No-code and low-code platforms certainly aren’t a new invention — they’ve been around for about as long as code itself. But skyrocketing demand for new apps, heightened competition among tech companies and the new realities of the way businesses operate post-pandemic have all led to a massive demand for tools that can speed up the app development process and streamline business operations.
These days, four out of every five organizations in the United States are using low-code or no-code solutions for business automation and app development, according to software-as-a-service company airSlate. And research firm Gartner estimates that, by 2024, these tools will be responsible for more than 65 percent of application development activity at enterprise companies, sparking debate over whether or not they will remove the need for human developers entirely.
Spoiler: They will not. In fact, many experts argue that no-code and low-code platforms will breed a newer, better class of developers, and will bridge the gap between IT and business operations teams.
Here, we’ll be getting into low-code platforms specifically. That’s right, there is a difference.
True to their name, no-code tools require zero coding, are entirely visual and are designed primarily to give citizen developers (non-technical workers who are tech-savvy) the ability to create apps without help from developers.
Top Low-Code Platforms
Meanwhile, the low-code development environment runs on drag-and-drop elements, and leaves room for small bits of code to allow for customization and other supplementation. With low code, it’s all about eliminating the grunt work for developers, allowing them more time to handle bigger, more complex tasks.
Big names like Microsoft and Apple offer their own low-code solutions, and countless companies have been cropping up over the years to claim a piece of this increasingly lucrative pie. To learn about some of the most useful tools on the market today, check out these 20 low-code development platforms.
Low-Code Platforms to Know
Perhaps the most familiar name on this list, Airtable has been at the forefront of the low-code movement for about a decade, allowing users to build complex spreadsheets and workflows with little to no code on the back end. It also launched a new Interface Designer tool last year, which helps teams design fully interactive, front-end experiences and apps. Airtable is currently valued at $11 billion, and counts major companies like Amazon, Netflix and IBM as clients.
Anima aims to help developers code faster by automating what it calls the “design-to-code process,” sparing them the grunt work that comes with coding a product’s user interface from scratch. This can be applied to doing everything from building prototypes to creating interactive elements like buttons and animations. And to ensure that the quality of the code it generates remains high, Anima says it regularly updates and optimizes its AI, paying special attention to React code.
Companies like Bayer, Ryder and T-Mobile use Appian to organize their data, build new apps, enhance their existing ones and automate whatever repetitive tasks they have. The company claims it can help develop and deploy mobile-native apps 10 times faster than those built without its low-code platform, all in a single workflow.
After operating under the name FileMaker for more than two decades, the Apple-owned software company returned to its original name from the 1980s, Claris, in 2019. With built-in templates, drag-and-drop design and an intuitive UI, Claris allows businesses to build any app they want and deploy it for any device on that same day. They can also easily add things like calendars, kanban boards and photo galleries with no advanced coding experience required.
Creatio helps mid-size and large companies automate their customer-facing operations, with a specific focus on industries related to financial services and manufacturing. Its low-code platform for process management and customer relationship management is designed to let users customize their products quickly and accelerate their sales without having to wade through complex code. The company bootstrapped for nearly a decade before receiving its first outside funding round last year, with co-founder and CEO Katherine Kostereva claiming now is a “critical time” for businesses to transform into low-code companies.
As a business unit of Salesforce, Heroku allows companies to leverage the customer data they house in Salesforce to build apps that span both platforms. It is a container-based cloud platform as a service, or PaaS, which means it lets users deploy, manage and scale their apps with very little code or grunt work. But, for the times users do have to code, Heroku embraces common languages like Ruby, Java and Python, allowing developers to code comfortably and quickly.
Founded in 1987, LANSA is among the oldest companies on this list. Its hybrid platform is designed to make application development a quicker, more efficient process by combining low code and traditional coding in the same integrated development environment, which works for mobile, web and desktop apps. Its use of a single coding language eliminates the need for multi-stack developers, thus reducing cost and complexity. Plus, its single development environment means developers can jump from drag-and-drop mode to scripting mode with ease.
The recent acceleration of low-code tools means apps have been able to get developed faster than ever before, but the tech required to actually maintain and secure these apps hasn’t quite caught up with the times. That’s where mabl comes in. Pulling content from internal sources like emails and PDFs, the platform makes it easy for companies to create and run automated UI tests at scale, as well as keep tabs on how well a given test covers an app. Mabl is used by several leading companies, including Chewy and Dollar Shave Club, and is in the midst of an international expansion thanks to a $40 million funding raise last year.
