apyhub-logo
Engineering

Extending the capabilities of Low/No-Code Platforms with third-party APIs

In this blog post, we will have a look at some of these trends, understand what no/low-code platforms are, their benefits as well as limitations, and finally see how their use cases and capabilities can be extended through the use of 3rd party APIs.
Extending the capabilities of Low/No-Code Platforms with third-party APIs
SO
Sohail Pathan
Last updated on February 15, 2024

Introduction:

One of the hottest “movements” that is taking over the software development world is the rise of no-code and low-code tools and platforms. This new way of developing and releasing software is quite revolutionary as it is transforming the way software applications are designed, developed, deployed, and managed. It can even be argued that this innovation is in a way democratizing software and technology, making it even more accessible to a broader audience beyond the traditional tech-savvy developers. In this blog post, we will have a look at some of these trends, understand what no/low-code platforms are, their benefits as well as limitations, and finally see how their use cases and capabilities can be extended through the use of 3rd party APIs.

What is a Low/No-Code?

Low-code and no-code are software development methodologies that allow individuals to create software applications through easy-to-use and easy-to-navigate user interfaces and configurations, instead of traditional computer programming. It is about building software without writing a lot of code (or not writing code at all) by leveraging UI components to design the app’s flow and interface.
More specifically, No-code platforms provide a suite of pre-built elements that users can arrange to build their applications. This drag-and-drop kind of interface simplifies app development to the point where virtually anyone can design and deploy functional apps without prior coding knowledge.
Low-code platforms are similar but still require some coding - still, they abstract away much of the complexity of traditional software development. They do that through the provision of visual development environments and reusable components that can accelerate development with minimal hand-coding.
I liked this brief explainer video explaining no-code and its unique value.

Are Low-code and No-code the same thing?

Well, obviously not. However, both approaches reside on the same side of the development spectrum — they try to avoid needing to write a lot of code to make software. They remove the complexity from software development while making it easier to manage the enormous volume and complexity of code that’s needed for today’s enterprises.
For the purposes of this blog, we will refer to all of them as low/no-code platforms.

How does a Low/No-code tool work?

No-code tools abstract software development from a programming language, including logic and syntax. Objects, elements, and components — such as visual boxes — represent tasks. A user combines and arranges these objects to build an application.
In a no-code environment, data abstraction hides the underlying instructions and details and only displays the required functionality. An app or tool is usually represented by visual objects and mapping features that show how various elements interconnect.

Benefits of Low/No-Code Tools:

Low/No-code brings some great benefits to developers across the world.  These benefits include:
Low/No-code brings some great benefits to developers across the world. These benefits include:
  • Reduced Costs:
    Using low/no-code platforms can result in lower expenses. Since software applications can be built visually by non-tech individuals, this can have significant benefits when it comes to lowering costs and expenses.
  • Faster Time-to-Market:
    With low/no-code platforms, software applications and new features can be brought to the market quicker, sometimes in just hours or days. This accelerated time-to-market gives businesses more agility and a clear competitive edge.
  • Improved Efficiency:
    Automating repetitive tasks and processes with no-code can improve operational efficiency. Since workloads are reduced, the developers and engineers can focus on high-value activities.
  • IT Democratization:
    Low/no code opens the door for non-developers to be able to contribute to and build software that matters. This democratizes software creation across the business and can free up necessary IT resources.

Limitations of Low/No-Code Tools:

  • Limited Customization:
    The ability to customize applications may hit a ceiling, confined by the boundaries of what each low/no code platform allows.
  • Scalability Issues:
    The low/no-code platforms can prove to be unsuitable for complex and large-scale projects requiring a high degree of customization.
  • Platform Limitations:
    The users are kind of dependent on the platform's capabilities and restrictions which can hinder the project's scope. This is where using external APIs as a service can play a pivotal role since it can reduce some of these limitations.
  • Integration Challenges:
    Not all low/no-code platforms can integrate with the tools or systems that every organization uses.

Who is Low/No-Code for?

  • (The most obvious one) Non-technical users:
    Those who are keen to create apps but don’t have a coding background, such as business analysts, marketing professionals, and product managers.
  • Programming Novices:
    Those who lack programming or have no experience in software development and are looking to create simple applications quickly.
  • Design Enthusiasts:
    Those who prefer visual development environments will find low/no-code platforms incredibly user-friendly and efficient.
  • Startup Founders:
    Those who want to prototype an idea quickly or build a minimum viable product (MVP) without investing a lot of time and resources.

