How does low-code development fit into the bigger scheme of computer programming code? Code is the backbone of most software programs and applications. Each line of code serves as an instruction—a logical, step-by-step mechanism for computers, servers, and other machines to act. In computer programming, there are different levels of code. Computers understand binary code, a series of 0’s and 1’s. Binary code is low-level code, also referred to as machine language.
The higher you move away from machine language, the easier it becomes for humans to understand the code, but the more difficult it becomes for computers to understand. To make computers understand, code must be interpreted or compiled (basically converted), potentially through various layers, until it reaches machine language level.
In a low-code development environment, the “low code” refers to the developer requiring a low (read minimal) amount of coding. It does not refer to the level of the code. The development or design actions taken by the developer, like drag and drop, setting configuration properties or adding components with a click of a button, are at a high “coding” level.
These actions create underlying code in a programming language like C# or Java, which will in turn be interpreted or compiled to become something the computer can understand eventually. Just like a C# developer does not have to understand machine language and how the C# code was compiled or interpreted, developers using a low-code development platform also do not have to understand the underlying code of what they have created.
Code, at whatever level and written in whatever language, is only one aspect of programming. In software development, what begins as low-level programming using assembly language has evolved to adding layers of abstraction to hide the complexities behind machine code, making programming easier for software developers.
Code is a set of instructions written in a specific programming language that aims to do something specific, most commonly to solve a specific problem. The algorithm the code attempts to implement is just as important as code, if not more so.
An algorithm is a systematic logical approach used to solve a problem. Any developer, including users of low-code development platforms, must be skilled in systematically and logically solving problems.
What does application development entail?
Basic problem-solving skills
When trying to solve a problem, consider this:
- Define your problem carefully – know what it is you must address. The symptom is not the problem, the cause of the symptom is the problem.
- Start with the end in mind: what is your objective?
- Continue to focus on the resolution of the problem: don’t stray, don’t over-complicate, and don’t include anything that is not required.
- Identify the things you need to solve your problem (both in existence and things you must create as part of the process).
- Know what is available in your ‘toolbox’ to solve the problem.
- Be aware of the interdependencies within your system. A change in one part of your system will likely impact on some other part.
- Select an action path that will solve your problem without creating new problems.
Systems Development Life Cycle
An SDLC involves breaking down the overall development process into phases that normally include a variation of the following:
- Investigation and problem definition (Conceptualization)
- Creating / Developing
- The SDLC can follow a waterfall or an agile approach. The value of an SDLC is in the systematic approach to creating a solution.
Process flow: from Input to Output
Any application or solution will contain instructions (activities or steps) that interact in a specific sequence to achieve or produce a particular end-result. This can also be referred to as the process-flow.
A process flow consists of 3 important elements:
- What is the required output of my process?
- To create my output, is there any input that I require?
- How will I process my input into output (e.g. which functions do I require)?
Code is the channel
Code is not a goal in itself. Code is a means of solving a problem. With low-code development tools and the high-level ‘coding’ that it makes possible, logical thinking and problem-solving skills are more important than knowing the syntax of a particular programming language.
With coding being such a difficult skill to learn, low code development may be the solution to a supply-and-demand problem: a rising demand for generating more software, but a limited number of developers who can create that software.
Given that technology is such a central part of our lives, more people should be able to create it. High-level coding is easier to learn than a computer science degree and allows people who don’t know how to write code to develop the same applications that a software engineer would. But perhaps the most important advantage of low code over code is making software development more accessible, letting people who understand the business situation best use high-level coding concepts – and low-code tools – to build the product themselves effectively.