Lego touches the essence of low-code

Mendix OutSystems Low-code

Developers increasingly use low-code platforms to develop applications and associated components, such as data and logic. For example, platforms like Mendix and OutSystems allow users to build company-specific software utilizing pre-programmed building blocks at lightning speed. Compare it to Lego: You can make countless constructions with the blocks at your disposal.

But what does the use of pre-programmed blocks mean for your development freedom? Does this limit creativity, or is particular customization possible? And how does this relate to security? We ask two low-code experts, Cecile Maan (Senior Mendix Developer) and Orla Dijkink (Squad Lead OutSystems).

Logic in construction

“Lego gets to the heart of Low-code,” says Cecile. “With Lego, you build a house from blocks. With low-code, you build an HR or order application from blocks, for example.” She has worked with Mendix modules for clients in the banking and consultancy sector for years and is convinced of the possibilities. “By connecting the blocks, a logic is created in the ‘construction’ and, after adding data, you arrive at a complete structure. A well-functioning application.”

Orla also recognizes the advantages of using automated blocks, thanks to its experience in the financial sector, among others. “In OutSystems little or no code needs to be written so that applications are quickly put together. Without getting upset about the functionalities or digging deep into the code, you can easily update, modify or delete building blocks during the development process.”

Providing customization

It is clear: with the automated, already existing modules, functional and efficient applications can be developed. But what happens when clients have very complex, specific wishes? “OutSystems developers can use the modules offered by the platform in 90% of the assignments,” says Orla. “The other 10%, which is needed to provide customization, we achieve with programmers who have in-depth knowledge of, for example, Java, .NET or Javascript.”

Cecile adds to Orla: “If you want to make major changes that have not been incorporated in the modules, you have to adjust the blocks manually and go deeper into the material. With Java or Javascript, but also, for example, by working with widgets. It introduces more logic to the application structure. You can program the widgets yourself, but you can also download existing variants from the ‘Mendix marketplace’, which you can then tweak.”

However, Cecile and Orla only recommend adapting existing models, especially for novice low-code developers. Cecile: “With existing blocks, which are extensively tested in advance, you already have a lot of freedom in app development. The more you use self-developed widgets or complicated code language, the greater the chance of bugs.” Orla shares this idea: “Low-code platforms extensively test pre-programmed models before they are available. As a result, these models are error-free, which increases the lifespan of the application (to be developed) and makes it future-proof.”

Application security

They are convinced that working with modules is the fastest and safest way of developing. “Low-code aims to develop well-functioning business software with relatively little programming knowledge. A platform like OutSystems saves developers time through the automatic use of certain code patterns, the standard application of encryption for data, and the adjustment of security rules,” says Orla.

Cecile adds: “Mendix also has this ‘guaranteed’ form of security, from which users benefit from the platform. But we pay attention to the security of applications: not only during the development process but also after the launch. In addition, we use metrics to monitor applications’ performance and where (security) improvements can be made.

Future of low-code

Thanks partly to the stable security foundation, low-code has grown enormously recently. “That has to do with the increasing popularity of SaaS solutions and hyper-automation,” says Orla. “And the stretch is far from over. The demand for low-code will only increase,” adds Cecile.

One of the advantages of low-code is that you can develop business software with a relatively small team, without a separate front-end developer or database expert. But there is more, according to Orla. “A big advantage over traditional programming is that developers work closely with the customer. Demos are given regularly, and customer feedback can be taken directly into the next sprint. Both in normal environments and mission-critical environments.”

Something Cecile wholeheartedly agrees with. “You can build beautiful, sustainable apps with a young and experienced developers team. I don’t have to read endless codes to determine whether an app meets the customer’s desired quality. In addition, there are huge low-code communities where developers can ask questions and where modules and code solutions are offered. For example, the modules of the low-code platform develop based on its users, which immediately indicates the dynamics of the low-code market.”

It’s clear: Low-code is the future of application development. Thanks to the short time-to-market, organizations are ahead of their competition, and internal processes run more efficiently, making companies scalable. But perhaps more importantly, low-code also plays an essential role in improving the security profile of companies. Or, to use Lego terminology: Mendix and OutSystems use their automated blocks to ensure that your construction is stable and protected against collapsing.

Cecile Maan (30) has worked at LINKIT since March 2022 and has over five years of experience with Mendix. She has a background in various organizations, including banking and the consulting industry.

Orla Dijkink (40) started at LINKIT in 2018 as an OutSystems Developer and is now responsible for the OutSystems squad. She has worked with this low-code platform since 2015 and knows all the ins and outs.