A recent McKinsey survey of CIOs suggests that technical debt amounts to between 20 and 40% of the value of their entire technology estate! So is there no way around this tremendous waste of time, effort, and money?
One common misapprehension is that since no-code applications are entirely modular and visual, they do not carry technical debt. However, this is not true. There are many opportunities for technical debt to arise even in no-code applications, which makes it important to choose a good no-code platform vendor to avoid them.
In this article, we will look at how technical debt can occur in no-code applications, and ways in which it can be avoided.
What Is Technical Debt?
Technical debt refers to the accumulated cost or consequences of taking shortcuts or making suboptimal design and implementation decisions during software development. Just as financial debt incurs interest, tech debt accumulates interest over time in the form of increased complexity, decreased maintainability, and reduced productivity. It arises from various factors, such as tight deadlines, evolving requirements, a lack of resources, or inadequate planning.
How Do No-Code Applications Accumulate Technical Debt?
No-code applications can indeed accumulate technical debt, although it may manifest in different ways compared to traditional code-based applications. Technical debt in no-code applications refers to the consequences of design and implementation choices made within the visual development environment or workflow.
While the underlying code might not be explicitly written by the developer, there are still factors that can contribute to technical debt. In the coming sections, we will discuss four ways in which no-code applications can have technical debt.
Complexity and Maintainability
No-code platforms allow for rapid application development, but if the visual logic becomes convoluted or unorganized, it can lead to increased complexity and decreased maintainability. This can make it harder to understand and modify the application in the future, resulting in technical debt. There are several ways in which this can happen:
No-code platforms often provide a wide range of components and options for building logic. If the developer isn’t careful, they may end up creating complex and convoluted workflows or decision trees. To avoid this, developers must:
- Plan and sketch out the application’s workflows before implementation to ensure a clear and organized structure.
- Break down complex logic into smaller, manageable components or functions.
- Utilize comments or annotations within the no-code platform to explain the purpose and flow of the logic.
Lack of modularization
In the absence of proper modularization, a no-code application may become a monolithic entity with intertwined components and dependencies. This can hinder code reuse, make it challenging to isolate and fix issues, and increase the overall complexity of the application.
Simple ways to prevent this from happening include identifying reusable patterns, encapsulating logic into modules or components, and maintaining consistent naming conventions.
Lack of version control
Version control is vital for tracking changes, collaborating with other developers, and rolling back to previous versions if necessary. Without proper version control, it becomes challenging to manage changes, review modifications, or revert to a stable state, leading to technical debt. It is best to look for a no-code platform that supports versioning control to avoid these issues.
Scalability and Performance Issues
No-code applications may have limitations in terms of scalability or performance due to the underlying platform. As the application grows or encounters higher user loads, these limitations can become apparent, requiring additional effort to refactor or optimize the application. Here are some things to look out for when choosing or designing an application on a no-code platform:
Platform limitations, such as constraints on data storage, processing power, or concurrent user capacity.
Inefficient workflows: Visual workflows or logic define a no-code application’s behavior. If these workflows are not optimized efficiently, it can lead to performance bottlenecks.
Lack of caching and optimization: Developers need to leverage the caching mechanisms or optimization options present in their no-code platform to enhance performance.
No-code applications often integrate with external services or APIs to extend their functionality. However, if these integrations are not handled efficiently, it can impact the application’s performance. Poorly designed or inefficient integrations can introduce delays, data inconsistencies, or even potential security vulnerabilities, negatively impacting scalability and performance. Here are some common challenges that no-code applications can face:
When integrating with external data sources, inconsistencies can occur due to differences in data formats, mappings, or synchronization issues. For example, if data from an API response is not correctly mapped to the application’s data model, it can result in inconsistent or incorrect data. To avoid this, application developers must implement thorough data validation and transformation routines, and perform data mapping and conversion operations as needed to align external data with the application’s requirements.
Integrating with external services can introduce security risks if proper authentication, authorization, or data encryption measures are not implemented. No-code developers should implement secure authentication mechanisms, such as OAuth or API keys, to ensure only authorized access to external services. Regularly updating and patching integration components to address security vulnerabilities is also important.
Dependency on external services
No-code applications often rely on external services for critical functionality, such as payment processing or third-party APIs. If these services experience downtime or are discontinued, it can disrupt the application’s functionality and user experience. To avoid this, no-code developers must implement fault-tolerant strategies, such as using backups or alternative service providers
Compatibility and versioning issues
Integrations can face compatibility challenges when external services undergo updates, API version changes, or deprecations. Failure to address these compatibility issues can lead to integration failures or unexpected behavior. It is important to stay up to date with the API documentation and release notes of integrated services to ensure that this does not create a problem.
Inefficient integration design or excessive external API calls can introduce performance bottlenecks, causing slow response times or timeouts. To minimize it, developers need to optimize integration workflows by reducing unnecessary API calls, caching frequently accessed data, and implementing asynchronous processing where applicable.
Documentation and Knowledge Transfer
Documentation is essential for understanding the purpose, behavior, and dependencies of an application. In the case of no-code applications, documenting the logic, data flows, and integration points is crucial. Lack of proper documentation makes it difficult for developers (including future ones) to understand and work with the application, increasing the likelihood of introducing errors or missing opportunities for optimization.
Some best practices to follow include: using document application architecture, inline commenting, and maintaining external documentation for comprehensive understanding.
In conclusion, technical debt is not exclusive to code-based applications. No-code applications can also accumulate it through complexity, scalability challenges, integration issues, and poor documentation. A good no-code application that does not carry this technical debt is built on the foundation of careful platform selection, modularization, optimization, secure integrations, and comprehensive documentation.