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Developing blockchains, smart contracts and decentralized applications (Dapps) is a rather complicated process that requires a lot of time, a lot of investment and professional blockchain developers. However, it's not always. In some cases, you can short-cut the corner with low-code platforms, where anyone with superficial programming skills can create their blockchain solution quickly and easily.
In this article we'll discuss what Low-code is and how this approach differs from traditional software development
along with the pros and cons of Low-code when developing blockchain platforms
What is Low-code development?
According to Gartner: "Low-code application platforms or LCAPs is a service that supports rapid software development, single-step deployment, execution and management using declarative high-level programming abstractions such as model-based and metadata-based programming languages. In addition, LCAP supports the development of interfaces, business logic as well as data services and improves performance through inter-vendor portability compared to conventional application platforms."
To put it more simply, Low-code is an approach to development that requires minimal programming skills to create software
. Instead of traditional "high" programming, a drag-and-drop graphical interface is used to create the interface or logic for software, allowing software to be created quickly and easily by assembling functional "blocks" from a predefined set of templates - just like LEGO bricks.
Low-code solutions are distinguished by a number of features, such as:
- Use of WYSIWYG drag-and-drop tools (what you see is what you get) to automate workflows and create applications.
- Workflow templates, scripts, libraries, design elements and interface customization to develop full-featured applications with (or without) minimal programming skills.
- Integration with productivity services/platforms, databases, web services and data connectivity APIs.
- Access to a Low-code platform infrastructure on which you can deploy your application fairly easily and quickly.
Reasons for Low-Code's Popularity
The first and probably the most important reason for the popularity of Low-Code is the necessity to solve the problem of the programmers' shortage. According to a report by Global Knowledge
, already now 80% of management teams in the U.S. and 78% of their colleagues abroad face problems caused by a shortage of technical IT-specialists. It is noted that even now the shortage of programming labor worldwide has reached 40 million, while it is expected that by 2030 the staff shortage in the IT-market will increase to 85.2 million professionals.
Which areas have the greatest talent shortage. Source.
The second reason for widespread adoption of Low-Code platforms is their cost-effectiveness. Due to the increasing staff shortage in the market, the average salary of software developers in the USA and the European Union has reached a staggering $110,000 per year
. And since the shortage of experienced specialists will not disappear, their salaries will continue to grow.
Salary of the 10 most in-demand tech jobs in 2022.
Another important reason for the growing interest in Low-Code is laziness of professional programmers. According to Gartner
, 66% of Low-Code platform users are professional developers who want to simplify their work by creating a "draft" in LCAP and then refining it with manual coding. This approach often gives better results than writing application code from scratch. But it is only true for relatively simple projects.
Low-Code for frontend and backend
If you intend to use Low-Code to develop your own application, here are some solutions you can use.
Low-Code platforms for frontend tasks:
Low-Code platforms for backend tasks:
- UI/UX design. Low-Code platforms like OutSystems and Appian contain ready-made templates, layouts, widgets and design kits to help you create web and mobile app layouts.
- Website builders. WordPress and Shopify allow you to create a website for a blog, marketplace, portfolio or other task in a couple of minutes without any programming or web design skills.
- App development. You can use Appy Pie and AppSheet to create a web service or mobile app, improve its functionality and connect it to external data sources.
- API generation. Linx and other similar low-code platforms allow you to use ready-made blocks for API generation which in turn, allow you to connect third-party services to your MVP.
- Data Integration. Platforms like Integrate.io can extract, analyze, and visualize data from multiple sources into your desktop software, mobile app, or website.
- Build business logic. You can outsource server processes, implement complex workflows and customize business logic in your software with Xano, Backendless and other BaaS solutions.
- Containerization. Choreo is a Low-Code platform that can package your system into portable, lightweight, executable files for easy deployment.
These are just a few Low-Code solutions you can use to run your own projects, including developing blockchain platforms.
Blockchain Development and Low-Code
Low-Code can be used to create new applications and tools in almost any industry and blockchain is not an exception. Moreover, blockchain and Low-Code are natural partners with an almost symbiotic relationship, since both technologies are ideal for systematizing and automating many typical processes in a wide range of fields from finance to supply chains.
For example, you can already create your own cryptocurrency
or non-exchangeable token (NFT) without any programming, although just a few years ago you needed programmers with extensive knowledge of IT and blockchain to do so. Now you can easily create smart contracts using templates of typical algorithms and instructions. And there are more and more such Low-Code platforms.
However, despite the rapid growth in popularity of Low-Code in blockchain development, this approach has certain limitations.
Advantages of Low-Code Blockchain Development
Simplicity and Accessibility
. According to Gartner's 2021 study
, by 2025 more than half of Low-Code users will not be "citizen developers" with minimal knowledge of programming, rather than technical experts as they are now. That' not surprising, as the lack of the necessity for extensive engineering knowledge makes Low-Code accessible to marketers, business analysts, web designers and entrepreneurs, who previously needed to find expensive developers to implement their ideas and bring a product quickly to the market as possible.
