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Low-code vs. no-code: Understanding the key differences and benefits

By Cecilia Gillen · October 6, 2023
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If you put a blank canvas in front of me and told me to recreate the Mona Lisa, I'd stare blankly back at you. But put a paint-by-numbers kit in front of me, and suddenly I'm Leonardo da Vinci.

Low-code and no-code tools are the paint-by-numbers of the coding world. Instead of creating a program or process from scratch, low-code and no-code tools do the heavy lifting for you, giving you the foundation to create complex applications without any coding expertise. 

Knowing the difference between low-code and no-code enables you to choose a platform that won't have your head spinning—especially if you're someone who could paint a da Vinci better than they could code one up.

What is low-code? 

Jump here for an example of what a low-code platform looks like.

Low-code development requires some coding skills, but it's a massive shift away from full-code development. With low-code programming, software engineers can build and change applications faster using APIs, drag-and-drop capabilities, code templates, process flows, and other tools that require very little code. This makes it easier for businesses to quickly deliver new processes and app functionalities than if they were to build with code alone. 

Pros of low-code development

Cons of low-code development

Usually more customizable than no-code

Basic coding skills required

Faster to build and create than full-code 

Less admin control than full-code

Easier to maintain than full-code

Costs are often greater than no-code 

Examples of low-code platforms

  • Zoho Creator is a low-code app builder with a drag-and-drop interface for creating workflows, forms, and databases.

  • Kissflow is a low-code work management platform focused on process automation. Users can design and deploy workflows, forms, and reports to streamline business processes.

  • Airplane is a low-code internal tool builder for building UIs and workflows. Users can build custom tools for tasks like data entry, reporting, and team collaboration.

  • Appian is a low-code enterprise app builder that facilitates the rapid development of sophisticated apps. Enterprises use it to create mission-critical applications like case management, business process management (BPM), and workflow automation.

What is no-code?

Jump here for an example of what a no-code platform looks like.

No-code platforms typically allow people without any coding knowledge to build computer software and websites. It empowers individuals with no technical skills to build apps that work with an organization's current infrastructure and fit into existing workflows. Like low-code tools, no-code tools include features like drag-and-drop capabilities, process flows, and other visual tools.

No-code development is an attractive option for businesses because it's adaptable and easy to build—and anyone can use it.

Pros of no-code development

Cons of no-code development

Fastest to build and create

Less customizable than full-code

Most cost-effective 

Less admin control than full-code 

Easiest to maintain over time

Reliance on no-code platform

Here's an example. Zapier, a no-code automation platform, allows you to create workflows that send information across thousands of apps without using any code. You don't need to know how to use APIs or code up a solution—anyone can use the visual builder to make the magic happen.

For instance, imagine you run a small eCommerce business and want to streamline your order processing and customer communication. With a no-code tool like Zapier, you can create custom integrations between your eCommerce platform, email marketing tool, and customer support system—all without needing to write a single line of code.

Examples of no-code platforms

  • Zapier is a no-code automation tool that connects thousands of apps and services. It lets users create automated workflows, or Zaps, without any coding knowledge.

  • Bubble is a no-code app builder designed for building web and mobile apps visually. It offers a range of customizable elements and data workflows that enable users to create complex apps without coding.

  • Webflow is a no-code website builder that empowers users to create responsive and interactive websites. It provides advanced design and hosting options.

  • Airtable is a no-code database where users can create custom, collaborative apps. It's a flexible solution for workplaces that want to improve their workflows.

Learn more about no-code and why you should care

Low-code vs. no-code

Low-code and no-code platforms both provide a visual interface and pre-built components that reduce the need for expensive coding. They're like the meal kit dinners of the software world: they generate code automatically to speed up development, letting you create customized applications efficiently without needing a lot of—or any—coding experience.

The difference between low-code and no-code platforms boils down to how much coding experience you need to use them. 

For instance, just to start using Airplane, a low-code tool, I had to use a command-line interface. If you've never used a CLI or know enough to troubleshoot one, a low-code tool may not be for you. Heck, I've used a CLI before, and I still had to ask my software engineer partner for help.

