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


Tatiana Yudina

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

Custom app development implying app building from scratch was too resource-consuming and expensive, especially for startups. It was vitally important for them to verify ideas early, and enter the market faster than competitors. They had no extra time for lengthy app development but needed a solution that would allow them to gain and keep a competitive edge in the fast-evolving world.

At that moment, app template markets like Themeforest, TemplateMonster, MyThemeShop, and CreativeMarket occurred. Properly designed and containing partial functionality, the templates allowed companies to reduce app development efforts. There was no more need to build apps from scratch. Although templates made it possible to kick off quickly with a ready-made design, businesses still needed to have mature software engineers and sufficient budgets to create full-fledged template-based apps.

Just then, low-code platforms came into power. With their help, companies now could build apps with almost no coding at all. Low-code platforms also included ready-made templates, and ensured easier maintenance, faster delivery of an app, and regular updates. Almost with no involvement of software engineers, you could now create a complete app in days.

To find out whether low-code tools are really so useful, we’ve defined the strengths and weaknesses of these three warriors - custom software development, app template usage, and low-code app development. We’ve based our comparison on the key characteristics of the approaches.

Comparing custom app development with low code app development and app templates usage

1. Development simplicity

Custom app development

Building your own app and designing it from scratch requires technology expertise and domain knowledge, as well as a lot of time to personalize UI and UX. It may not be easy to find mature software engineers, designers, business analysts, etc. Moreover, custom app development is complex, 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.

App template usage

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

All in all, the use of app templates allows for reducing the app development effort by approximately 30%. However, to get a non-standard app in the end, you still cannot do without custom application development.

Low-code app development

With some low-code application development platforms you can build an admin dashboard, create an app prototype, while with others you can get a high-grade app, connect any back-end to it, and deploy it to a server. Some low-code apps development tools even allow building a back-end inside the platform, so you don’t need to write the code. With predefined templates, widgets, and numerous UI components such tools for visual development provide, app building and designing take a few hours. You can adjust parameters on the go right within the platform, and the adjustments will be applied across the app in several clicks. 

You don’t need to be a coding whiz and spend weeks or months to build an app online using low-code application development platforms. With a drag-and-drop approach implemented in them, it’s hardly ever been more convenient to create a responsive app. There are app building platforms like Bubble, Mendix, and UI Bakery that are easy-to-understand even for non-tech people. If you don’t have skilled developers or designers in-house, you can turn to citizen developers

In case you face any problems during the development or design processes, rest assured: you’ll get all the possible help from the app development platform support team. The majority of low-code app development tool vendors regularly hold webinars and training sessions for their users to make their product experience as pleasant as possible.

Low code development platform for building UI visually without coding and downloading Angular code

2. Time to production

Custom app development

It may take about 6 months to develop and release a simple custom web app. The actual time depends on the app complexity. It’s almost impossible to fast-track the application development process painlessly, since it includes too many stages: gathering requirements, designing, app building, testing it, and launching. All these tasks demand the team work, and cannot be conducted simultaneously. 

App template usage

One of the main advantages the use of app templates brings is that it takes 30% less time to start building an app compared to custom application development. However, once you get a template, you’ll still need to spend hours to add all the needed functionality to make your app ready-to-use, unique, and matched with your brand.

Low-code app development

This approach is the speediest one. Low-code apps development tools allow you to create the project within strict deadlines. The out-of-the-box functionality of low-code app building platforms including templates as well, helps you eliminate tons of time needed to create, design, test, and deploy your app. This way, a multi-year project takes a few months or weeks.