Mendix helps companies develop and deploy their own customer portals, mobile apps and accounting tools. The company was acquired by industrial manufacturing giant Siemens back in 2018, and has been combined with its IoT platform MindSphere to tap into the massive amounts of data smart devices collect and turn them into real-time business value.
Microsoft Power Apps
Microsoft is synonymous with innovation in many tech spheres — quantum computing, mobile gaming and cloud computing, to name a few. It’s also a player in the low-code development game. Its platform Power Apps is capable of instantly generating web and mobile apps directly from design files and images like paper forms, PDFs, sketches and even professionally designed assets in Figma. It also includes features like cloud-base service integration, workflow automation and app sharing.
Honda, Mercedes Benz, Intel and thousands of other companies in the tech, automotive and finance industries use OutSystems to build enterprise-grade applications that are tailored to their own specific needs. Its low-code development services allow users to design applications for everything from customer experience optimization to revenue tracking without the need for extensive coding knowledge. OutSystems also claims to be the only platform to combine minimal coding with advanced mobile capabilities, enabling users to visually develop entire application portfolios that can integrate with existing systems.
Pegasystems is considered to be a leader in both no-code and low-code development, and has integrated them both into its suite of solutions. Its low-code Factory allows virtually anyone within a company to build and deploy their own apps, even if they have little to no coding experience, which frees up time for the company’s developers to work on bigger projects. “Low code and no code are power tools,” Pegasystems’ senior director of product and marketing Anthony Abdulla told Built In in a 2019 interview. “You can do full-featured applications for complex builds as confidently as you could with a coding tool and as rich and robust as you could with a coding tool.”
People of all coding experiences can use Quickbase to customize hundreds of pre-built apps, or create their own to help with everything from workflow automation to task management to data integration. The company claims it has nearly 6,000 customers, including 80 percent of the Fortune 50.
Retool helps companies like Amazon, DoorDash and Peloton build internal applications in as little as 30 seconds using pre-built, drag-and-drop templates. Users can also switch to code at nearly any time in order to customize how the apps look and function. The Retool platform has garnered the attention of several major investors in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Sequoia Capital.
SAP offers techie solutions to just about every business operation, and its platform includes several no-code and low-code features, including SAP Business Application Studio, SAP AppGyver and SAP Process Automation. The SAP Business Application Studio offers both a full-stack development environment and a low-code option to build applications with visual programming. A global, multi-billion dollar company in its own right, SAP is a longtime strategic partner of Google Cloud, and recently expanded its relationship with them.
Created by tech company Datamatics, TruBot Designer is a low-code visual automation flow designer, meaning it allows anybody to design and customize a bot with very little programming experience. All they have to do is drag and drop ready-to-use components from TruBot’s Smart Library, then fine-tune the code as they see fit. The platform also automatically generates a log of the entire creation process, and helps non-techie users do quick quality checks through a process called visual debugging, which essentially lets them visualize the stack trace, set breakpoints and run to a selected call path.
UiPath is best known for its automation platform, which uses machine learning and bots to help companies expedite their administrative tasks. In 2020, the company unveiled its “robot-powered” low-code platform, providing yet another way for businesses to build and deploy apps that can connect to all of their legacy software, even if they don’t have APIs. Since then, UiPath has made its public debut on the New York Stock Exchange, and is now valued at about $35 billion.
With millions of users and a valuation of $4 billion, Webflow has made a name for itself mainly as a no-code development tool, allowing designers to create whatever website they want without having to write a single line of code. But, according to the company, many creators with some coding skills use Webflow as a low-code platform too, making tweaks to the code behind its pre-made templates and drag-and-drop interface for further customization.
Likely another familiar name, WordPress is a publishing software that lets users create custom websites and blogs with a variety of templates. The company claims 43 percent of the web is built with WordPress, making it the world’s most popular website builder.
Beyond popular offerings like its customer relations management system and its business management software, Zoho has created a low-code application development platform that helps users design, develop and run any business software they need. Known as Zoho Creator, the platform provides a scalable, cost-effective way for businesses to build custom applications, monitor their performance with analytics and automate their business processes so that complex issues can be more easily resolved.