Once you get into the production environment, you can choose from task and interface templates. But you still need some understanding of code to build apps and troubleshoot when things (inevitably) go wrong.

Airplane's local development environment, Studio

But with a no-code tool like Airtable, you literally don't need any coding experience. You can select pre-built components and customize elements within a visual interface. 

Using Airtable's templates to create a content calendar

Benefits of using low-code and no-code tools

The most obvious pro of these tools is that they make development easier, but here's what that could look like for your company more specifically.

  • Accelerated development: Low-code/no-code tools are like a fast-forward button for app development. For example, a small business owner (even if they're half decent at coding) can use a no-code drag-and-drop tool to quickly create a customer registration portal and save weeks of development time they would otherwise spend creating custom HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

  • Lower costs: These platforms cut down on the need for expensive coding expertise and trim development expenses. While using these tools is rarely free, it's usually more budget-friendly than hiring developers.

  • Accessibility: Low-code and no-code platforms make app development accessible to those who aren't coding wizards, which can help foster innovation across various departments. For example, HR teams could use a no-code tool to create an employee onboarding system themselves without involving IT.

  • Flexibility and customization: Low-code tools offer a range of customizable features like the ability to design user interfaces, integrate with external systems through APIs, create custom data models, and configure workflows. An eCommerce company could use a low-code tool to develop a customized inventory management system that integrates with its unique business processes. 

  • Rapid iteration and updates: Low-code and no-code platforms allow quick iterations and updates, empowering teams to be agile and adaptable. No more submitting a dev ticket for a simple landing page copy change. 

  • Automation: These tools can be used as personal automation assistants, handling repetitive tasks so you can free up your time for more strategic activities. They often come equipped with built-in APIs and workflow automation tools that make setting up automation processes a breeze without needing extensive coding.

I'm not a coder, so I'm a big proponent of no-code and low-code tools. But I also understand that there are some reasons you'd want to go full-code. Usually it comes down to complexity and customization.

Let's use Zapier as an example. Zapier has an amazing team of software engineers behind the scenes writing the code that powers Zapier the platform. Building the product is complex—it requires full customization and admin capabilities.

But the Zapier team uses no-code software for plenty of processes and operations. For example, the Learning and Development team saves thousands of hours thanks to no-code apps. Without any code, they were able to build their own systems and processes, allowing them to move quickly, adapt without delay, and not monopolize valuable software developer time. 

When to choose low-code/no-code vs. full-code

Here are the other things your business should think about when deciding between code and no-code solutions.




More affordable; often can use one tool to do many things, increasing ROI

More expensive; usually requires multiple software developers to build, update, and maintain 


Quick; often implemented in a few hours (or even minutes)

Without pre-written code, it takes much longer to build


You get the security standards of an established service (as an example, here are Zapier's security standards)

You can build your own security standards based on your needs, but it can be complicated

Maintenance and agility

It's easy to make changes as your company scales

Requires developers to update code with every change; depending on how the code is originally written, it can take a lot of time and effort to keep code updated


Plenty of customization is available within the constraints of the no-code platform

Complete customization

No-code is the future of business

In a market survey, Zapier found that 90% of no-code users think their company has been able to grow faster due to its no-code usage. 

A low-code or no-code approach reduces cost and time, making it a desirable option for businesses looking to streamline development and processes. Low-code and no-code platforms won't replace expert coders and traditional developers. Still, they allow businesses to scale in ways that weren't previously possible, making them a powerful tool for the future. 

My recommendation? Try no-code first and see if it gets the job done. If so, there's no reason to pour resources into a full-code solution until you're sure it's necessary.

Related reading:

  • How I launched an app using no-code tools

  • How to create a no-code app using Zapier

  • We don't code. But we built our MVP for $100/month.

  • How to build your own app—no coding skills required

  • The best internal tool builders

This article was originally published in December 2022 by Ellie Huizenga. The most recent update was in October 2023.

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