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The differences between developing in high-code or low-code are enormous. Are they?

The stereotype of a software developer, quietly coding in the attic, his head buried in giant headphones, is disappearing. The growth of no-code and low-code platforms is reshaping the tasks of developers. The differences between high-code and low-code seem huge but in reality they may have more similarities then you think. Jeroen Verhagen works as a low-code developer, and has many years of experience developing with high-code. He knows the most suitable solution for every occasion.

Standard software solutions are becoming less popular. Businesses are increasingly opting for custom made applications to streamline business processes and make them more user-friendly. A large number of platforms is available for the development of applications, divided into no-code platforms, low-code platforms and high-code platforms. But what are the consequences for developers?

Steep learning curve
Their speed and the fact that they’re easy to use are often cited as the advantages of low-code platforms. “People who are new to Mendix, with no coding experience, can quickly join in building an application,” says Jeroen Verhagen, low-code developer at Bizzomate. “Low-code can be learned quickly, so you can become a team member in no time. Learning to develop the same kind of application in high-code is more difficult. It will take much longer before an inexperienced developer can fully participate in programming. That’s an important difference between high and low code.”

The speed of low-code has proven itself over the past year. During the corona pandemic, the Mendix platform proved to be a critical technology for companies looking to quickly enable remote working and improve communication with customers. Mendix makes collaboration between IT and business easy, because the platform is fit for people who have little programming experience. The limited amount of code on a low-code platform allows a team to develop an application within a few weeks.

Fewer bugs in low code
Although the words ‘high’ and ‘low’ suggest a contrast, the differences aren’t huge, Verhagen says. There are also plenty of similarities. Mendix, for example, provides an app store, from which developers can pick building blocks to build an application. But, .NET developers can also use a library filled with tools and widgets. “Low-code uses existing widgets and building blocks. These assets have been tested and proven, which automatically means that there are fewer bugs. High- code solutions deviate more from standards. Using high-code to build completely new applications, lowers the likelihood of errors,” says Verhagen.

That doesn’t mean that low-code applications are easier to build. An application often has to be linked to more static CRM or ERP systems, so the flexibility has to come from the new application, to be able to regularly adjust processes.

Another sign that high- and low-code do not exist in two separate worlds; they go well together. On Mendix, for example, new modules are developed on a daily basis, consisting of Java code. After all, Mendix is ​​an open platform. By working in high-code, developers can create new low-code building blocks, ready to use for other low-coders.

High-code platforms are certainly suitable for developing customized applications. Experienced developers are, however, a requirement. Someone with basic knowledge can quickly start building Mendix applications, while in a high-code environment an inexperienced person will destroy more than he can contribute. Verhagen: “The learning curve is steep with Mendix, which is an advantage. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make poorly functioning apps with low-code too.”

Unlike a low-code team, everyone in a high-code team has his or her particular role. Such a team consists, for example, of a functional consultant, a back-end developer, a database specialist and a network administrator. It is common in Mendix projects for everyone to combine all roles. Verhagen: “Of course everyone has preferences. A developer can have a predilection for user interface design, but in a low-code team anyone will fulfill all roles. Only the level of experience will differ. Formerly, only the team lead communicated to the customer, and the developers were only coding. Now everyone communicates a lot to the customer, to keep the process going in sprints.”

When do you choose low-code?
Low-code platforms like Mendix are known for the speed of development. That speed isn’t blissful, says Verhagen. “Starting at the same level, low-code is definitely faster. But a highly experienced high-code team can also develop at lightning speed, especially compared to inexperienced low-coders.”

Low-code can offer speed in the run-up to a project. With Mendix Studio – formerly the Web Modeler – inexperienced developers or business people can easily create a mock-up with just a few clicks.

New ideas about applications can be visualized easily. A Mendix scrum team can follow up by building a high-quality and safe application. By visualizing an idea for an application at an early stage, the scrum will get a good picture of the desired solution.

The complexity of an application is no longer an issue for low-code platforms. At the start of these platforms, only a few years ago, developers were mainly building simple solutions. Now the app stores are packed with all kinds of complex building blocks, modules and widgets, so low-code can compete with high-code solutions. And, as mentioned, low-code performs well with high-code additions.

Verhagen knows low-code will have a great future; Development on these platforms continues to evolve fast, so the comparison with high-code solutions is increasingly in favor of low-code. “Ultimately, a customer opts for a solution to his question, he does not initially opt for a platform. But the advantages of agile working, as we do, ensure that solutions are built properly, quickly and in consultation with the customer. That is what customers wish for.”

Check also Jeroen’s other blog regarding “What skills does a low-code developer need?”

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