Low-Code vs Traditional Development – Choose the Best Option for Your Startup

With the growing popularity of low-code development, it is hard to see which option is more suitable for you – traditional or low-code development. In this article, we are going to analyze low-code and traditional development, define the difference and answer how to choose the most profitable option for a startup.

July 26, 2022

10 min

Technologies

Behind every successful project, there is a team of specialists proficient in modern technical tools, marketing approaches, and testing techniques. However, when there is a need to build an MVP in the shortest time frame or test a business idea as soon as possible, tech and business people often fail to unite their efforts and produce working software that aligns with user expectations.

That happens because software development projects rely heavily on the availability of specialized development resources. They are responsible for the technical implementation of the software or its part and need to go through each step of the software lifecycle: from requirements gathering to code deployment on production servers. 

But for non-technical people, it is hard to give a helping hand and jump into the process of project delivery to meet the deadlines and start competing in the market. Because of that, the popularity of low-code development and no-code approach has gained much traction over the past years. 

In brief, these approaches allow virtually anyone to digitally transform their business thanks to automation, drag-and-drop interfaces, or any other type of user-friendly constructors with auto-generated code. In contrast to traditional or high-code programming, there is no need for from-scratch manual coding that consumes the largest share of the working day. 

Let’s find out other differences between low-code and traditional development to have a complete understanding of both concepts. We’ll start with an overview of a traditional programming approach and explore why it can become a valuable option for a company.

What Is Traditional Development?

The best way to grasp the idea of traditional programming is to imagine a team of software developers who write custom code from scratch for the project. Depending on the company’s specifics, it can be in-house specialists, outsourced developers, or any other kind of employee affiliated with your company. 

Learn more about Why Is It Hard To Find a Good Developer? Freelance vs. Outsourcing Comparison

Traditional or high-code development deals with tailoring the full scale of custom software development services, which enable businesses to deliver unique solutions to their specific needs. That requires vast technical proficiency and an in-depth understanding of niche specifics, industry regulations, and security limitations. 

The team of software professionals you hire for traditional development tasks needs to have mastery of specific deployment environments or application architecture patterns to complete non-trivial tasks. Besides, custom specifications require developers to write the bulk of code manually to create custom features and integrations. For that reason, they can use one of the popular frameworks, programming languages, development tools, hosting options, and APIs.

As for the team composition, the traditional development approach requires you to assemble a cross-functional software delivery team. Together with the client, they follow all stages of the custom development lifecycle: from business analysis and project discovery phase to manual coding, testing, and deployment.

As a result, projects based on traditional development have the highest quality level of their deliverables. On top of that, tailor-made software can meet the most stringent requirements regarding scalability, performance, and security. 

However, it is worth considering the time and cost constraints of your startup alongside the availability of affordable developers with the required knowledge and skills. Extensive manual coding from scratch can take a significant portion of time and money investments. Besides, when it is necessary to add advanced features, you will have to hire experienced senior developers. For that, it is sometimes necessary to compete with Silicon Valley’s tech giants to fill a specialized role for the project.

If your startup is not yet up to those challenges, it is worth considering another popular approach to software development. With low-code programming, you can avoid some of the constraints of traditional development. 

What Is Low-Code Development?

Low-code programming provides a way to replace effort-intensive coding with ready-made templates, pre-coded modules, and self-service tools. It facilitates the creation of a fully-functional software solution without manual coding from scratch. Instead, low-code startups can rely on automatic code generation based on a rapid application development approach (RAD).

Thanks to a drag-and-drop workflow, you can have a working web application faster than with traditional programming. It is also possible to add some code on top of auto-generated code and fine-tune and adjust each element to meet the particular needs. Nevertheless, the development effort is incomparable to the traditional approach to software delivery. 

Low-code encourages non-technical users to translate their ideas and insights into working software. For startups, this means faster execution of tasks as virtually any specialist can add their input without having to go through technical training or studying specifications. This enables better collaboration across departments, which eventually results in improved customer satisfaction and streamlined time-to-market. 

As we previously mentioned, both low-code and high-code development leave room for manual adjustments to functional elements and modules of the software. Yet there is a completely automatic approach to code generation with 100% reliance on visually intuitive building blocks. 

We are talking about no-code applications, which take the idea of low-code development to the extreme point. It resembles a software constructor where each element can be rearranged with a button click. As a result, startups can leverage simple applications with a limited ability to customize functions and scale operations. 

Although both no-code and low-code development facilitate the creation of working software, the extent to which each option can help you succeed on the market is variable. No-code platforms can hardly meet unique business needs as they come with generic features and standard functionality. 

With low-code programming, it is possible to automate repetitive tasks and add more flexibility and freedom to more complex and innovative aspects of software development. How does that paradigm compare to traditional programming? Let’s explore the differences between low-code and high-code development. 

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Low-Code vs Traditional Development: Main Differences

Technical skills

High-code development requires your startup to hire skilled technical resources or ramp up a full-cycle development team. They need to study the requirements and use a combination of web and mobile app development frameworks, databases, programming languages, and tools. Such an approach enables you to translate raw ideas into apps and solutions with multi-tier architecture and exclusive design.

