No-code Software Engineering

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Low and no code applications have been around for a long time. In my career, I've seen Access, Delphi, PowerBuilder, and various 4GL packages used to build software for business users. Some worked well, some didn't, and often many didn't scale. Not all, but many.

The problems in many of these tools, at least to me, was that many of the "developers" using them weren't developers. They were business people trying to get something done quickly. Often these weren't people thinking about performance or software engineering in the way that many developers think of those topics.

Arguably, there are plenty of Java, C#, and other developers that don't think things through either. However, many developers do want to solve problems and build interesting solutions. They don't (often) want the drudgery of moving around UI elements or reinventing CRUD data operations.

I saw an interesting piece this week noting that No-code doesn't mean we avoid software engineering. The author praises some of the no-code platforms because they allow developers to do the fun part of building logic and solving problems without the tedious nature of writing an IF statement with the correct syntax. There are a number of reasons given, which sound good.

I don't know that I think that no-code is the way to go, but I do get the idea of using lots of proven and tested components, features, services, and more rather than reinventing them. I think that connections to database objects, RDBMS or NoSQL, ought to be easy, and lots of the mundane work of plumbing systems together could be centralized and reused. I certainly think that LINQ or simple query languages make sense, though likely having a way to more quickly and easily build/test/refactor and deploy database methods as well as make them more flexible (select col from @table, anyone?) might simplify database coding.

I doubt we'll get rid of C#, Java, or other fairly low level code anytime soon. I write about better programming languages recently, and I can see us moving to more succinct languages over time, but that will take decades. There is far too much invested in current codebases by developers and organizations to think about quick switches.

The best way to build better applications is to have developers continue to learn, practice, test, and change their coding. They need to seek to be better, which I think most of them do, but management and leaders need to demand this and invest in staff (time and money) to help them improve. Then I suspect that whether you use lots of code or none, all your applications will work better.

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