business going. WEB FLOW, for the more technically savvy, can be used to develop websites all the way from SaaS to e-commerce shops, and SCAPIC could be used to add augmented reality to your product, and many many others.

With their “SEO FRIENDLY TAGLINES” like “BUILD A WEBSITE IN 5 MINUTES”. Opting for the no-code solution can be the best way to start. From launching the website, building workflow, and automation, you don’t have to worry about anything – sounds compelling enough?

But is it…

Have you considered what these no-code web development platforms might fail to mention in their “SEO FRIENDLY TAGLINES ”? Have you considered that what might seem like a win-win situation now, could actually ruin your startup or severely disrupt your ability to scale later?

Peter F. Drucker once said:

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

Cons of using a no-code solution for a web application

  • Security. The first question you should ask in tech is “how can I keep my user’s data safe?” The security of your website is equally important as the user experience and design. And this becomes even more important when dealing with payments and other personal information. Now, no-code channels do promote themselves as cost effective, high productivity, high security and, to an extent, it is true. However, there are many security risks of cloud computing, like identity theft, compliance violations, data breaches, and malware infections, etc. Unfortunately, these platforms are bigger targets. These systems are usually rigid, but it does mean that you are trusting someone else to look after your data.
  • Limits for customisation – Due to rigid functionality, as they are designed for people with zero or minimal technical skills, it means that there can be a limit to what you acheive.
  • Concealed operations & lack of visibility – When you use these platforms, you can’t see your own source code. Source code is the text version of commands to compile or assemble for an executable computer program. If you were developing something from scratch, it would be considered your intellectual property. Another thing to note is that you also can’t see any problems that might be going on in the background. This is due to lack of visibility. Your application might do what it is designed to do. But, do you actually know “how” it all works underneath the bonnet? Knowing how it works and finding ways to make it more efficient over time is key in good software development. You miss this opportunity when someone else makes the decisions about the development of the platform you’re building on.
  • You’re married to your platform. Imagine the application was a roaring success and you have 500 users in your first month. Then you get 5,000 the next. It’s your honeymoon but a year down the line the system you’ve built starts to struggle under the new load and it doesn’t serve it’s purpose in the most efficient way anymore. Your customers are starting to complain, but you made a commitment by building it on the no-code platform. What are you going to do now? You have 5,000 paying customers stuck on a platform that can’t be easily moved over to another, more powerful, reactive, envrionment. Maybe a platform with better load balancing? Well it’s too bad, and the bad news you can’t move without a struggle. You have to file for a divorce from the platform. It has to be redeveloped from scratch, but you’re kicking your past self for cutting corners early on. You later find that the time and monetary expenses, let alone the project management & planning required required to pull this move off down the line is immense. Like with any divorce, you see, it can just get a little messy.
  • Slow to react to market changes. These platforms don’t provide you with a custom ROAD MAP of your website, web application, etc. You have to use the tools they supply you. It’s like being supplied with a toolbox which has a hammer and a few nails. Great, but you’re missing a screwdriver to build out a new feature. You’d have to wait until they could supply you with a screwdriver to be able to develop that new feature. All while your competitors have already developed something and pushed it into the market and left you in the dust. Even a can of Red Bull won’t save you at this point.

Advantages of the traditional method over the no-code solution

A simple explanation is essentially getting exactly what you want, built in exact accordance with your requirements. The creme de la creme of software development. Many consider it as the more ‘sophisticated’ solution for all the challenges startups face, like scaling and flexibility.

So, without further ado, here are some of the key advantages of going traditional:

  • Control over security – All humans make mistakes. No code is bug-free nor impossible to hack. These websites or apps do not exist, anywhere. However, your own mistakes are often much easier to forgive than other’s mistakes. When you develop something yourself, you can make a serious effort in your security department to prevent such security issues. Things like Cross-site Scripting, Phishing, SQL injection, Buffer Overflow, etc. Essentially, there is no limit. Well, aside from budget. You can put any amount of time or effort building your defences. You can also tailor your security specificially to your platform, rather than relying on a one size fits all approach.
  • More flexibility – The best advantage of them all. Web apps or websites developed using traditional methods actually have way, way, more flexibility than the web apps developed by no-code solutions. Limits only include the skills you have avilable to you. But essentially, you are unlimited as to what you can acheive.
  • Complete ownership – If you develop your web app, software, or website with traditional programming it means you can in majority of cases view and own your own source code. It is yours to keep safe or distribute. So, there is no middle platform/company blocking you from the origins of your application. You own absolutely everything. Well, you might use open source software

TL; DR; (Too long, didn’t read)

So, should startups use ‘no-code’ solutions instead of traditional development for websites and web applications? In short, probably not.

  1. If you want to develop a web application/website you can opt for either traditional programming or a no-code/low-code solution.
  1. Using no-code you don’t have to worry about the complex technical processes involved in traditional development. However, no-code does have its flaws.
  1. Choose no-code if you are on a limited budget, have lots of time, and need to prove your idea works. Production apps, on the other hand, we would politely advise you “not to do it”.
  1. Building a program using developers gets you what you want, in exact accordance with your requirements. You have a tangible asset that belongs to your business.
  1. Building from scratch you can control the security, you have more flexibility, and you have total ownership of the program. Don’t like your service provider? Charging higher prices for your growth? Just move to another one. Problem solved.