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Low-code: why Themeforest and custom app development are losing momentum

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Eugenia Evtushenko

Not long ago, a majority of business and marketing executives were tearing their hair out seeking a way to minimize their investments in building and designing new apps, or redesigning the existing ones.

Most common app development approaches

One option they have is custom app development that implies the creation of an app from scratch. However, it’s too resource-consuming and expensive – especially for startups and small businesses. It’s vitally important for growing companies to verify ideas as early as possible, and enter the market faster than competitors. They have no extra time for lengthy app development. Small businesses and startups need a solution that would allow them to gain and keep a competitive edge in the fast-evolving IT sphere.

Another option that occurred later are app template markets. Themeforest, TemplateMonster, MyThemeShop, CreativeMarket, and others. Properly designed templates with some basic functionality allowed companies to reduce software development efforts. The need to build simple mobile and web apps from scratch disappeared. Although templates make it possible to kick off quickly with a ready-made design, businesses still need to have mature software engineers and sufficient budget to create full-fledged template-based apps.

Now, low-code development tools are winning ground. With their help, companies now can build business apps, internal tools, websites, etc. with little to no coding. Low-code platforms also include ready-made low-code templates, ensure fast low-code design, easier maintenance, faster app delivery and deployment, regular updates. Almost with no involvement of software engineers, you can now create a complete app in days or even hours, depending on the low-code app development software capabilities.

To find out whether low-code tools are really so useful and can outcompete other development options, we’ve defined the ins and outs of custom software development, app template usage, and low-code app development. We’ve based our comparison on the key characteristics of these 3 software development approaches.

Comparing custom app development with low code app development and app templates usage
Custom app development vs template usage vs low-code app development

1. Development simplicity

Custom app development

Developing and designing a custom app from scratch requires technology expertise and domain knowledge, as well as a lot of time to personalize UI and UX. Finding mature software engineers, designers, business analysts, and other team members is not something that can be done in a blink of an eye. Custom app development is complex and time-consuming, since there’s no predefined functionality that can simplify the development and design processes. If you decide to implement a change in one place, you’ll have to apply this change in all the other places manually. Thus, you risk missing something, and accidentally make your interface inconsistent. Dealing with all the inconsistencies requires time. And money.

App template usage

Templates are a good starting point. They provide you with the first app pages, a ready-made design, and samples of the main UI components. Sometimes, the basic functionality like authorization and table management is also included. You can make some customization, e.g., adjust colors and fonts in your app. However, very few templates contain in-built themes and integrated back-end. To make any major changes and improvements in your app, you’ll need to involve software engineers.

The use of app templates allows for reducing the app development effort by approximately 30%. However, to get an app with some advanced functionality, you still cannot do without custom development.

Low-code app development

Various low-code development platforms allow you to achieve different results. You can create an admin dashboard or an internal CRM tool, build an app prototype, or a high-grade app with the database connected to it. It’s also possible to add custom pieces of code manually where needed across your app. Looking through a thorough low-code platforms comparison may help you to find the low-code tool you need. With predefined templates, widgets, and numerous UI components the low-code and no-code tools provide, app creation and designing take just a few hours. You can adjust settings in your app on the go, and the adjustments will be automatically applied across the app.

You don’t need to be a coding whiz and spend weeks or months building your mobile or web app using low-code development platforms. With a drag-and-drop approach applied within them, it’s hardly ever been more convenient to create a responsive app. The low-code tools like Wavemaker vs Outsystems vs Mendix are rather powerful and quite easy to understand even for non-tech people. If you don’t have skilled developers or designers in-house, you can just turn to citizen developers. In case you face any challenges during the development or design process, you can get help from the platform support team. A lot of low-code tool development teams regularly hold webinars and provide training sessions to their users to make their experience with their product as pleasant as possible.

Low-code app development platform interface

2. Time to production

Custom app development

It may take about 6 months to develop and release a custom web app with at least a basic feature set. The actual development time depends on the app size and its complexity. It’s almost impossible to fast-track the development process painlessly since it includes too many stages: gathering requirements, designing, developing, testing an app, launching it. All these processes require the team work of a lot of people, and can hardly ever be done in parallel. 

App template usage

One of the main advantages the use of app templates brings is that it takes 30% less time to start developing your app compared to custom development. However, once you download a template, you’ll still need to spend hours on its customization as well as adding all the needed functionality to get a unique web or mobile application matched with your brand.

Low-code app development

This approach is the speediest one. Low-code app development allows you to build your project within strict deadlines. The out-of-the-box functionality of UI Bakery, Wavemaker low-code platforms, and others include ready-made templates. It helps you eliminate tons of time needed to develop, design, test, and deploy an app. This way, a multi-year project takes a few months or even weeks.

3. Costs

Custom app development 

Cost-effectiveness is not the strength of a custom app development approach. Traditional development requires large budgets, several months of work, and skilled specialists to provide you with a flexible and secure app that will become a unique representation of your company’s brand. Thus, this solution is not suitable for the companies with tight budgets.

App template usage 

As we’ve mentioned, the use of a template allows you to reduce the entire app creation cycle by 30%. The total project price is also cut. Building a template-based app may be cost-effective if you need to get a default admin dashboard, an e-commerce dashboard, or a marketing app with no complex functionality. To get a customizable feature-rich web app, you’ll still need to pay for custom development with the only difference that you’ll have a starting point and a ready-made design.

