Is low-code a cop out, or a leg-up to automation?

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: Pros and cons of a low-code platform for mobile

The jury may currently be quite firmly “out” on whether software application developers are attracted to so-called low-code platforms.

Does a software engineer have to think of themselves as coming out of systems engineering expertise when adopting low-code?

Surely it would be too cruel to suggest that there is some kind of “cop out” in low-code development?

Part of the problem (it is often argued) is that a good proportion of low code tools still require convoluted and complicated setup procedures to engineer-in. This problem is compounded by the need to install plug-ins and to make sure that configuration settings and scripts are all in order.

This responsibility takes some low-code toolsets (the debuggers in particular) outside of the realm of capabilities and skills possessed by your average user looking for a low-code option.

Further, we might also consider that low-code could be argued to simply be a route to an ever-decreasing circle of returns and an ever-increasing circle of technical debt — an opinion offered by coding aficionado Theo Priestly.

Age of automation

But low-code naysaying aside, shouldn’t these tools be working better by now?

In this age of [software] automation and best-practice playbooks, templates, reference architectures, established workflows and code automation, surely low-code tools should be regarded as a leg up towards code build and architecture efficiencies which now be more quickly brought to bear upon a deployed piece of software – shouldn’t they?

Despite its name, OutSystems would insist that its tools are anything but a cop out — the firm this month comes forward with a new low-code visual debugger.

The software is designed to troubleshoot server-side and mobile code while running.

“Organisations [need] a low-code approach for building rich mobile experiences, but to expect [these same organisations] to resort to complex developer tools when it is time to debug [the software built to deliver these experiences], completely defeats the purpose of a low-code platform,” said Gonçalo Borrêga, head of product at OutSystems.

Borrêga says he sees developers modeling complex interactions and logic that runs on the device, taking advantage of native capabilities. By providing a seamless and visual debugging experience, whether the code is running on an iPhone, Android, or server-side, OutSystems says it ensure teams get the benefits of low-code throughout the entire development lifecycle.

Point of code complexity

Magical analyst firm Gartner has said that, increasingly, Mobile Application Development Platforms (MADPs) are adding support for wearables, chatbots, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and conversational UI endpoints through the same services and APIs they create and orchestrate for mobile apps and web.

These capabilities enrich the experience for the user, but arguably create complexity for the developer.

OutSystems says that by providing a consistent low-code experience whether you are debugging server-side code or a complex mobile app with offline data synchronisation patterns and native device integration, OutSystems solves two major challenges:

  • First, the same low-code skillset can be used to create and troubleshoot any type of application, providing teams with more resourcing options for projects.
  • Second, with low-code, the knowledge transfer times are significantly decreased, reducing the risk of critical mobile initiatives.

Low-code is growing, the question for software engineers and computer scientists today is… how much low-code is in your own code — and would you debug your low-code (or indeed high-code) with more low-code tools as you trundle down the low-code rode from node to node?