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Buy or build: 8 main characteristics of low-code platforms vs. out-of-the-box (OOTB) solutions


Eugenia Evtushenko

Since you’re here, you’re looking for a perfect business solution trying not to make a mistake that will be painful for your budget. Picking between the use of an out-of-the-box solution and the development of a mobile app, a web app, etc. using a low-code platform is challenging since there are a lot of aspects to consider.

Tracing back to 2011, low-code platforms have already become a powerful competitor to out-of-the-box software. No surprise that according to Forrester, the low-code market will increase from $7 billion to $14 billion by 2024.

Let’s now sort out how exactly low-code platforms compare to off-the-shelf solutions, and how low-code development can help you reduce your expenses while providing you with the exact set of features you need. 

8 key comparison parameters of low-code vs out-of-the-box solutions

We’ve compiled the list of the most common characteristics of out-of-the-box software and low-code development platforms. Based on the comparison results, you can decide whether to opt for a ready-made out-of-the-box solution or choose a low-code development tool to build a custom solution based on your specific needs.


Low-code platforms vs out-of-the-box
Low-code tools vs Out-of-the-box solutions

1. Required development expertise

Out-of-the-box solutions 

You don’t need a mature IT specialist to set up and configure an OOTB solution. Since there’s no necessity to develop an application from scratch, general technical expertise and understanding will be enough. To make minor adjustments in an out-of-the-box solution, you need only some basic technical knowledge. When buying an out-of-the-box solution, you get everything you need off-the-shelf: app structure, design, in-built functionality, etc. You don’t have to develop anything additionally on your own. Thus, out-of-the-box solutions allow you to significantly eliminate app development efforts.

Low-code platforms

Yes, low-code development requires more tech expertise compared to using OTTB solutions. Nevertheless, according to the low-code platforms comparison, almost all the modern no-code tools offer a drag-n-drop building interface that allows you to create a UI really fast and with no frontend development or design skills. With modern low-code platforms, you can build business apps, internal tools, connect your data to them with only some technical background and JavaScript knowledge. App deployment and hosting options are also possible in several clicks. You can either host your app on a third-party or a custom domain. Although developing your web app or mobile app, or any other solution following the low-code approach requires some development knowledge, you get exactly what your business needs in the end. 

2. Time to production

Out-of-the-box solutions

OOTB solutions are tailored for immediate use. If you need to kick off quickly, you had better opt for an out-of-the-box solution. Since you don’t need to develop any app components from scratch, ready-made out-of-the-box platforms, tools, and solutions are a perfect match when time is a determining factor. Nevertheless, keep in mind that onboarding, training, and OOTB solution adoption still require sufficient time. For example, well-known Salesforce requires quite a lot of time to investigate and onboard, especially with no prior platform experience.

Low-code platforms

Depending on the complexity of a mobile or web app you need to build, low-code development time may vary from several hours to a few weeks. However, there’s a number of no-code and low-code tools that allow you to develop an app or an internal tool within tight deadlines thanks to predefined functionality like templates, widgets, ready-made UI components, connectors, API integration, one-click deployment, etc.

3. Costs

Out-of-the-box solutions

Generally, the price for off-the-shelf solutions includes not only monthly/annual licensing payment but also upgrade and software support fees and per-seat costs. Thus, you may find yourself obliged to pay for your out-of-the-box solution with strictly limited functionality even more than you’ll pay for a much more flexible custom application tailored exactly for your business.

Moreover, OOTB solutions customization requires specific skills and the need to hire and pay relevant specialists. This leads to extra costs. Eventually, you’ll most probably get an out-of-the-box solution comparable to a custom application both in terms of its final price and the drawbacks custom apps have.

Low-code platforms 

Pricing policies vary from one low-code platform vendor to another. Some of them tie their plans to the complexity of an app you’re building, others – to the number of end-users. For example, there are such tools as Retool that charge only $10 per end-user/month. If you’re not going to invite hundreds of end-users, this plan will fit you. The transparent pricing policy also allows you to build an app with the set of features you need without any hidden fees. What’s more, you don’t need to hire front-end developers and designers to prepare a proper UI for your future app. This way, opting for the right low-code platform may be quite a cost-effective decision.

4. Flexibility and customization

Out-of-the-box solutions

Since OOTB solutions are tailored to perform general tasks standardized in most companies, they are either impossible to customize at all, or their customization leads to high additional expenses. Thus, if you choose an out-of-the-box solution, you should be ready to face functionality limitations you won’t be able to overcome. The features essential for your business will either be absent or very challenging or almost impossible to add. An out-of-the-box tool or solution may be a good choice both in the short term and in the long term. However, the learning curve is rather high. Most off-the-shelf solutions are not flexible enough to allow you to extend your app or internal tool functionality on the go.

