The ultimate low-code development guide

Low-code has been growing in popularity, and its market is expected to reach $29 billion in revenue by 2025. But, what is low-code? What are its benefits, and what can you build with it?

Let’s find out.

Low-code platforms comparison

Choosing the right software development platform for a business transformation can be a complex process. From no-code, low-code, traditional development, COTS, and SaaS, the choices are aplenty.

So, which one better suits your business?

No-code, low-code, traditional development, COTS and SaaS

There are key characteristics that differentiate these different approaches to software development.


No-code development eliminates the need to write lines of code entirely. That makes it suitable for business users with no technical background to create simple solutions they need to perform their daily activities more efficiently.

Characteristics of a no-code platform include:

  • Visual modeling of UI and data.
  • Templates and wizard approach.
  • Limited integrations.
  • Increased risks on security, compliance and privacy/data.

Explore low-code vs no-code


Traditional development relies on manual coding and programming languages like JavaScript, C#, React, Angular almost exclusively to build an application. It also requires a higher level of technical expertise and is typically a more time-consuming approach.

Characteristics of traditional development include:

  • Unlimited customization but slow development process.
  • Changes in existing software are slow and complex.
  • Need for specialized talent from a small talent pool.
  • Big investing in dev tooling setup and updating, and handovers.

Explore low-code vs traditional development


Commercial-off-the-shelf solutions and SaaS are prebuilt and configured solutions that are available for purchase (more common in COTS) and subscription (SaaS). They typically solve specific problems.

Characteristics of COTS and SaaS include:

  • Short time-to-value as you can start using them as soon as you buy or subscribe to them.
  • Allows for little customization.
  • It can be more expensive in the longer term due to licensing costs.

Explore COTS vs custom

Low-code development is the sweet spot between these several development approaches.

Any low-code platform provides visual development and drag-and-drop interfaces to accelerate development. More advanced ones also include extensibility mechanisms that enable professional developers to add traditional code as needed.

This way, organizations are able to shorten time-to-value, while ensuring their solution meets all the specifications of their business.

How to choose the right low-code platform

The best low-code platform depends on the problem you are trying to solve, so you may use multiple, but it helps to triage. If you’re looking for a platform to support a broader digital innovation strategy and moving from a project to product mentality, there are essentially 7 capabilities that differentiate the best low-code platforms.


Note: the 7 capabilities listed below are based on the criteria used by Gartner to evaluate the top low-code platforms in the yearly LCAP Magic Quadrant and that can be found in greater detail in its companion report, Critical Capabilities.

Capabilities to consider Questions to include in your Request for Proposal (RFP)

Type of apps you can build

Some low-code platforms focus on specific use cases, like BPM and case management solutions.

But if you want to maximize your investment in low-code and support an evolving digital transformation that includes high-quality omnichannel experiences with pixel perfect UX/UI, you need to search for a platform that goes beyond workflows.

  • Can I build internal business applications, but also customer apps and portals, and core systems?
  • How many users and how much concurrent access can the apps built with the platform take without affecting performance and user experience?
  • Can I extend front-end and out-of-the-box components to develop apps compliant with my brand guidelines?
  • Can I easily deploy my applications in app stores or am I dependent on a “wrapper” application to do it?
  • Does the platform support omnichannel and multiexperiences?

Security and quality of service

Most low-code platforms offer embedded security mechanisms like automatic testing and integration with existing testing tools.

But if you’re planning to create customer-facing apps, external or even enterprise-wide solutions, or are in a highly regulated industry, you should look for a platform that goes beyond the basic security.

Read more in low-code security.

  • Does the platform provide app monitoring and analytics capabilities to detect, identify, and troubleshoot issues in real time?
  • Can I do mobile application security hardening with the platform?
  • Can I scan the code of the apps built with the platform?
  • Can I measure, identify, and fix technical debt?
  • Is the vendor compliant with my industry standards?
  • How does the platform ensure that the code written is bug free and scalable?


Many low-code platforms target citizen developers to help organizations reduce their app backlogs. But this approach can lead to security and integration liabilities.

So, look for a platform that promotes visual communication and cross-collaboration between IT and business stakeholders instead.

  • What governance mechanisms does the platform provide to avoid ungoverned citizen development and shadow IT?
  • Does the platform allow defining granular security and governance controls easily?
  • How many change requests can my dev team deploy per day?

DevOps practices

The right low-code platform should complement and coexist with your team's traditional DevOps tools. Some vendors, however, limit your choice to what SDLC tools you can integrate with.

So look for a platform that offers both a “1-click publish” capability but that is also open enough to integrate with your team’s preferred SDLC tools.

  • Does the platform provide CI/CD capabilities to manage pipelines?
  • What percentage of the dev lifecycle is augmented with AI?
  • Can I integrate the platform with any SDLC tool of my choice, or am I limited to a set of tools?
  • Does the platform support open standards and deep integration to application lifecycle management (ALM), release, and testing platforms?

Developer productivity and platform engineering

With the right low-code platform, the more you build, the less you have to build.

Look for a platform that supports a composable architecture, a design pattern that allows developers to create reusable components to build applications more quickly, while also supporting an engineering approach that ensures these components meet the most stringent non-functional requirements like security and scalability.

  • What is the percentage of reused components in the platform’s portfolio?
  • If my dev team changes or fixes a component, is that change reflected in all solutions consuming from that component?
  • Can my team extend the components available by default by the platform?
  • How many open components can my developers use?
  • Is there a developer community that my developers can join?
  • How does the platform ensure that all components of an application are deployed correctly and together?

Integration and APIs

For continuous delivery of strategic software, you must look for a platform that allows you to connect your apps with the most common enterprise databases and core ERP, CRM, HCM, and SCM systems.

In the era of API economy, it should also make it easier for your dev team to consume and expose data via APIs.

Read more about low-code integration.

  • Does the platform allow my team to build APIs to connect my applications with other apps or services? Do we have to build them at all?
  • How easy is it for my team to integrate our apps with SAP, Salesforce, Microsoft Dataverse, and PostgreSQL?
  • Can the platform be extended to integrate with any legacy system?


Many low-code platforms augment developer productivity at the expense of control and flexibility.

So be sure you look for a platform that promotes development without walls.

  • Can my dev team extend what they develop in low-code with their preferred tools?
  • Does the platform provide options for more than one operating system or multi-cloud, or am I limited to the provider's choice?

Licensing clarity and predictability

Pay close attention to the pricing. Many platforms start with a “cheaper” price, but as you expand your use cases, it requires more products and licensing.

Look for a platform that provides you a transparent, “what you see is what you get” approach when it comes to pricing.

  • What is included in the pricing?
  • How does pricing work?
  • Are all the capabilities I need part of the standard licensing or does the vendor provide a module by module licensing instead?
  • What is the licensing for B2C customers?
  • Do developers also need a license in the platform?
  • Can I simulate how much I’m going to pay based on the apps I’m planning to build and number of users?

See how the top low-code platforms stack up


Explore how the main vendors scored for each of these capabilities according to Gartner’s Critical Capabilities report.

Get the score

Or download the full report. Looking for additional resources to help you evaluate low-code platforms? Read our Buyer's Guide to High-Performance Low-Code Platforms to see how you can evaluate low-code platforms and determine whether the platform you're looking at is run-of-the-mill low-code or the high-performance low-code your enterprise requires.

Explore the OutSystems high-performance low-code platform