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The No Code & Low Code Movement: What You Need to Know

By: Steve Baines

Across the industry, the low code movement has been gaining traction with recent news of funding, acquisitions, and companies like Salesforce introducing more low code features. With the accessibility, speed, and multi-functionality of low-code systems, it's an obvious strategy to adopt. As the low-code and no-code movement is continuing to emerge, there is still ample time to start the process of implementing these application development strategies into your business.

Today's outlook

As the Salesforce ecosystem grows exponentially, acquiring qualified and experienced talent is becoming more scarce. As a result of this shortage, admins and everyday business users are increasingly being asked to produce more technically oriented solutions. Salesforce has recognized the need to offer easier, more straightforward tools that uphold sophisticated business logic and user experiences.

Leveraging these tools as a Salesforce admin or developer helps to balance the needs of business users who want more complex solutions and technical teams who are starved for resources. It's critical to incorporate low-code and no-code solutions into your technology roadmap and evaluate how users will change their Salesforce utilization without having to lean on a coded solution.

Difference between no-code and low-code

Although there are many similarities between no-code, low-code solutions, there is a difference. It's easy to use these terms interchangeably but there are stark differences in the approach to using them as well as the intended audiences of each. For example, no-code solutions are meant to be just that - zero coding required. They're intended to be used by everyday admins and non-technical users. Process builder or the legacy workflow engine are two great examples of no-code solutions in Salesforce. Contrast that to low-code solutions, where there is still a degree of technical knowledge needed, but the tool itself still does most of the heavy lifting.

As it pertains to Salesforce, a great example of a low-code solution is flow. While it is not necessary to write code to interact with records and objects, a flow developer still has the ability to create high-level business logic with many of the concepts that are available in a coded solution.

As companies like Salesforce continue to evolve their ecosystem, we will start to see a blending of no-code and low-code solutions into a single tool set, and the distinction between the two will become blurred. For example, Salesforce has advertised that the process builder user interface is eventually going to be unavailable, and all declarative automation will be run from the lightning flow designer.  Users will still be able to create both no-code and low-code solutions from that single interface, but again, the distinction becomes less and less clear as the tools evolve. 

What low-code and no-code is not

The simplicity of building these solutions can't obscure the amount of risk that's also involved in creating them. Users should still consider the risks and benefits of creating and deploying these solutions to ensure that core business processes can still function with a simplified user experience.

There's a common misconception that one can merely produce these solutions and insert them into an environment with little to no impact. Designing a low-code solution doesn't inherently mean forethought isn't needed. Additionally, low-code doesn't mean you can do everything. Users must make trade offs when comparing low-code and no-code solutions versus the flexibility provided by these tools. With Lightning flow, although one can build highly sophisticated business logic to interact with Salesforce, it's still limited as to what can be produced in those user interfaces because of the Salesforce framework.

Another great example is the Lightning app builder, where you can edit a lightning page for a particular object and use the rich drag-and-drop experience to organize the screen precisely to business users' requirements. Salesforce has given a comprehensive set of components to customize those screens, however, there are still limitations with the UI.  Creating filtered or enhanced related lists for particular use cases, or the ability to show or hide buttons based on who the user is are examples of such boundaries.

These solutions don't mean that they can be seamlessly integrated with other parts of an environment. No-code, low-code solutions tend to be built as point solutions so it won't necessarily offer unlimited opportunities to integrate those solutions into a larger ecosystem. Careful planning should be at the forefront of the process.

Best Practices

Not only is the line between no-code and low-code solutions becoming blurrier, but the line between no code low code encoded solutions is becoming blurrier. The architecture in development of these solutions should all follow a similar framework.

Here are some best practices to consider when building a low-code solution, but these best practices could easily be applied to a coded solution as well.