Some popular Low/No-Code Tools:

Let’s highlight a few champions in the no-code arena:
  1. Retool: A powerful tool that bridges the gap between databases and the applications needed to build.
retool
  1. Softr: Ideal for building web applications, online databases, and websites without diving into code.
softr
  1. DronaHQ:: A versatile platform for building internal tools and business applications efficiently.
dronaHQ
  1. Appsmith: Focuses on letting developers create internal tools quickly through a rich set of pre-built widgets.
appsmith
  1. FlutterFlow: A visual builder for creating mobile applications using Flutter and Dart, incorporating a wide range of functionalities with a simple drag-and-drop.
flutter-flow
  1. Webflow: A web design and development platform that empowers users to create professional websites without needing to write code.
webflow
  1. Budibase:  An open-source platform for rapidly building internal apps and workflows.
Budibase
  1. Builder.io: A drag-and-drop website and mobile app builder requiring no code for quick development and integration with cloud service providers.
Builder.io
  1. JetAdmin: A visual builder for quickly building admin panels, CRUD applications, and internal tools.
JetAdmin
  1. Dashjoin: An open-source & cloud-native development and integration platform for building data-driven apps.
dashjoin
  1. Windmill: An open-source platform and workflow engine that transforms scripts into automated UIs, APIs, and cron jobs, enabling composition as workflows or data pipelines to easily build complex, data-intensive UIs.
windmill
  1. Interval: Interval allows developers to build web applications and internal tools by writing only backend code in Node.js and Python.
interval
  1. Saltcorn: A tool for building database web applications using intuitive point-and-click, drag-and-drop user interface.
Saltcorn
  1. Brackets: Brackets set up fast, flexible one-way or two-way syncs between CRMs like Salesforce and databases like Postgres for apps and internal flows.
Brackets
  1. ToolJet: An open-source tool for rapidly building internal apps and workflows.
tooljet
  1. Air forms: A cloud-based no-code solution for creating forms, surveys, and workflows to streamline business processes.
airform

The Role of APIs in No-Code

As we discussed before, one of the main problems that users who build software with no/low code platforms face is the limitation and the dependency on a platform's existing capabilities and features. Especially for non-developers, what the low/no-code platforms offer out of the box becomes the de facto toolset and creates a “ceiling” on what the application can achieve. This is where third-party APIs can fit into the story: Additional features and additional blocks that can be used to extend the capabilities that the low/no code platform is offering.
APIs can introduce additional security layers, bypass platform constraints, and, most importantly, enrich apps with capabilities that are not natively supported by the no-code tool.

The Role of API Catalogs

A consolidated API catalog can serve as a treasure trove, simplifying the way that low/no code developers discover and consume APIs in their applications. It's a centralized repository where developers can find and connect to various APIs. This is important since, remember, some of the users of low/no-code platforms do not have a strong technical background - this means that it is very important that they can easily find, discover, and connect to different APIs, according to their needs, with a similar integration process.
The main advantages of using API catalogs:
  • Simplified Discovery:
    API catalogs allow easy browsing and finding relevant APIs in one place rather than having to scour the web and possibly have to subscribe to multiple services**.**
  • Faster Integration:
    Catalogs standardize how to work with APIs, provide code samples and SDKs, and make it easy to start integrating APIs in just minutes.
  • Higher Quality:
    Reputable API platforms screen providers for things like reliability, security, and documentation quality.
  • Reduced Risks:
    Catalogs help identify secure, compliant, and well-supported APIs from vetted providers**.**
  • Improved Productivity:
    With easier discovery and integration, developers can focus on building apps rather than API plumbing.
  • Access to AI:
    Catalogs provide discovery and streamlined access to various AI APIs like speech, language, vision, and predictive analytics.

ApyHub: The all-in-one API catalog

ApyHub is an API catalog that offers more than 100+ Utilitiy APIs that help developers to integrate complex functionalities just using REST API calls and without building and deploying on their own.
apyhub
ApyHub’s  APIs are ready to be integrated into no-code applications. Whether through REST API or connectors, ApyHub facilitates easy integration, opening up possibilities for pre-built functionalities and accelerated development timelines. ApyHub offers Utility APIs in different categories such as:
Looking for some help to get started? Have a look at some guides we have started putting together for Retool and DronaHQ. We are keen to keep writing and helping low/no code developers so let us know if you would like some help with a specific platform.

Conclusion

As we have discussed, the low/no-code movement is reshaping the tech landscape, making software application development more accessible to a much broader audience. While low/no-code platforms offer a convenient and efficient way to build software, integrating third-party API can significantly extend their capabilities and overcome some of the limitations that are there. Both for starters or seasoned developers, exploring the synergies between low/no-code tools and API catalogs like ApyHub could be the next step toward building more dynamic, powerful, and integrated applications.
About ApyHub:
ApyHub is a leading platform for API design, discovery, and integration, empowering developers and development teams worldwide to discover, access, and consume standard data and common functionality APIs seamlessly inside their applications. With a comprehensive growing API catalog (currently +100 APIs), API design tools and resources, ApyHub streamlines the process of building and running innovative applications that can scale.