We walk through the no code and low code app development space from open source to enterprise grade solutions and everything in between. There are many platforms each with different pricing models. Here are some key considerations before committing to implementing low code solutions at your company.
What are no code and low code app development platforms?
Low code and no-code solutions are software solutions for users to drag and drop components of an app into a blank page and visually build a web or mobile app. The solutions are meant to be super approachable for non-technical users who traditionally would have to know computer programming to build an application. You will also see this referred to as rapid app development or RAD.
Why do businesses need low code apps?
We see low code applications as the future of business. It’s an evolution of deploying web forms to collect information and using business intelligence tools to publish reporting dashboards.
Low code apps allow you to integrate the two, making published reports immediately actionable. See something you don’t like on a report? Use an app to request a relevant change.
An example could be something like this:
You pull out your phone and view a factory production report. It’s trending low for the month. You use the built-in overtime cost calculator to see the financial impact of adding a shift. Finally, you submit a request to your boss to approve more overtime.
How are Business Apps Traditionally Developed?
Traditional application development can take months or years. The classic waterfall model involves a project development team to interview business users, collect their application requirements then hand it off to a group of programmers to build the app. At the end of the process, they hand off an app to the business users several months later.
The problem is that the app once published may not meet the business need even if it technically matches all of the initial specifications.
What are the benefits of low code app development?
There are three primary benefits, development speed, cost, and accessibility.
Application development speed
Low code platforms let the business users themselves build out solutions and change them very quickly. It flips the equation from handing off a business requirement to a group of developers to allowing the business users who need the solution to build the solution themselves.
The tools enable Rapid App Development. You can publish an application, and adjust it over time with no to very minimal costs allowing you to dial in your software over time.
Lower development cost
Because the tools are drag and drop, and easy for business users to manage you don’t need to have a group of highly skilled and highly compensated programmers building out solutions. Though it can be good to have super users or technical resources available to help setup the backend infrastructure if it’s not hosted by the low code application provider.
Accessibility of development
Even if your company has an internal app development department, business users have to wait in line. No matter how big the group is, there will always be prioritization that needs to take place. If you have the best idea ever that will save your company time and money it may not make the cut or the company may not have enough resources to help you develop a solution in a timely manner. Low Code software allows business users to work on solutions on their own schedule.
Key Considerations for Low Code Solutions?
Many low-code platforms will bill you per user per month. If you are deploying an application to thousands of users, this can be cost prohibitive. Other solutions will charge you a flat monthly fee, or fees based on how often the applications are used. Before committing to a solution think through the number of users and how often they will be accessing the app.
Not all solutions are created equally. There are some key features that you may be interested in. Single Sign On (SSO) integration might be a requirement for your company. It makes managing app access infinitely easier on the process owner. For example, not all platforms allow SSO integration unless it’s a paid tier.
Ease of Use
The best way to find out how easy a software package will be is to try before you buy. A lot of solutions state on their website that everything is drag and drop but that’s not always the case. There can be connections to backend data that have be setup, or you have to use various formulas to get the application to work the way that you want it to.
These are The Best Low Code Platforms Available
By no means an exhaustive list of every service available, this should give you an idea of some of the major players and different pricing models that are available.
Microsoft Power Apps is the Best Platform for Small Mid-Size Business
As you would expect from Microsoft, their solution has been around for several years and is constantly being upgraded with new features. It fits in as part of Microsoft’s larger Power Platform which includes Power Automate and Power BI. Apps are built and hosted online by Microsoft meaning that you don’t have to worry about setting up any infrastructure yourself.
It has a large community supporting it, meaning that you can usually find answers to common and not so common problems with a Google Search.
Power Apps integrates well with SharePoint, One Drive, Excel files, and can connect to many different external data sources.
How Much do Microsoft Power Apps Cost?
Power Apps licenses are included with Microsoft 365 Enterprise E3 and E5 subscription tiers up until the point that you want to connect it to a data source outside of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. If you want to connect it to a SQL database for example, it is defined as a Premium Connector which you then have to pay for.
Other premium features involve document recognition that you can integrate into your app at additional costs. Rather than making it simple, Microsoft invented their own unit of measure for these, called AI Builder Credits. You can calculate the costs using the following calculator.
