10 Disadvantages of No-Code Web App Development
Last updated: 07/06/2023
You’ve heard that No-Code web app development is the next best thing after sliced bread in 2023 (Or you read our article on 10 Benefits of No-Code Web App Development). But as a business owner/entrepreneur, you’re a little sceptical.
We’re not going to hold back when diving into the 10 downsides of No Code development.
- No-Code makes things easier but not easy
- A lot of the huge positives of no-code may not be as wonderful as they are painted to be. In particular the cost savings.
- No code uses pre-built components when creating functions etc which means it may not be the most efficient code
- Whenever you come across a development problem with no-code, remember just how much more difficult it is to stare at lines of code compared to a visual platform
Negatives we’ll cover
- Learning isn’t exactly easy
- It’s cheaper, but not cheap
- Possible functionality ceiling
- You still need a team
- Poor support currently
- Debugging is easier, but not easy
- Security threat
- Subpar performance
- Enterprise/complex project
- Code ownership
We’ve tried our best to include counters to these negatives where possible! Hopefully, these will give you insight on both sides of the argument so you can make a better judgement.
1. Big learning curve
In truth, the idea that “any random person can make their own full-fledged web app in a couple of days” is flawed. It’s not completely true. Especially as a business owner yourself.
In order to make a web app you not only need experience with a front-end web app tool, but now you also need awareness of how backend development works.
Really learning those technical things can’t be done in a few days.
Yes - if you’re making a small personal web app, you can follow a YouTube video to learn. Yes - you can make a very very simple app (like a to-do list) quickly with 0 experience. But you’ll still have a very shallow understanding of how things work so be unable to debug or use best practices and certainly can’t use these on bigger/more complex projects.
2. It may not be as cheap as you think
One of the biggest benefits of no-code development is the cost savings over traditional web app development. However, it doesn’t mean that no-code development is as cheap as you think.
For example, let’s say you want to build a course platform for your business. Let’s say it was medium complexity. You would need:
Webflow (Front end) - £222 a year
Xano (Backend & Authentication) - £569 a year
Wized (Creating functionality) - £193 a year
Custom Domain - £15 a year
Web App Design - £2k
No-code Web App development - £5k first year
Google Cloud Console - ££
Any other integrations - ££
Total first year: £7,999
Ongoing years: £1,999
That’s off medium complexity app. The monthly price of these platforms will increase as you start adding extra integrations or start getting lots more traffic to your site.
To counter, yes you can go cheaper on these plans. For example, you can save the Webflow & custom domain cost yearly by using the free .webflow.io domain but then you’re stuck with Webflow branding, poor SEO options, poor site features and not being able to use custom code which means you can’t use Wized.
And yes you can spend a month or 2 learning how to do no-code development in order to save that fee
3. Not fully there yet in functionality
There are mixed views on this. Some people claim they haven’t experienced any limitations with No-Code web app tools while others say they have hit a ceiling in terms of functionality.
This could mean in terms of external integrations, supported features or customizations.
No-code tools are using a bunch of pre-built components/functions which are stacked together to create the functionality you’re looking for.
Our view is that for the majority of people, the standard authentication process or the standard GET & POST process will work fine. But for super complex projects or enterprise-level projects, the nitty-gritty details of how a function work become essential and no-code tools may not provide this or if they do it’s not the most efficient way.
The counter (we’ll see more of this) to this is some No-Code tools do give you the option to add in your own custom code/functions in places.
For example, tools like Webflow are advertised as tools which need no code - that’s true. But giving users to option to add in extra custom code opens your site to almost infinite functionality & keeps talented developers happy too!
4. You still need a team
If you are a person with:
- a great idea for an app
- good experience with designing web apps
- great skills at using no-code development tools
- experience in Quality Assurance
- a lot of time & energy
Then Yes, you can build a medium-to-high complex web app! But I’m you’ll recognise each one of those bullet points is an almost entirely different skill.
The idea of you as a founder being (or becoming) great at all those is nearly fictional.
With No-Code web app development, the founders that can take on this mammoth of a task alone are far and few in between. In most cases, you still need to have a talented team to execute these things.
5. Not enough support
Some of these web app tools are still in Beta mode/version so not production ready just yet. Or haven’t gone mainstream as they’re still in an initial launch phase or so.
Because of this, it means they won’t have as much documentation built out on using their platform and the amount of resources to help support development is limited.
This means when something goes wrong (as it typically does with almost any type of development), you won’t have as many resources or people to turn to for help.
There isn’t any/much live chat support (like the type Shopify provides) or people you can phone with support on that platform.
A counter to this could be, you can get support from Discord server, Slack channels, office hours bookings and Forums on the platform website with no-code developers from across the planet.
6. Difficulty debugging
Debugging can be a real pain sometimes with No-Code tools. This can be a huge issue when trying to work out where you went wrong or why something critical isn’t working as you wanted it to.
For example, finding out why your Sign Up process doesn’t show the correct details on the user dashboard. You won’t have as much access to specialized debugging tools that traditional development uses which simplify the process.
The easy counter to this is to imagine how much harder it is to debug when you just have lines of code to look at. You can also reach out to the platform support who will respond in a couple of working days. Plus tools like Xano provide a “Stop & Debug” function which makes debugging inside long functions.
