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Defining “Low-Code" (again)

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Forrester coined the term "Low-Code". The official term’s origins trace back to a 2011 report on new productivity platforms for custom applications - it has become more popular in 2014, together with a report by John Rymer and other analysts. Since then, many other definitions and interpretations have been around.

In this blog article, we will give you an overview and point out the most well-known ones.

A forest and a gardener.

No one shapes the field as much as Forrester and Gartner but Low-Code platforms are not a new phenomenon at all. Historically seen, Low-code platforms can be regarded as advancements of Rapid Application Development Tools (RAD). These applications serve the purpose of facilitating the work for the programmer with the development. However, these need further for the definition of the program sequences conventional programming.

Sounds a bit like “Low-Code”, right? Generally speaking, they let the user build on top of a framework and allow them to extend it by using code.

Forrester’s definition of Low-Code

“Low-code platforms are a converging category, not a new one. Most vendors of these products established their technologies with internal-facing applications. Customer-facing applications are quickly becoming a popular new use case for these platforms because these types of applications demand rapid delivery and evolution.” — John Rymer, Forrester 2014

Rymer add that Low-Code platforms enable users to develop complete applications by leveraging the platforms’ drag-and-drop design, among other specifications. Moreover, the interface reminds him of Excel.

Gartner’s definition of Low-Code application Platforms

"A low-code application platform (LCAP) is an application platform that supports rapid application development, one-step deployment, execution, and management using declarative, high-level programming abstractions, such as model-driven and metadata-based programming languages. They support the development of user interfaces, business logic, and data services, and improve productivity at the expense of portability across vendors, as compared with conventional application platforms.” — Gartner, 2020

Moreover, Gartner has a more detailed definition for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms. A list of some vendors can be found here.

Outsystem’s definition of Low-Code

“Low-Code is a software development approach that enables the delivery of applications faster and with minimal hand-coding. Low-code platforms are a collection of tools that enable the visual development of applications through modeling and a graphical interface.” — Outsystems, 2021

Outsystems also points out how a typical Low-Code platform looks like. First, they have a visual IDE, which is an environment to define UIs, workflows, and data models visually. Hand-written code can be added. Second, connectors to back-ends or other services. They can handle data structures and storage automatically. Last but not least, an application lifecycle manager. Which means tools for building, deploying, debugging, with many other functions.

Appian’s definition of Low-Code

“Low-code development is a way to build software applications faster by reducing the need to write code. With a low-code application development platform, you can use visual development tools — such as drag-and-drop modelers and point-and-click interface creation — to enable the rapid creation, deployment, and maintenance of powerful business apps.” — Appian, n.d.

Appian also defines “Low-Code Applications” separately as applications, that are built using a visual development environment with tools like drag-and-drop modelers, components, pre-built connectors, and many others. They reduce the need to write code and increase the speed at which applications can be built and deployed.

Mendix’s definition of Low-Code development

“Low-code is a visual approach to software development. With low-code, you can abstract and automate every step of the application lifecycle to streamline the delivery of a variety of solutions. By breaking down traditional silos of business and IT (promoting continuous collaboration), your organization can develop solutions that meet the needs of your business.” — Mendix, n.d.

Mendix lists some benefits of Low-Code development such as the possibility to break down silos to foster a strong business-IT partnership or the option to “built more at scale” too. Furthermore, the development of a variety of solutions ranging from process automation apps to mission-critical systems modernization, without incurring heavy costs will become possible. No need to say that delivering apps for individual tasks will become faster.

A dozen Low-Code definitions, but what now?


You might have noticed that “Low-Code” is not written the same within the definitions. There is no industry standard so far. Some write it in upper, some in lower case and some (like us) are even using a hyphen. There is also the quite confusing term “No-Code”, which is often used as a synonym, but that is not correct. You can read more about those two terms in our other blog post.

So, what is Low-Code?

For us, the term “Low-Code” means that platforms:

- Are using model-driven or graphical programming (visual ID)

- Having “drag-and-drop” options (point-and-click interface creations)

- Are minimizing hand-coding

- Are increasing the speed of application delivery



There are many other definitions out there but in general, they include those main points. Whether you are looking for the right NCLC solution for your company or an NCLC vendor that needs more awareness, feel free to reach out to us via email or schedule a meeting with us. If you have feedback, ideas or just want to talk about those topics feel free to reach out as well!

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