Why low-code is the perfect learning tool for software developers

While low-code development is known for its drag-and-drop simplicity, the ability to view and edit the underlying code also makes it the perfect learning tool.

Most professional software developers agree that it takes several months just to get familiar with the basics of coding, and that assumes having a high level of general technical knowledge to begin with. Given the rapid pace of advancement in the software development space, skills in problem-solving, attention to detail, coding concepts, and the ability to adapt to constantly evolving technologies are also vital. These factors partly explain why there is a growing skills gap in software development.

Fortunately, low-code software development presents something of a shortcut, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable learning tool in its own right. What low-code does do is remove many of the more repetitive elements of software development by allowing professional and citizen developers alike to leverage the full potential of reusable components. Moreover, since low-code removes the need to code in such cases, it allows non-developers to quickly deploy standard business logic, regardless of their level of programming expertise.

A hands-on approach to learning how to code

The fundamental difference between low-code and no-code solutions is that the former offers complete flexibility, as well as the ability to create bespoke functions from scratch. Especially when paired with an open-source licensing model, low-code provides much the same flexibility as coding from scratch. However, the fact that anyone with basic technical skills can create a simple business application without ever having to write a line of code means the barrier to entry is much lower. In other words, even people who have no programming knowledge can get started with software development.

One of the defining characteristics of low-code software development platforms (LCDPs) is their drag-and-drop interfaces. This allows developers to add interface features and functions, such as buttons and dialog boxes, into their applications, instead of having to code them manually. Not only is this far quicker and more efficient; it also provides a hands-on approach that helps budding citizen developers become familiar with the standard practices of software design and development.

At the same time, a true low-code platform gives developers access to the underlying code to allow practically limitless customization. Depending on the platform, the code may be updated in real-time in a dedicated interface element, or it may be exported for viewing in an application like Notepad or Notepad++. That way, developers can see exactly how the code changes as they build applications in the drag-and-drop interface. Moreover, in situations where there are no suitable drag-and-drop elements, professional developers can manually code in functions.

Advancing software development knowledge

A common misconception about low-code is that it restricts learning and knowledge, especially in the case of professional software developers. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Most importantly, low-code removes many of the monotonous tasks associated with software development, thus allowing developers to focus on areas where their unique knowledge and experience are required. For example, a robust LCDP incorporates features and functions like security, scalability, and compatibility by design and default. In other words, there is no need for developers to constantly reinvent the wheel.

Given these advantages of low-code development, citizen and professional developers alike can become more agile and greatly reduce software development lifecycles. This way, they can work on more projects across a broader range of domains, thus giving them an opportunity to widen their skill sets.

Learning is a lifelong process for software developers. When relying solely on the traditional approach to software development, it can take years to become proficient in a programming language. Considering the amount of time and resources it takes to learn how to code using conventional methods, there is often little opportunity to learn about other important elements of software development, such as user experience design. However, low-code brings the entire software lifecycle into a single cohesive entity from initial design to maintenance and updates. This grants developers a complete view of the broader development process, while also facilitating closer collaboration with business functions that traditionally stood outside the IT department.

Low-code software development helps novice developers get up to speed quickly. Instead of having to spend weeks and months trawling through documentation, attending seminars, and enrolling in formal education, they can get started right away creating software applications. This is because LCDPs rely on visual modelling processes that do not require developers to memorize programming syntax. That said, since the underlying code is always accessible, they can see how their visual workflows translate into code and vice versa. This gives them the opportunity to learn more advanced software development practices over time, even when they are not actively learning. When you combine these advantages, the learning curve is reduced from years to just months or weeks.

Achieving closer business alignment

Traditionally, software developers operate in a bubble with little interaction with business-oriented teams. Such environments inevitably lead to a lack of alignment between technology and business, which, in turn, results in reduced efficiency and increased operational costs.

Since low-code lowers the barriers to entry to software development, it is possible to develop applications without the help of the IT department. Of course, some technical knowledge is a requirement but, especially in larger enterprises, that knowledge usually exists in every major business department. In other words, software projects can be democratized across relevant subject matter experts including both those from business and technical domains. This is much more effective than having each team working in isolation.

Insofar as professional software developers are concerned, using low-code solutions provides an opportunity for them to better understand the business needs and implications of software development. By contrast, operating in isolation inevitably results in a misalignment of expectations which, in turn, leads to an increased need for rework.

An LCDP solves the problem by leveraging standard business logic, user interface elements, and other best practices. As such, it builds upon the successes that others have had before to better accommodate dynamic business environments, as well as help prevent the rise of shadow IT.

Another way low-code helps accelerate learning and enhances business alignment is by using current technologies rather than legacy systems that contribute to delays and incompatibilities. For example, many LCDPs, including Corteza, are cloud-based, making any applications built with them readily deployable in today’s diverse business environments.

Extracting greater value from IT expertise

Contrary to popular belief, low-code is not about taking the work out of IT, but about making the work that IT does more valuable and more accessible. LCDPs do not replace the need for traditional software developers. Instead, they expand the range of developers by giving business users with only moderate technical expertise the chance to align more closely with IT.

Given the constantly growing need to accelerate innovation and increase adoption rates, the role of low-code software development as a learning tool should never be underestimated. Not only does it help users learn about software development; it also helps them garner a closer understanding of how software works in the context of today’s business environments. That is the single most important element of any successful digital transformation.

Planet Crust is the creator and driving force behind Corteza, a 100% open-source low-code software development platform that lets you import data from any source and use intuitive drag-and-drop tools to create custom applications for your unique business needs. Get started for free today.

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