Low-code platforms

Customization opportunities a lot of low-code platforms provide are, to say the least, much richer than those that OOTB solutions offer. With some low-code tools, not only can you customize and brand predefined app templates and widgets but also add custom UI components and reuse them throughout your project. No matter what you build – an admin panel, an inventory management tool, a CRM application, a sales dashboard, a user portal, or anything else. Via a powerful modern low-code or no-code tool, you can tailor your app directly to your business, and configure your processes exactly as you need. Low-code development platforms do not limit you in your app creation: you can build an app with some essential features first, and add the needed supplementary functionality later. 

5. Third-party integration

Out-of-the-box solutions

Out-of-the-box integration opportunities are always very limited. If you simply need a project management system like Jira to use internally and connect it to such corporate tools like Slack, an OOTB solution will be cost-effective in this case. However, if you need your app to integrate with legacy systems, that will hardly be possible with a majority of out-of-box solutions. Moreover, if you further decide to extend your app or internal tool functionality with new integrated components, be prepared to meet tough limitations if you opt for an OOTB solution. So you’d better consider all the future possible iterations when making a final decision.

Low-code platforms

APIs, databases, plugins, third-party services, etc. – most low-code platforms allow for integrating with anything. You can connect your existing database to your app – MySQL, PostgreSQL, Firebase, MongoDB, AWS S3, Microsoft SQL, Supabase, etc. You can also integrate your app with any app or service – Salesforce, Stripe, Twilio, Slack, Google Sheets, HubSpot, and many more. To implement these integrations right within low-code platforms, you just need to have an overall technical understanding, or simply follow the guides low-code platform teams generally provide in their documentation.

6. Security

Out-of-the-box solutions

Although there are particular in-built security measures in OOTB solutions, you’re 100% dependent on the OOTB solution vendor in terms of security. You’re lucky if the vendor you choose turns out to be meticulous in maintaining a high protection level. But what if they don’t? Moreover, black hat hackers can anyway damage your OOTB solution vendor servers, and you’ll be damaged as well. 

Low-code platforms

Taking into account the findings now so long ago shared by Forrester, it’s a myth that low-code tools can’t ensure a proper security level. They ‘can’ ensure even a higher data protection level than you may enable when building a costly custom application! The only thing you should care about is securing all the endpoints when integrating your app with third-party APIs and your legacy systems via a low-code development platform you choose. According to the mentioned research, even large enterprises nowadays tend to rely on low-code platform vendors when building apps that deal with sensitive corporate and customer data. 

Low-code platform vendors generally offer self-hosted (on-premise) options as an alternative to their ordinary pricing plans. This option allows you to deploy an app on a custom server and environment, thus completely blocking access to your sensitive, personal, corporate, or customer data from external sources.

7. Support 

Out-of-the-box solutions

Out-of-the-box solution vendors, especially the large and well-known ones, generally take support seriously. So, in addition to knowledge bases and various educational resources (YouTube channels, written how-to guides, etc.), they also have dedicated support teams you can reach out at any time. 

Low-code platforms

Concerned low-code platform vendors have vibrant communities. You can get help or advice from more experienced users, or directly from the support team. You can also reach out to the team via a live chat to get help with any issue you face when building your app or internal tool. Some low-code platforms vendors also offer free training and onboarding sessions. Moreover, you can always turn to their documentation, how-to guides, interactive tutorials, educational videos, etc.

8. Functionality and features

Out-of-the-box solutions

As soon as out-of-the-box solutions are very generalized and not initially created to meet your specific needs, this software has 2 big disadvantages: it may lack the features critical for your business, and it may have the functionality you and your employees will never use but you’ll still pay for it. It hardly makes sense to pay for the excess functions that keep idle all the time. Moreover, it will be impossible to add any other functionality the OOTB solution doesn’t have in case you need it. 

Low-code platforms

We assume that the ability to build a web app or an internal tool with the exact feature set you need is one of the key competitive advantages low-code development platforms provide. No clutter about the irrelevant features. No headache thinking about how to add a feature you need and how much it will cost. 

Either you build a business app, an internal tool, a user portal, or anything else, you can add an exact set of functions you need your app to have. No overpaying for what you don’t use and overloading your future application.

Out-of-the-box solutions or low-code tools?

Both out-of-the-box solutions and low-code platforms have their strong and weak sides. Taking all the above-listed aspects into consideration, we advise to think not only about what you get but also about what you don’t get in this or that case. What company’s needs and requirements won’t be addressed if you use an out-of-the-box solution instead of building an application or an internal tool following a no-code / low-code approach? What critical functionality will you have to sacrifice? How much will you have to overpay to cover hidden fees? And finally: are you ready to adjust your business processes to meet the chosen out-of-the-box solution capacities instead of building a solution initially adjusted for your business using a low-code platform?

Need a standard solution with no specific functionality and almost no ability to evolve – out-of-the-box may work for you. For more competitive solutions with rich customization and integration capabilities fitting in even the most tight budgets – go for low-code.

We are ready to make a choice easier for you. Contact us – and we’ll show you around one of the fastest low-code tools, UI Bakery. During the call, you’ll be able to share your case details with us, and we’ll help you build the first version of your application.

November 1, 2021
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