Low-code app development 

This approach is much less expensive than custom app development due to the minimized development and design efforts. It’s also the most effective option if you need to build, deploy, and release your app in the short term. A lot of low-code platform vendors offer affordable pricing options that are not tied to the number of end-users of your future application. Moreover, you avoid the need to hire additional development & design staff: a couple of citizen developers will be able to provide you with a fully-functional web app.

4. Flexibility & scalability

Custom app development

This approach allows you to perfectly tailor your app to even the most sophisticated user requirements. Custom apps are highly flexible and customizable. They can be modified in accordance with your specific business needs. Moreover, custom applications are good in collecting, processing, and displaying dynamic data regardless of its volume. A custom application is definitely the best solution for a company that needs to scale their app along with their growth.

App template usage

Although there are templates with responsive design available in the market, there’s still quite a number of those that are not customizable and flexible enough to fit any screen size. Templates may also have unneeded extra features that you will never use, however you’ll pay for them. Moreover, these features can lead to coding conflicts if you decide to modify your application functionality. Thus, a template-based app may be suitable now but it can become absolutely unacceptable in the long term. 

Low-code app development

Low-code development tools provide predefined components and building blocks. They are aimed to help you build an app that meets your business needs. With some platforms, you may also create and further use custom UI components throughout your project, or projects. 

Nowadays, there are no-code and low-code development tools powerful enough to help you build a responsive, full-scale app, or create an MVP to test your product in the market early. Although the scalability of most low-code tools sometimes leaves much to be desired, there are such tools as Outsystems vs Wavemaker, Retool vs UI Bakery, for example. They allow for building data models and adding complex business logic within the platform.

Framer, Wavemaker, Outsystems, UI Bakery low code development platforms
Framer vs UI Bakery vs Wavemaker vs OutSystems

5. Integration

Custom app development

Although the integration part is the riskiest and the most time-consuming one, there are no integration limitations at all in custom application development. You need about a month to perform integration of your new app with your legacy systems, subscription management software you use, etc. Nevertheless, you get exactly what you need in the end.

App template usage

The data connection and API integration opportunities of ready-made templates are restricted. The reason is their bad architecture. Nevertheless, some vendors at least provide in-built auth & security in their templates, or offer template bundles with the integrated backend. Anyway, you’d better conduct research and learn about all the ins and outs before opting for a particular template provider to avoid integration issues in future.

Low-code app development

Reputable low-code development tools allow you to integrate almost anything with your internal tool, web app, or whatever you’re building. Some low-code platforms also work with ready integration tools, such as Stripe, Zapier, Twilio, and a number of others. 

Due to the use of low-code development tools, the integration process is greatly reduced. All you need is adjust parameters and match them with your app interface.

6. Security

Custom app development

If you opt for a custom app development approach, the security level your app will have fully depends on your software development team. If the software engineers implement advanced security measures and technologies, it can guarantee a high protection level. The developers you choose will know the platform inside out, so they will be able to promptly update your app and mitigate the vulnerabilities in it before they are detected by black hat hackers.

App template usage

Some app template vendors offer the templates with the in-built security. It includes OAuth2, or similar security technologies that allow you to configure authentication with various third-party providers. However, if you rely on the security level you get together with the template you buy, beware that it can be easily hacked one day. Very few template vendors are diligent in providing the proper protection out-of-the-box. You’ll need to apply a range of additional security measures to ensure a proper protection level.

Low-code app development

If you use a low-code development tool, you’re obliged to rely on the low-code platform security measures set by the low-code platform development team. You can’t enforce your own security standards. Because of this, you may feel the lack of control over your app protection. Not to end up trying to solve security complexities you’ve never wished to have, choose a low-code platform vendor that does their best to meet modern security requirements. Moreover, you can try such tools as Wavemaker, for example, that allow you to adjust security measures according to your needs. 

On a final note

As you can see, low-code development proved to be a worthy opponent for custom app development and template usage. Low-code platforms allow you to build web apps, mobile apps, internal tools, or business apps much faster and cheaper compared to template usage & custom app development. The app modification and customization processes also take less effort and resources. You don’t need to code anything, and can apply the changes in one place. Nevertheless, a lot of low-code and no-code platforms still provide you with an opportunity to add custom JavaScript code if you need to create some complex custom logic to your app.

In spite of the fact that there may be scalability and security limitations in some platforms, there are still reputable vendors offering powerful tools that will take you to market painlessly and at a reasonable price. Retool and UI Bakery are the brightest representatives of such low-code platforms.

There’s a number of low-code platform providers that are highly focused on their customers’ needs and market trends. They’re constantly researching and finding ways to improve the capabilities of their platforms to make them even more flexible and powerful. 

They say, “virtue is the golden mean between two vices, the one of excess and the other of deficiency”. So can “a low-code development approach” replace “virtue” in this quotation? Choose the one that suits your needs and requirements – and find it out yourself. 


Our team can help you make this decision faster, and figure out whether a low-code platform is what you need. UI Bakery offers a variety of ready-made templates and dashboards that you can use to build your internal tool. You can use them out-of-the-box or customize as you wish with predefined or custom UI components. Connect your database, create a UI, and publish your app. It takes just 3 simple steps.

Contact us – we’ll show you around, and will help you build the first version of your application. An onboarding session is absolutely free.

October 20, 2021

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