Why Low-Code/No-Code Development Increases the Need for Testing
Low-code/no-code development has merit, but teams using it must weigh the pros and cons
Low-code and no-code application development is growing rapidly and transforming the software industry. Total market revenue is expected to reach $187 billion by 2030. With these tools, creating an application can be as simple as dragging and dropping ready-made modules in a user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI), the low-code development platform. These modules are typically already unit tested, leading many organizations to ask if creating new apps can really be that simple.
Enterprises and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) often use low-code/no-code solutions to reduce software development costs. While the tools have limitations, many organizations find these applications meet their needs. They offer fast turn-around time and reduce the demand for specialized knowledge. Even with minimal software engineering skills, a team can have an idea, then get a functioning product up and running in weeks. It’s clear why, as a business concept, low-code and no-code development is taking off: it produces quick results at lower development cost.
This sounds empowering, but in truth, low-code and no-code development doesn’t always speed time to release. This approach simply shifts much of the coding time to quality assurance (QA) testing. Many organizations are tempted to go straight to market with their rapidly developed applications and overlook testing. While this is a bad idea for any release, it’s especially ill-advised for low-code and no-code apps. These products need at least as much testing as traditionally developed apps: sometimes more. Let’s look at why.
Low-code apps are often developed by business citizens without development experience. On the upside, it makes development accessible to just about anyone, regardless of experience, unlocking the potential of your existing domain experts. No more struggling to recruit expensive developers with niche technical skill sets.
However, there is more to software development than just making something work. It’s easy to miss areas such as error handling and validation, and when quickly moving from design to development and deployment, there is only a small window to identify bugs without driving up costs and delaying release. As with any app, the code is still there, but low-code and no-code solutions keep it hidden from the app creator, leaving the user interface as the primary entry point for testing. This makes testing an ever more crucial step in getting the product to market.
The same goes for ensuring your application meets industry standards for authorization, authentication, and data encryption. When you are not working directly with the code, you depend far more on post-development testing to discover security flaws.
It is somewhat ironic that citizen developers can create apps via a user-friendly interface, given growing industry concerns that the products they create often lack some key usability aspects. At this issue’s core is that citizen developers often build apps piecemeal, over time, without much thought for ease-of-use or positive user experience.
The GUI may be masking spaghetti code and a poorly architected system. QA testing can identify issues such as inefficient database querying and problems with storage, accessibility, security, and usability.
After all, what use is a rushed-out app that doesn’t work right or has a poor user interface? Testing is a crucial step, especially in the absence of engineering line-by-line code for optimization and usability. QA teams can assess the app thoroughly, on a variety of devices and platforms, possibly widening your target market.
Gaps in new feature or service specs definitions is a common problem in all software product development. However, we've noticed that customers in the fast-paced low-code/no-code development world are often tempted to pay even less attention to this issue. This is because low-code/no-code development is so simple and ready to use, and enables teams to start building the product immediately. This can lead to a question of whether their app actually solves real business problems effectively. How do you determine whether something is working as intended if your intentions are unclear? To remedy this, app creators should identify the tasks they expect the product to perform — ideally prior to development, in the same way they would for traditionally developed software. Then you can conduct exploratory testing in a non-production environment, to evaluate the product from an end user’s perspective. QA engineers can ensure the outlined business needs are met or steer the project back in the right direction.
It is easy to focus on the upfront savings from low-code and no-code development. However, this cheaper method comes at a price. Reducing operational costs at the expense of product quality and user experience doesn’t make good business sense. This doesn’t mean that low-code and no-code apps are never a good idea. It simply means that citizen developers who lack testing expertise need assistance to ensure their apps are fully functional, user-friendly, and properly secure.
Low-code/no-code development plans must account for increased testing if you want to deliver a reliable product. Despite the need for more scrupulous QA, low-code and no-code tools can help businesses save time and money in the long run.
Looking for a partner to help test your low-code apps? Contact Applause to learn how we can help ensure your app is a user-friendly success.