  • Plan, plan, plan: critical planning is essential to creating a low-code and no-code solution. Take the time to create a design that fits into the overall architecture; one that creates stability and predictability.
  • Make as few changes to the database as possible: create efficient solutions that only communicate with the database when needed. While the amount of data your particular solution must operate on is very predictable, it's impossible to understand the impact of other solutions running in our environment and how that may affect performance. Look to create highly efficient solutions and adhere to best practices just like developers do. 
  • Consider the User Experience: view all aspects of the solution to build engaging user experiences. With the limited flexibility, due diligence is needed to consider all aspects of your solution as well as your customer's experience before deciding to go down the no-code, low-code road.
  • Handle errors gracefully: consider how to manage things when they go awry. We, as citizen developers, still need to consider how to handle things when they don't perform as intended. It's critical to remember that and consider that as part of the design. 
  • Don't hard code anything:  create flexible ways for the solution and build them directly in production. There's no need to hard code anything.
  • Reusability: design solutions to be as reusable as possible. Ideally we create solutions once and they are able to be reused many times, both for the specific problems the solution was intended to solve, as well as being incorporated into a larger solution or process flow. 

Practical applications of low-code and no-code today

When designing Salesforce solutions, there are two major layers to consider: user interface and interacting with Salesforce data. For example, Salesforce provides a fairly large set of components to use in Lightning app builder and Community builder that feature no-code, low-code. These features are intended to achieve the same outcome- the ability to produce a solution swiftly and easily without any coding.

With the Summer 2020 and Winter 2021 releases, Salesforce has continued to invest in no-code by announcing the addition of Dynamic pages, actions, and forms. These releases provide users with more ways to add flexibility, control, and personalization without needing code. It's the next step in the evolution of Lightning record pages in Lightning Experience Salesforce. Dynamic Actions allow you to control visibility for each action based on specified factors, appearing in the Highlights Panel on the object's record page. Dynamic Forms adds a step of point-and-click customization for Lightning record pages that previously required custom coding. All in all, the Dynamic additions add a strengthened, customizable user interface.

There is also out of the box functionality- creating custom objects in custom fields is a no-code solution. Salesforce provides the ability to modify the database as well as the user interface by customizing page layouts and lightning pages.

Look at add-ons and applications that can be installed into Salesforce that gives no-code low-code functionality. Forcivity has built a product called Saber that extends the components available in community cloud, providing admins the ability to create rich and complex user experiences, again- without the need for coding. It is considered a low-code solution as users have the ability to "tweak things" if they so desire, otherwise they can use the solution as is.

Lastly, Conga Grid has created this tool to allow users to create very complex data grids that can be dropped onto a lightning page, again without writing any code. However, if users choose to, they can extend the functionality of the grid by creating coded add ONS. 

This is just the start of the movement where we can expect more practical users to come to fruition as more people adopt it into their environments.


Although it's easy to produce no-code and low-code solutions, it's important to balance the flexibility versus the functionality when choosing a solution. Understanding how this will fit into the overall architecture is essential before implementing it.

No-code, low-code does not suggest simplicity or remove the need for foresight. On the surface, a solution may seem easy to implement when evaluated specifically against the problem to solve. However, consideration must be taken on how the solution fits into the complete system. 


About the Author


Steve Baines is a tech nerd and solutions expert with a passion for high-tech start-ups, Steve has accrued over 20 years of leading strategic and operational technology endeavors. He is a co-founder of BevNow and Compass Healthcare, and founder of Poised Solutions and now Forcivity.

Outside of work, Steve has volunteered as a member of Crispin's House Coalition for Youth Juvenile Court Diversion Committee since 2006. Steve also is a founding member of the Northeast Dreamin' organizing committee and is the leader of the Manchester New Hampshire Salesforce Developer group. Steve is a self-proclaimed pool shark and has also been known to have a great time dressing up for Halloween.

Steve is a Certified Technical Architect (CTA) and is also a Salesforce MVP. He holds multiple degrees; BS in Accounting & Finance, MS in Information Technology and an MBA, all from Southern New Hampshire University.

Steve is a proud veteran of the United States Air Force.

Published Wednesday, October 28, 2020 7:40 AM by David Marshall
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