Unlike traditional development, low-code platforms come with a variety of ready-made tools for business users and those with little coding skills. Such an approach expands the horizons for non-tech-savvy specialists thanks to intuitive navigation and a user-friendly interface. 

Speed of development

A traditional programming approach implies the development from start to finish, which is why such projects tend to be time-consuming. Your software development team will handle the tasks from requirements gathering to from-scratch coding, testing, deployment, and post-release support and maintenance.

With low-code development, startups can move faster with software delivery as it eliminates the need to code the app from scratch manually. The fast pace of development enables you to launch your product ahead of competitors and avoid massive overtime for the engineering resources.

Customization

With a traditional approach to software development, it is easy to tailor the solution to particular requirements. The list of requirements collected at the BA stage dictates the way the software should operate, not the other way round. In other words, there is no need to adjust business processes and inner logic to create fully-functioning software.

Low-code platforms come with ready-made capabilities that tend to fit the needs of the majority of businesses. But if you need software to meet unique requirements, poor customization abilities can add more hassle to the development process.

Data ownership

High-code development practices give full control over the source code of custom software solutions. For a startup, this means eliminating concerns regarding IP rights, data protection, and technical debt due to a lack of monitoring.

With low-code development, the governance and control over the development environment are limited. Packed with ready-made blocks and modules, the IT infrastructure requires constant monitoring from engineering teams. But non-technical staff can generate data vulnerabilities that result from ease of accessibility.

Scalability

A high-code approach enables you to make the underlying code portable and scalable from the very start. Custom software development gives complete freedom to scale the app to meet the demands of large and growing companies.

Low-code applications perform well when used by a small startup with a small number of end-users. But they can fail to meet the needs of a company that envisions fast growth over time.

Software quality

Traditional development enables you to write the code that caters to a project-specific deployment environment and architecture. As the application is built for a particular case, it considers target user preferences and future company needs. 

With low-code development, specialists rely on pre-written blocks that contain ready-made code. While that comes in handy for the majority of businesses, your startup may fail to maintain rigorous quality standards.

Let’s sum up the major differences between traditonal and low-code development in the table below:

Parameter Traditional (High-code) development Low-code development
Tech skills Hardcore skills required Little tech skills required
Users Cross-functional teams of developers Developers and non-tech individuals
Speed of development Slow Fast
Customization level The highest possible Limited
Design Fully custom Ready-made
Data ownership Full Limited
Scalability Unlimited Limited
App quality Extremely high Can be low
Main advantage Build whatever you need Development speed and increased developer productivity

It is essential to be aware of the trade-offs of each development approach before making the final choice. Although custom software solutions can fully reflect the specific needs of a startup, it takes much more time and development effort to release quality apps for end-users.

On the flip side, a low-code development lets you streamline the development of fully working software but fails to deliver unique features and scale the project. 

Therefore it is necessary to analyze the business case carefully and choose an approach that addresses real-world business concerns and decisions. To give you some direction, we list when to prefer high-code development and when to opt for low-code app assembly in the section below.

Still have any questions? We are always ready to answer them.

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What Coding Option Should Your Startup Choose: High-Code vs. Low-Code?

To determine which approach works best for your startup, it is a good idea to answer the following questions regarding the project:

  1. What is the goal of the application?

If your goal is to test the idea, you can go with a low-code solution to create an MVP. However, if you want to power a mission-critical business process, then a traditional development is the most appropriate scenario.

  1. What are the time and cost expectations?

As a rule, if the scope of the project is large, the time and cost estimations will align accordingly. The number and complexity of features and integrations can affect the speed to market as well. So if you need to launch your product in the shortest time with limited or basic functionality, then it is better to go for low-code programming. 

  1. Do you have future growth plans?

Low-code development is a natural fit for small-scale business processes that are not expected to change over time. However, if you have a clear roadmap for further business development, then a high-code approach is a better option. 

  1. Do you have internal tech expertise?

If you have in-house tech specialists or want to hire a dedicated software development team, then choose traditional development. Low-code solutions are less dependent on the skills and experience of the employees. 

  1. Do you need a unique user experience?

Both approaches to software development require you to hire designers and front-end developers if you need a custom design that responds to user demands. However, when a short pool of default features is enough, it is better to go with no-code or low-code programming.

  1. How much control do you want to retain over code?

With a low-code platform, you will mostly have to rely on a third-party vendor to mitigate risks associated with poor quality of the code. Therefore, if your startup deals with sensitive data, opt for custom software development.

Things to Consider Before Choosing High-Code or Low-Code Development

Final Word

In a low-code vs. high-code debate, there is no single winner since there are a lot of things to consider. For proficient developers, low-code programming can become a way to optimize workflows and simplify the execution of challenging tasks. On the other hand, such solutions grant better accessibility for non-tech users, including sales specialists, HR departments, and marketing teams.

As for traditional development, startups can go beyond the generic functionality of ready-made solutions that fail to scale alongside their business. But you need to consider all the limitations associated with high-code development to make the final decision.

At Upsilon, we do both, providing our clients with the best solution for their current cases. If you want to increase the time-to-market, we offer integrations with low-code platforms like Retool, so you can be sure your product will be launched at the right time. For more complex business challenges when scale-up and extended functionality are required, we provide custom software development services. So if any of these cases sound familiar to you, contact us. Let’s discuss your ideas and create great things together!

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