All the articles about all the “best low-code development platforms” in all the world and you stumbled into ours. We’re glad you did.
Searching a topic like this is bound to return all sorts of results. From paid vendor ads trying to get you to click on their link first, to legitimate research material and articles aimed at educating readers on the topic, it’s all there. With this much noise, it’s not always easy to know whom to trust.
We want to help you understand the low-code landscape and the differences between one low-code platform and another. If you’re new to the low-code market, even some of the lingo can be difficult to get a handle on (i.e., what is “visual development”).
It’s all very confusing. But, we’re here to help clear up any questions you have, at least on the topic of “Best low-code platforms” and the like.
But first, let’s set the stage. After all, we want to make sure we’re comparing apples to apples, because there is a lot of, well, durian out there.
Low-Code Development Explained
Low-code is a way to design and develop software applications fast and with minimal hand-coding. It enables skilled people to deliver value more quickly and more reliably. Using visual modeling in a graphical interface to assemble and configure applications, developers skip all the infrastructure and re-implementation of patterns that can bog them down and go straight to the unique 10% of an application.
For a more in-depth look, check our blog about low-code development.
Now that you understand more fully what low-code is, you may be wondering what kinds of applications you can develop using low-code, and what kinds of companies use it.
Technically speaking, with the right low-code development platform there is no limit on the kinds of applications you can develop. But low-code certainly has areas in which it excels. In reality, low-code is limited only by the user’s own imagination. Very powerful indeed.
The Best Low-Code Development Tools
Developers have varying working styles, habits, and tendencies. Some work well in a dynamic team, while others prefer a more solitary environment. But regardless of how they work, they all want to use the best tools their trade offers. It’s no different from any other craft. Most developers use some or all of these types of tools:
Source control solution that hosts their code and maintains version control in case there’s ever a need to revert to a previous version.
Working environments typically consist of code editors or integrated developer environments (IDEs).
Tools for building User Interfaces (UI) range from simple templates and patterns, up to full-fledged frameworks that let users lay out menus and screens visually rather than coding by hand.
Testing tools ensure that compiled code works as expected when deployed. They include checks for common and known errors and incompatibilities that could affect your apps’ performance and user experience.
Standards and compliance tools help developers create applications for the web and mobile devices according to best practices and to ensure maximum OS and browser compatibility.
The best low-code development platforms incorporate some of the best low-code development tools right into the platform so developers have everything they need, right at their fingertips, literally. But also, the best low-code platform vendors recognize that developers often have their own preferred tools and so they allow developers to integrate many third-party tools into their low-code platform. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Which Vendor Offerings for Best Low-Code Platforms Exist?
The low-code vendor landscape is widely covered by leading industry analyst firms. Other firms cover peripheral focus areas that intersect with low-code, such as customer experience (CX), but they don’t provide coverage for low-code vendors per se.
Doing Your Homework - The Most Comprehensive Low-Code Analyst Reports We Feel You Should Read Today
We believe Gartner offers the most comprehensive coverage of low code platforms, with two reports released in 2018. One report covered vendors that Gartner classified as offering a platform as a service (PaaS) solution. To us, this means that it’s not a product you purchase once and own forever. Rather, PaaS providers offer their platform on a recurring fee-based schedule. This is common for vendors who provide ongoing improvements and updates to their product(s), which in turn brings added value to their customers.
Gartner also offers a report covering mobile application development platforms as well. This report is not low-code specific, but due to low-code’s broad use-case applicability, several low-code platforms meet the rigorous criteria Gartner sets forth for inclusion.
The Gartner hpaPaaS report offers both general and specific guidance on the types of low-code platforms that make it into their final report. The hpaPaaS report includes vendors that are both low-code and no-code, a difference you can learn more about in the blog Low-Code vs. No-Code: Form Following Function.
Despite coining the term “low-code,” Forrester’s coverage of low-code and no-code platforms, though no less rigorous, tends to be an easier read for IT professionals and laypersons alike. In prior years, Forrester didn’t differentiate between the top low-code platforms and no-code platforms. But, in its 2019 report, Forrester did note the growing differences between the two and chose to move several vendors who were previously included in its Low-Code Wave to a different report more suited to solutions that cater to a specific business need, such as business process modeling.
Analysts are very particular when it comes to vendors writing about their research, so in addition to the summary we provide here, we also invite you to download and read for yourself, how the analysts review the top low-code platforms and vendors and see which ones rise to the top (right corner), and which ones fall by the wayside.
You can get your complimentary copies of these reports at the links below:
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise High-Productivity Application Platform as a Service
- The Forrester Wave™: Low-Code Development Platforms For AD&D Pros, Q1 2019
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile App Development Platforms
The Best Research Into the Top Low-Code Platforms Isn’t Research at All
Everyone knows the power of a trusted friend’s recommendation. Given two unknowns, most of us will go with the unknown that at least has a good word behind it by someone we know and trust.
That’s the thinking behind Gartner Peer Insights. From the Gartner web site, “Peer Insights is an online platform of ratings and reviews of IT software and services that are written and read by IT professionals and technology decision-makers. The goal is to help IT leaders make more insightful purchase decisions and help technology providers improve their products by receiving objective, unbiased feedback from their customers. Gartner Peer Insights includes more than 70,000 verified reviews in more than 200 markets. For more information, visit www.gartner.com/reviews/home.
For coverage areas Gartner releases a Magic Quadrant for, there is also usually a corresponding Peer Insights category. Therefore, if you are looking for trusted peer reviews of the top low-code platforms, there are few better, or more trusted places, than here on Gartner’s own site:
- Reviews for Enterprise High-Productivity Application Platform as a Service
- Best Mobile App Development Platforms of 2018 as Reviewed by Customers
But don’t stop there, because the devil IS in the details. Take particular note of the vendors given the coveted, “Customer Choice” distinction. It includes the top 5 vendors based on feedback and ratings from end-user professionals with experience purchasing, implementing and/or using the product or service. Vendors must have a minimum of 50 published reviews, with an average overall rating of 4.2 stars or higher.
Even in the top five in each of these categories, the disparity in the number of total reviews between the most reviewed vendor, and the second most reviewed vendor, is striking. And everyone knows it’s more difficult to maintain a high rating as your total number of reviews goes up. That is, unless your product or service is truly outstanding.
The Best Way to Evaluate the Best Low-Code Development Platforms
Research is always a good idea, and nothing is more trusted than an honest recommendation. But, you can only determine a solution’s value to your organization by trying it out yourself. Look for solutions that offer free versions of their products, preferably full-featured versions and not limited “Trial Versions” that don’t provide access to all of the features (and limitations).
As you get deeper into your research and options, consider this simple score-card. It provides some very basic, but important considerations, and a method of rating them based on the vendors you are considering, and your own resources.
This is an actual scorecard from a company evaluating OutSystems low-code development platform against other options.
Use this as a baseline only. Every situation has some unique dependency, be it geographic, the availability of local developer talent, even country-specific limitations. And certainly not every low-code software vendor, local digital agency, etc. will offer the same capabilities as the ones captured here.
It’s a good start though, and with this information gathered, it should be far easier to narrow down your viable options to just a couple versus the five shown here (or more).
Thousands of customers worldwide trust OutSystems, the number one low-code platform for rapid application development. Engineers with an obsessive attention to detail crafted every aspect of the OutSystems platform to help organizations build enterprise-grade apps and transform their business faster.
OutSystems is the only solution that combines the power of low-code development with advanced mobile capabilities, enabling visual development of entire applications that easily integrate with existing systems.
Take OutSystems low-code development platform for a free, full-featured test-drive today.