Did you ever have an idea for an app that could change something in your community? Did you give up on it because you didn’t have the necessary tech expertise for it? A few years ago, there weren’t many resources for just anyone to pick up technology and start working with it. Creating an app or a website often meant attending a four-year university but today, we have ‘less code’.

Within the past five years, there have been multiple platforms launched that allow individuals to create websites and apps with less to almost no code at all. These platforms are growing at a very fast rate and are expected to generate up to $21.2 billion by 2022

So what exactly are low-code or no-code platforms and why are people using them?

Less and low-code platforms allow you to create applications with minimal hand-coding requirements. When I started coding and development, it was because I loved the ability to create whatever I wanted without having to rely on anyone. With these less and no-code platforms, the power of technology is being put in the hands of those who previously didn’t have access to it, giving access to resources to create change within their communities.

It doesn’t feel nice to just wait around for change to happen, and one inspiring individual who didn’t is Brian Dang who went from being an elementary school teacher to the Power Apps (a platform that allows your to create mobile and tablet apps using a drag and drop approach) Program Manager at Microsoft.  

As a teacher, Brian used Excel and Word to plan out his school calendar but wanted to improve the student experience in the classroom. He used to manage various tasks such as creating plan books and grade books by creating multiple excel sheets. However, he quickly found that this process was cumbersome and decided to hunt for better solutions. For an individual like Brian and many others, the thought of going back to university for a four-year degree to learn to program is a big decision to make. Especially someone with a job would have to allocate finances and blocks of time for university-related courses.

After discovering the Microsoft Power Apps platform, he realized how similar it was to functions in Excel and was drawn to it. He spent many weekends learning and experimenting with the platform and then implemented simple applications to match students into groups for projects, as well as create a solution to streamline student-teacher interactions and more.

Samit Saini is another such individual who benefitted from less code. Now an IT User Adoption Specialist at Heathrow Airport, Samit worked as a security officer at the airport for 12 years. During that time, he noticed a few issues that could be streamlined with the help of a mobile application. On approaching his supervisors and the IT team with the idea he was informed that it would be too expensive to turn it into an app. Armed with the power of no-code platforms, he was able to re-create his idea and successfully pitch it which led to it being implemented organization-wide and drastically reduce the work among his peers. Before this, he did not possess any technical experience nor had he attended college. 

Until recently, the only low-code solutions that were popular were drag and drop website creators. Although these are great, a website is not as accessible or go-to as an app on your phone. Mobile apps have provided us with the ease of access that was previously not available with websites.

I’ve experimented with a fair share of such platforms at my internship and personal projects as well. At my internship, the IT department would often address IT issues by communicating over emails or phone calls whenever an employee ran into an IT issue. This was a rather time-consuming process and manual process. Tasked to simplify this, I utilized the Power Apps platform and created a simple help desk application that allowed both clients and the IT staff to keep a check on the status of issues. Bringing the entire application together from the design to the functionality just took two days. Creating an app using coding would otherwise take a week to implement the same functionality.

As it develops, the low-code movement can produce the next generation of apps that span across many different fields, giving a platform to those with little to no experience to lend their voices and concepts to the field.

  • Sabiha Shaik

    Sabiha Shaik is a senior year undergraduate student pursuing computer science. She is passionate about technology, ethics and accessibility. She loves volunteering for women in tech causes and spreading tech knowledge to those in her community.