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Drag and drop v’s rapid low-code development

drag & drop v's Low-code

A blog by Mark Hosking, CEO, Formbird

Like a good joke, a good user interface doesn’t need an explanation.

Anon UI developer

Rapid development has been around in various forms for a long time, since the acceptance and adoption of cloud and SaaS delivery models. The popularity of a low-code and drag and drop no code has really taken off. 

Web-based, rapid development and low code development bring together powerful capabilities. It’s where all modern development is headed. For example, the web environment lets hundreds or even thousands of users logged in and share data. 

However, the idea that drag and drop built applications, will do everything a business needs is really a stretch.

In my experience, I’ve never seen a “drag and drop” built application that works as intended. Drag and drop is not a new concept; there’s a long history of big software houses coming out with the latest take on simple application building tools, dating back to Lotus notes and probably before. 

If drag and drop programming was so excellent and easy to use, it would be the dominant software development methodology. After all, this time it still isn’t.

Is no-code a misnomer, or why “drag and drop” apps just don’t work?

Drag and drop logic is always represented as a flowchart; this is fine for something extremely linear and straightforward. 

While the term “no-code” has a uniquely magical aura, the reality is that there’s very little you can do in a sophisticated business application without code. When you do need to do more with a drag and drop built application, you quickly find that the generated code is non-extensible. And you’re back where you started, “lifting the bonnet on the code”.

Most business applications will require complex logic that let users enter data their way or rely on conditions to validate their data entry. Most business apps rely on parallel conditions for data entry, validation, or a user’s ability to enter the data in a non-linear style. 

Applications built-in a drag and drop environment require user workarounds to overcome the shortcomings because they rely on a simple flow chart of sequential logic.

Sophisticated and flexible application logic is now a user expectation. Most users have had plenty of experience using apps. So much of our leisure time is now spent in an app of some form or other. When users see unresolved logic issues in their work app, they are quick to complain. 

User expectation of rich logic functions in their apps has made building workable business apps even harder. 

The logic capabilities of an application built-in drag and drop will be limited to the logic capability to the confines of the drag and drop user interface (UI). No drag and drop application building platforms that I have seen can graphically represent the vast array of potential logic an application will require. 

Organisations often think they can cut a few corners and save some money building and application in something like Google forms or Monday.com it never turns out well. In one example, a customer wanted a “simple” inspection tool. They quickly ran into issues when they wanted the data entered to be validated against a pre-existing data source. 

A modern business application needs to draw on a combination of real-time events that will present an almost infinite variety of possibilities. There is no way to control the logic of this type of chaotic system with a simple flow chart.