The use of code or no-code is a debate that has been raging over the last few years. Despite all the articles and studies that have been written on this subject, the question remains unanswered: code or no-code, which is better for a business site?

What is no code?

No-code is an approach to creating applications and websites without the need to code. A recent and developing alternative to code, which is characterized by a visual interface and intuitive tools that make the creation of applications faster and more accessible. More and more low-code platforms are appearing on the market, each with its own functionality and logic. You have surely heard of tools such as Wordpress, Shopify, Webflow or Bubble.

At first glance, no-code seems like a quick and inexpensive solution for all new companies who want to develop an application MVP (Minimum Viable Product), or their first website without burning too much cash. A quick and affordable solution, but one which does not allow you to create value from your website! When you go through a no-code platform to create your application, it belongs to the platform in question. So, is no-code really the most advantageous solution every time?

Code vs no-code: what criteria are generally taken into account?

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether or not to code a web development project. However, when a company chooses between a code or no-code solution, it tends to base its choice on two very specific criteria.

1) Cost

The first criterion on which companies that want to create a website generally base themselves is the price. Today, a no-code freelancer costs on average between 800€ and 1200€ per day. For this same duration, the prices of a freelance developer, in code, vary between 400€ and 700€. The same goes for a web agency like Agily, capable of creating your site from A to Z, from its graphic design to its launch.

The real economic advantages linked to web agencies are the CII (Innovation Tax Credit) and/or CIR (Research Tax Credit) accreditation: this allows their customers to recover 30% tax credit on everything the agency does in terms of innovation or research. In this context, if you commission an agency at the average daily rate of €700, it will actually cost you €500 per day after taking into account tax credits.

2) Development speed

To get a real idea of which would be cheaper for you, you need to consider the development speed of both solutions. Code generally takes longer to write than no-code. You must first design the architecture of the application, then write the code and finally debug the application. According to the estimates of Stéphane Paillard, CEO at Agily, 20 days of no-code are equivalent to approximately 50 - 100 days of development.

So, if we take into account the daily rates quoted earlier, 20 days of no-code development equals 40 days of code. At this point, using the no-code solution seems to be approximately half the cost of trusting a traditional web agency.

But is this strategy applicable to any type of business? What about the final quality of your site? And above all, what will be the costs if your site is to evolve?

Code quality: an important factor

The code is subject to strict quality checks and automated testing, which greatly reduces the risk of bugs in the code. Coded applications are also easier to maintain and improve than no-code ones.

For example, if you want to make changes and add functionality to your website, it is best to do so with a code solution. Indeed, you will also be able to create applications that are not limited by the functionalities offered by no-code platforms.

The code: creation of IP (Intellectual property) internal to the company.

IP (Intellectual Property) is ownership of something you have created. Concretely, in the case of a website designed with a traditional coded development, the source code that makes up your product belongs to you.

You are free to modify and improve it to your liking and to infinity. This allows you to have code that is unique to your business that can be used to launch other projects and create products that are unique to you. The more your business grows, the more this notion of IP gains in importance.

On the other hand, if your application is made with Bubble or any other no-code solution, then it belongs to the platform on which it was created. Meaning you are limited to go through them.

Added to this is the fact that you are dependent on the price of the platform you have used. If Bubble triples its prices, you triple your expenses!

In what context should no-code be favored?

The chosen solution depends on the situation of your business, its type, and what you want to do with your site. No-code appears as a suitable solution in the following cases:

1- For a relatively simple business.

If you are a small business, and you need a simple website without complex features, it may be more interesting to opt for a no-code solution. This will allow you, quickly and efficiently, to develop a functional and optimized showcase site in terms of UI design.

Conversely, code is very useful for creating complex and multi-functional websites. If your goal is to develop a specialized marketplace, with business specificities, you will necessarily have to go through the code, in order to implement more advanced features.

2- For internal company tools.

No-code is particularly interesting for quickly creating internal company tools. For example, a platform for your CE (works council), or an internal blog for your company. These tools are often simple to set up, and do not have complex functionalities.

A solution: Low-code?

If you find that code is too long and complicated to set up, but no-code is too limited and not extensible enough, there is a middle ground: low-code. This is an intermediate solution between code and no-code.

A low-code development platform is a platform that lets you build low-source code applications. In other words, it is a graphical interface (like the no-code tools), to which you can add functionalities built in code. The most used low-code tools are Mendix and OutSystems.

It is important to ask the right questions when you hesitate between code and no-code: beyond the price, you have to ask yourself which solution is really adapted to your current needs, but also future ones. Don't stop at the MVP of your project, see further: it is really very important to think long term for a project as important as a website. It represents you and your business worldwide through the internet.

Also take into account the notion of independence and intellectual property related to your project. If you go through a code or low-code solution, then the code of your application belongs to you. Conversely, if you use a no-code platform, then your code belongs to the platform in question.

Finally, it is essential to look into risk management related to no-code tools. For example, ask yourself what the financial risks that could be incurred if your application is to evolve. Also ask yourself the question of your tolerance for risk, otherwise, of your capacity to assume the risks if they occur.

The choice between code and no-code is a very personal choice, depending on many factors. The important thing is to ask yourself the right questions before you start your project.

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