Who can use Low-Code solutions. Source.
. Low-Code platforms essentially reuse the same code rather than writing it from scratch every time. Moreover, this includes not only simple scripting but also in-depth analytics functions, A/B testing for efficiency optimization (performance, sales, marketing), monitoring, and integration with third-party services. This allows you to use Low-Code to create custom solutions with complex business logic, such as blockchain solutions for GameFi, decentralized finance, logistics, insurance and marketing.
Reducing development costs
. According to surveys, the use of Low-code has helped 84% of enterprises reduce costs. Which makes sense, because with this approach, companies spend less money on hiring professional developers, cloud computing specialists, testers, etc. They also don't have to invest in expensive hardware infrastructure, development software, cloud solutions and subscriptions/licenses. In addition, Low-Code tools allow you to create MVPs with much less effort, reducing proof-of-concept costs.
It is also worth emphasizing that Low-code tools for blockchain platform development
typically use the infrastructure of Etherium, Tether, BSC, Cardano, Polkadot, Polygon and other blockchains. This helps reduce the cost of maintaining an application's backend infrastructure.
. Moving to Low-Code has helped 84% of companies improve their flexibility and reduce time to market. According to QuickBase
, 62% of civilian developers (people with minimal web development and programming skills) need less than two weeks to build an app; 71% of civilian developers surveyed were able to increase development speed by at least 50% after just one year of using Low-Code solutions.
. Most Low-Code platforms allow you to deploy custom applications in their cloud architectures. This not only helps reduce startup costs but also lets you quickly reach the scalability you are looking for. By doing so, your blockchain solution can have significantly more users than planned. This is why 65% of companies prefer Low-Code platforms to handle large user workloads and data storage.
Reduced technical costs
. Another benefit of low-code solutions is the ability to optimize server processes quickly and easily. For example, some low-code solutions automatically update the code to introduce the latest security standards, optimize legacy processes, add new functionality and improve performance. At the same time, these updates are immediately reflected in all applications created using these low-code platforms. As a result, you can reduce overhead and technical debt for your IT teams.
Simplicity of change.
Your design or business logic preferences have changed? No problem! With just a few clicks, you can easily change the entire interface, create a new landing page, add new automation and more. Need a new feature not available on your current platform? Just find a new platform, sign up and learn how to use it. Often you can even combine both Low-code platforms using tools like Zapier. And you don't need to hire developers
, create detailed TORs, perform complex analysis and make architectural decisions to do so.
. Because of less time and money, even if what you create doesn't meet the needs of your users (customers or teammates), it's not a big deal. You haven't lost millions of dollars and months of development - you can always start from scratch.
Cons of blockchain development with Low-Code
Costs (yes, once again)
. Long term, usually after 1-3 years, you may find that what was cheap in the beginning becomes very expensive. If you are using a Low-Code solution, you will probably have to pay per user, per gigabyte, per usage or a combination of both every month - pricing can vary greatly between platforms. Within 1-3 years, these costs will exceed the cost of developing an application the traditional way.
Limitations and trade-offs
. When using Low-Code tools, you will always be severely limited by the sets of templates and pre-built solutions provided to you. This could be limiting design elements, limited sorting or filtering capabilities, poor performance of some specific operation you need, poor image optimization, etc. Each time you will have to make a decision: will you make some compromise or write this part with custom code?
Complicated "wooden" setup.
Low-Code is a Lego in the world of software development. You can make a flower pot from it (a simple application), but a beautiful pot (an application with unique features and design) is unlikely. Source.
Low-code platforms are designed to serve many different businesses, so they need to be universal. It can create major problems if you need some unique functionality. You'll have to write your own code for the functionality you need or abandon the Low-Code platform entirely.
Cybersecurity and data protection.
Qualified developers can determine what each line of code in a hand-written application is doing and they can code according to the best practices for avoiding problems that lead to safety vulnerabilities. While Low-Code users don't know how the basic code works so can create security risks they don't even know about. Also, even if you know how the code works, it doesn't help if the problem is on the Low-Code side of the platform.
. One further disadvantage of blockchain development via Low-Code is the limited scalability of such solutions. They just can't withstand the high volume of user traffic and transactions. Moreover, the higher the complexity of an application, the faster it will reach the scalability ceiling and get out of control.
When Low-code applications can get out of control due to their increasing complexity.
Limited choice of vendors
. Other disadvantage of blockchain platform development through low-coding is quite a small number of suppliers for Low-Code solutions in this sector. The problem is a nascent market and it is very demanding in terms of security (code quality). But with time, this problem is likely to solve itself.
. Any project (commercial or Open Source) can be closed and Low-Code platforms are not an exception. If it happens to your vendor, you will be either forced to move your project to another Low-Code platform somehow or your application will simply stop working.