Not Sure Whether to Build or Buy Your Software? Consider Low-Code

David Emerson by David Emerson

If you’re trying to decide whether to buy a third-party application or build a custom one that more closely fits your needs, consider a third option: “Configure” it using a low-code application development platform.

At one time in the not-so-recent past, if your company wanted a web-based application, they had two choices: Purchase an off-the-shelf application or build a custom one. Off-the-shelf applications are generally cheaper and faster to deploy than custom-built ones, but they often cannot accommodate the specific needs and workflows that are unique to a business. Some software providers have tried to solve this feature gap by encouraging external developers to create plugins or related applications. Examples of this include the AppExchange from Salesforce and the WordPress plugins directory.

Custom applications are designed from the ground up to perfectly match an organization’s needs. The problem with custom development is the time and cost involved to generate code-based applications using traditional software development languages. Building custom applications for highly regulated industries like healthcare and financial services are even more difficult and costly.

Low-code application development platforms are the new rage in the application development world. These web-based solutions provide non-programmers with a set of tools to build applications on their own, mostly by “configuring” them rather than by writing actual code. With these platforms, organizations can rely on their more tech-savvy employees (who are often referred to as “citizen developers”) to build applications, and avoid hiring expensive engineers to write, test and deploy actual software.

Even though low-code application development platforms allow you to build applications on your own, often times required advanced user interface work or special skills in order to get an application that is more than basic.

Some of the options in the low-code space include Appian, Mendix, and OutSystems. At SiteRocket Labs we use Caspio which is an easy-to-use yet powerful development tool. The Caspio platform includes a cloud database, visual application builder, powerful report builder, online forms and built-in security and integration features. I recently wrote an article featured on the Caspio website that illustrates how much time can be saved developing an application with Caspio when compared to traditional coding.

There are a few pitfalls that you still have to watch out for when developing your applications. Make sure you spend enough time planning out and designing your application. Be aware of any regulatory or compliance issues that you need to address. You also should make an inventory of different applications you might want to integrate with and make sure standard APIs are available. Finally, be sure to create a plan and timeline. The biggest problem that citizen developers run into is time. They either don’t have enough of it or they underestimate how much time it takes to develop the application internally.

If you get into trouble or have decided you’re not an application developer no matter how good the tool is, then you can always call in a team like SiteRocket Labs to help you plan and complete your next project.