3. Costs

Custom app development 

You’d better not expect to pay little if you opt for custom app development. This approach 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. Nevertheless, keep in mind that this solution is really expensive, and 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 building process by 30%. Thus, the total project price is also cut. Building a web application based on a template may be cost-effective if you need to get a default admin dashboard, or some other solution with no complex functionality. To develop a customizable feature-rich app, you’ll still need to pay for custom application development with the only difference that you’ll have a starting point with 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 a web application and launch it in the short term. A lot of vendors of the low-code apps development tools offer pricing plans starting from 25$ per month. An enticing price for a full-fledged app, isn’t it? Moreover, you avoid the need to hire additional development & design staff - a couple of citizen developers can provide you with a fully-functional web application within tight deadlines and at a reasonable price.

4. Flexibility & scalability

Custom app development

This approach allows you to perfectly tailor your app to user requirements. Custom apps are highly flexible, and can be modified in accordance with your specific needs. They can be easily used to collect, process, and display dynamic data regardless of their volume. A custom app is definitely the best solution for those who need to scale their app along with their company’s growth. 

App template usage

Although there are responsive templates available in the market, there’s still quite a number of those that are not flexible and scalable enough to fit any screen size. Templates may have unneeded extra features that can lead to coding conflicts if you once decide to extend your application functionality. Thus, a template-based app may be suitable now but it can become unacceptable in the long term. 

Low-code app development

Low-code apps development tools provide predefined components that can help you build an app meeting your business needs. With some app building platforms, you may also create (either by writing the code or visually) and further use your own widgets or other UI components. 

Nowadays, there are low-code visual development platforms 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 app development software leaves much to be desired, there are such app building software as Outsystems allowing for building back-ends, data models, and logic right in the app development platform. However, they are rather expensive.

Additionally, Framer, and Wavemaker allow their users to download the ready code, modify it, transfer to another app development platform, or integrate with the other code. So if you need to build a business critical app for long-term usage, choose a reputable low-code apps builder vendor that doesn’t lock you in within the tool.

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

5. Integration

Custom app development

Although integration is risky and time-consuming, there are no integration limitations in custom app development at all. About a month is needed to perform integration with your subscription management software or legacy tools appropriately. Nevertheless, you’ll get fruitful results in the end.

App template usage

The integration opportunities of templates can be restricted due to their bad architecture. However, some vendors provide in-built auth & security in their templates, or offer template bundles with the integrated back-end. Anyway, you’d better conduct comprehensive research before opting for a particular template provider to avoid integration issues in future.

Low-code app development

Reputable low-code platforms allow you to integrate almost anything right in the app development platform. Some low-code app building software also uses ready integration tools, such as Stripe, Zapier, Twilio. The use of low-code apps development tools reduces the integration process to adjusting parameters and matching them with your app interface.

6. Security

Custom app development

If the software engineers building your app implement advanced security measures and technologies, a high protection level is guaranteed. The developers you choose will know the software 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

App templates are sometimes offered 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 implemented in the template you buy (you’d better not), beware that it can be easily hacked one day. Very few template vendors are diligent in ensuring the proper out-of-the-box protection. You’ll need to apply a range of additional security measures to protect your app.

Low-code app development

If you use low-code app development software, you’re obliged to rely on the security measures set by the app development platform provider. 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 the vendor of low-code app building software that does their best to meet modern security requirements, or allows you to adjust security measures on your own (e.g., Wavemaker). 

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 for building apps much faster and cheaper compared to template usage & custom app development. The modification process also takes less time and effort, since you don’t need to code anything, and can apply the changes in one place. In spite of the fact that there may be scalability and security limitations in some platforms, there are still reputable vendors offering powerful apps development tools that will take you to market painlessly and at a reasonable price.

Low-code app development software providers are really focused on users’ needs and market trends, and they’re constantly improving the capabilities of their app platforms, making them more and more flexible and powerful. 

They say, “virtue is the golden mean between two vices, the one of excess and the other of deficiency”.

Can “low-code” replace “virtue” in this quotation? Decision is yours.

We can help you make this decision faster, and figure out whether low-code development software is what you need. Play around in UI Bakery to define if the low-code approach is your personal golden mean.

April 7, 2020

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