You may have limited security options since you don’t have complete control in the way you would when writing code.
And you’re mostly relying on third-party apps/services for data security which could become a problem later in the future.
Also, most no-code platforms offer better security as you pay more so if you’re on a lower plan, your security won’t be the best
In counter, security is obviously a top priority for any web app platform including no-code ones too. So it would be a safe bet to say they have tested security on their own platforms rigorously.
So for most people, the pre-built authentication methods provided will work perfectly.
If you have more complex security requirements then you can add in new custom functions to achieve this but maybe this is where Security risks could be a problem.
8. Performance issues
No-code uses pre-built components which means it may not be the most efficient code for your particular app. A simple example could be no-code may require you to stack multiple different functions when only 1 is needed.
This means your app isn’t set up to perform at its best. Instances like these may add up to a 1-second difference overall which can be the difference in a good vs poor user experience.
Also with no code, the performance you get is mostly determined by the plan you’re on.
Another performance issue you could face is from the external systems and APIs. No-code platforms may introduce performance overhead from network latency or difficulty with data processing.
A possible counter to this is that paying more for better performance is also the norm in traditional development. Also, some no-code platforms do allow you to write your own custom functions.
Also over time, the number of pre-built components will increase and maybe we’ll see a point where you can create your own components visually so you can be certain you’re being as efficient as possible.
9. It may not be right for enterprise/complex projects
We’ve mentioned several times over this article & our 10 Benefits of No-Code web app development article that no-code Web App Development may just not be enterprise-ready - but it really depends on the specifics.
Would I recommend a £5m+ SaaS company to build its full platform on a No-Code tool? Ooof probably not.
Would I recommend a big banking/fintech company that needs its web app to have super specific & complex functionality to build its full platform on a No-Code tool? Ooof probably not.
These are just examples but at an enterprise level every project requirement is vastly different compared to a smaller business owner who wants to make a simple course platform
On the other hand:
Would I recommend the same SaaS company to build one of their next smaller & simpler product on a no-code tool? Yes
Would I recommend the same banking/fintech company to build the easier parts of their platform or build internal business automation apps with a No-Code tool? Yes
10. You don’t own your code
The ownership of the code created depends on the specific platform or tool you use. Sometimes hidden in the terms and conditions or licensing agreements, you may find out you don’t have full rights over the code produced.
This could mean maybe you’re not able to export or you can export but can’t sell the code or redistribute it.
This won’t be an issue that keeps most people with small projects up at night. This is usually a problem for enterprise-level projects for large companies.
Not having code ownership could also pose a threat to a small start-up app looking for funding because investors may see high risk as the product isn’t yours entirely.
No code can also put you in a vendor lock-in situation. This means you become particularly dependent/reliant on a vendor's product which makes it difficult to switch to an alternate provider.
With custom code, it still isn’t pleasurable, but another company will be able to take over writing your code and you can easily switch between which service providers you want.
To counter, For example on Webflow, they confirmed the code is 100% yours & ready to export or sell - whatever you want (I believe you need to be on a higher plan or so).
So if code ownership could be a problem for your business, research the tool you’re using & ask questions to make sure you’re in control.
As a business owner, when faced with decisions like using a no-code tool it's important to not be blindsided by the risks so we hope that article pointed out some key red flags areas you should be aware of.
Important to note that some (if not most) of these problems will be fixed and perfected over the coming years.
For support, as Web Apps become more popular, we will see a rise in Web App communities, YouTube tutorials and Forums. This will also ease the learning curve.
For functionality, as no code tools become more mainstream you will see more and more integration options and more pre-built functions over time naturally.
And remember with these disadvantages of no code, No code isn’t the best but it’s better. No code isn’t the easiest but it’s easier.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is vendor lock-in?
Vendor lock-in describes a situation where you become heavily reliant/dependent on a vendor's product, service or technology, therefore, making it difficult or costly to switch to a different vendor. As suggested in the name, you become sort of locked into that vendor.
Who owns the code in no code web app development?
The person who owns the code changes depending on the no code platform you use. Webflow, for example, gives you 100% full ownership rights over your code to export, sell and distribute. Other providers may not allow you to export code and some may allow you to export but not sell or distribute. You can find out in the terms and conditions or licensing agreement for each platform.
Is no code good for enterprise or complex web apps?
It depends on your specific requirements for the web app. As the complexity increases, on some no-code tools you may hit ceilings of functionality or integrations. Also, no-code tools use pre-built components which may not be the most efficient so when you add all those inefficiencies up over time, it can be a big disadvantage.
Is no code security reliable?
Yes, no code security is reliable in the majority of situations. Especially for making web apps, security is #1 basic requirement for a lot of these platforms. Their pre-built authentication functions have undergone rigorous testing and have been proven to work. This does not mean you should become lazy about security or trust every no-code platform you say - please conduct your own research on the specific platform you choose. Also as with traditional development, you may need to upgrade your plan/service provider to get access to better security options.
We hope this article was useful!
We are Step Labs - a Webflow & Shopify web design & development agency! We'd love to be the team that works with you on your next project. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written By: Victor @ Step Labs