Website: Business Apps | Microsoft Power Apps
AI Builder Pricing: Microsoft AI Builder Credit Calculator
Power Apps Pricing: Power Apps Pricing Details from Microsoft
Power Apps Premium Connector Pricing:
Premium Connector pricing isn’t explicitly published, and your best bet is to reach out to your Microsoft Partner or reseller for an exact quote. However, it’s close to around $20 per person per month.
Outsystems is the Most Mature Low Code App Development Platform
Outsystems is one of the older low code platforms available. It’s enterprise grade, but also comes with an enterprise grade learning curve.
Applications are developed using software that you download to your desktop, and there is a server environment to setup shared data connections. A benefit over some of the solutions listed is that you gain access to dev ops features, such as allowing you to track software versions, and there are various tiers of paid support levels available.
You will be best served by reaching out to their sales department directly. The pricing model is a flat annual amount plus a month per user per month fee. Ther per user per month fee is around $3 to $4 per month, which makes it a lot less expensive than some solutions depending on the number of users and your data sources being utilized.
Pricing: OutSystems Pricing | OutSystems
What are the Best Open-Source Low Code App Builders?
There are actually quite a few different open-source solutions available. We are only going to highlight two of them, because a lot of the other solutions are not full featured or lack many of the features that you would want to have in a business setting.
Are Open-Source Low-Code and No-Code Solutions Free?
Not , Open-Source software is often not free. There will usually be a free tier and most well developed solutions will have paid tiers that unlock additional features. We looked at these solutions as a way to save money and avoid the per user per person licensing fee that’s prevalent with many of the paid solutions. While they have a free tier, there are often features that you may want that you have to pay for a higher tier. They also offer some cost savings if you want to self-host your applications.
These pricing models can get somewhat creative, but the solutions are still worth checking out.
Budibase is the Best Open-Source App Platform for Business
This is one of the first open-source low code development tools that started out by focusing specifically on the business market. It has SSO capabilities that are relatively easy to implement. SSO is single sign on and a way for you to manage who can access your app using an account that employees already have.
Other notable features for business include approval routings for forms, and various pre-made templates for common business problems which allow you to deploy solutions even faster.
Pricing is based on the number of days that an app is accessed which could be a decent cost savings in some use cases.
Pricing: Pricing | Budibase
Appsmith is a Great Mobile First Open-Source App Builder
Appsmith is the other open-source solution that’s worth checking out. It’s full featured and has a number of templates available that can be useful across different departments.
They have a free tier, along with a paid tier. One of the most interesting aspects is that you can pay per user per month, or you can pay based on how much the app is used. It could be a good fit for apps that are infrequently accessed.
Are there Low-Code App Platforms that are not Pay Per User Per Month?
For some use cases paying per user per month isn’t practical. For larger organizations and deploying an app to many employees it could be less expensive to hire or outsource app programming. Check out these full featured solutions that can save you some money.
Bubbl.io is the Mature Low-Code Solution for SaaS
Bubble is one of the better application development platforms out there. There are a lot of business-friendly features like Single Sign On (SSO) and it may represent one of the best values in the low code and no code application building space.
If you’re curious to learn more about Bubble.io like the many features that it offers, and in depth descriptions of pricing, you can learn more here:
Adalo is a Great Mobile First Easy to Use Low-Code App Builder
This solution is one of the prettier ways to build applications. It has a great interface for mobile low code development. It also has a pricing model that’s based on application interactions which is an interesting twist in a crowded space.
Pricing: Plans & Pricing | Adalo
Specialty Low Code App Platfoms for IBM and SAP
These options are definitely not for everybody but could be great solutions for your company. You will want to reach out to them directly for pricing information.
IBM Lansa is Low-Code for IBM Legacy Systems
It’s worth checking out for IBM iSeries and AS/400 server integration. Lansa is definitely squarely in the large business space, but may help an existing programming team work more efficiently or help users take advantage of a modern interface without going through the cost of an infrastructure upgrade. It also connects with many other common data sources.
SAP Build (Formerly AppGyver) is Low-Code for SAP
This solution is relatively new to the scene. It’s a rebranded, and relaunched version of their previously free to use AppGyver. Many features have recently been added, but the best feature by far is the native integration with the SAP ecosystem and ability to create low-code process flows.