Rapid fire or slow burn? A snapshot of low-code in the modern era

In the last few years, visually enabled, low-code platforms have come to the fore after a bit of a hiatus. We assess how differ low-code tools differ from their older counterparts and why they are proving useful for organisations.

When it comes to low-code application development, most enterprise organisations would agree that the bare bones of the concept isn't exactly novel. Businesses have been attempting to look beyond the realm of rusted-on software developers and programmers to build enterprise-grade applications for quite a long time now, going back as far as the 4GL and Rapid Application Development (RAD) days.

Microsoft's Visual Basic programming language was perhaps one of the first more accessible tools to shake up the status quo of software development, increasing the overall scope of those who could create useful applications by visually arranging components on a form, designating actions for those components and supplementing with code when needed. VB featured an extensive GUI, came with volumes of printed manuals and was relatively inexpensive compared to some of the tools on the market at the time, making it one of the most widely used and highly regarded programming languages of its time.

Overall, where VB shined was in its capability of allowing less-technical users to develop useful business applications that could automate repetitive processes. Obviously, this is an attractive proposition for businesses, as it allows more people within an organisation to contribute to application development and lifecycle management, thus reducing reliance on IT teams. However, progress in low-code languages and tools waned in the early 21st century, as they weren't able to keep up with the increasingly complex digital imperatives of modern, internet-enabled businesses. However, this has all changed over the past few years, as modern low-code tools have risen to carry the torch in a much more meaningful way.

Mendix is one such vendor that was directly involved in the rise of new-wave low-code platforms. We attended the company's fast-growing ‘Mendix World' event in Rotterdam, to speak broadly with executives and customers about how low-code has changed over time, and how exactly it is being implemented today. 

What is low-code, as it is defined today?

According to Mendix CEO Derek Roos, low-code can simply be defined as making the practice of coding more visual and less technical.

"The concept is really quite simple, it's all about abstracting away from the process of manual coding, and making it visual so that non-coders and non-technical people can understand what they're doing,'' Roos says.  

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