Pros & Cons of Low-Code Blockchain Platform Development
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
Faster deployment. 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.
Improved scalability. 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.
Low risk. 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.
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?
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.
Limited scalability. 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.
Vendor lock-in. 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.
For blockchain development, Low-Code is useful if: