9 Powerful Low-code Platforms for Building Custom-made Apps and Igniting Your Business

Mariam Ispiryan • June 22, 2022 • 17 min read

Technology is an integral part of your business: you use applications to get work done, and so does your team. But sometimes off-the-shelf third-party software simply isn’t the right fit. 


Low-code tools are a popular choice among enterprises looking to build custom-made apps for internal use or customer engagement. Going low-code eases the burden on developers and guarantees lower costs and faster project completion while maintaining customizability. 


For that reason, low-code builders have become synonymous with speed, personalization, and minimal effort. What’s not to like?


In this article, we’ll look into the characteristics of 9 low-code development platforms, as well as one powerful no-code alternative. Looking for something specific? Skip to the right section by clicking on the table of contents below.



Table of contents


  1. Appian
  2. Quick Base
  3. OutSystems
  4. Microsoft Power Apps
  5. Kissflow
  6. Retool
  7. Budibase
  8. UI Bakery
  9. Mendix


Scale your business technology with zero effort.

Join 80,000+ Softr users creating no-code web apps with pre-built functionalities, designed in no time.

What is a low-code platform?


A low-code platform is a tool you can use to build customized applications, without needing extensive coding knowledge. Its graphical user interface and drag-and-drop appearance cut down on production times and minimize any learning curve.  

 

Low-code development can generate endless types of custom apps, websites, and platforms. The flexibility of app development means you can create new tools to improve your business workflow internally, but also to reach out to your customers. 


For example, thanks to in-platform templates, you can easily use low-code platforms as an internal tool builder or a membership website builder.


Low-code tools guarantee rapid application development. Some of the most frequent uses are


  • Landing pages 
  • Workflows
  • Internal tools
  • Forms to collect data
  • Client portals
  • Online communities
  • Resources directories
  • Marketplaces


No-code vs low-code 


Since they have a shared ethos of reducing code, the line between no-code and low-code tools isn’t always clear. However, there are some specific characteristics that set them apart.

 

Firstly, the targeted audience for these platforms isn’t the same. The low-code market targets developers, and promises to help them work faster. On the other hand, no-code is more approachable for citizen-developers and users with no expertise in software development.

 

Secondly, low-code runs on open systems, meaning that users can add and modify code easily, introducing external components to what the platform offers. No code platforms run on a closed system, in which the user can work on familiar interfaces with plenty of layouts and customization options, without having to code.

softr landing page

Softr is a no-code builder with various templates for building platforms such as business internal tools, CRM software, client portals, and marketplaces. Image

Source: Softr.io


Who can build a low-code platform?


If you’re a developer, you can customize and optimize applications using low-code development platforms, but you won’t need to build anything from scratch. That means it’ll only take you a few minutes to build that client portal software that the sales department has been asking for.


Low-code platforms are also accessible to those without extensive coding experience. So, even if you are the sales department, there’s nothing stopping you from building the tools you need yourself.


Yes, you need to grow a developer mindset and you need to learn a few coding tricks. But the learning curve is nothing like trying to learn software development for the first time. What’s more, you can count on resources such as active communities, guides, and learning material to can bridge the knowledge gap.

The benefits of low-code development 


The key benefits of low-code development are


  • Reduced coding: low-code tool builders have a visual interface that’s easy to interact with, meaning developers don’t need to write the code to build an app from scratch.


  • Flexibility: using low-code templates and building blocks, you can create custom apps of all kinds, from client portals to websites, sales CRM portals, and internal tools to automate the workflow of your business.

 

  • Productivity: low-code means that your developers can have a simple application ready in minutes that your whole team can use with minimal support from the IT department.

 

  • Agility: low-code helps enterprises to deliver solutions in less time, enhancing your competitiveness in the market and allowing you to experiment with new ideas.

 

  • Costs: low-code development software often offers free plans, whereas paid plans depend on the number of users of the product. This is convenient when only a few people need to use the product.

 

  • Data integration: combined with data sources such as Airtable, My SQL, Google Sheets, and CouchDB, low-code platforms enhance your company’s databases and give them superpowers.


The challenges of low-code development


Despite the benefits, you might run into a few challenges when using low-code tools:


  • If you have lots of coding experience, low-code platforms can be limiting. You might miss the freedom that full-stack coding offers.


  • If you’re a citizen developer, sometimes low-code isn’t as accessible as you’d hope, especially if you want high customizability and an advanced final product.


  • Inexperienced workers can start introducing new tools and cause an increase in technical debt. This can slow innovation and generate an extra burden on the developers.


  • Platform updates can cause issues when there’s very specific and personalized coding involved. You have to check whether the custom code still works when you install an update for the development tool. 

 

The good news is that you can overcome these challenges as long as your technical and non-technical teams cooperate proactively. Accessible information will enable you and your team to achieve a functional result, in no time and with little effort. 

Scale your business technology with zero effort.

Join 80,000+ Softr users creating no-code web apps with pre-built functionalities, designed in no time.

What to look for in a low-code tool


When it comes to choosing the best low-code development tool for a project, you should look for platforms that can 


  • solve your key business problems 
  • integrate with external providers and data sources
  • have relevant technologies built in (such as business process management, process mining, and automation)
  • can adapt to future challenges


It’s likely that by 2025, organizations will build 70% of their new applications using low-code or no-code platforms. And the range of low-code platform vendors on the market is growing to meet that demand. However, not all of them have the same features and functionality. 


To get the most out of your chosen low-code tool, look out for these features:


  • Security
  • Membership options with built-in profile management
  • Out-of-the-box functionality, removing the need to build components from scratch
  • Visual modeling tools and intuitive building blocks 
  • Drag and drop interface
  • Ability to create pages or applications that can work on any device  
  • Custom API integration, to use data at its full potential 
  • Scalability, handling more users and larger datasets as the company grows
  • Collaboration, allowing your team to work together seamlessly


From Appian to Mendix: 9 of the best low-code application platforms


We’ve put together a list of 9 industry-leading low-code platforms to help you get started.

Appian


Appian is a low-code platform enabling digital transformation for any type of enterprise. It offers management and automation for business processes.

apian low-code platform

Appian offers 3-step quick low-code app development to optimize digital transformation in business.

Image Source: Appian



Features

  • Case management
  • 3-step quick app development, with no technical knowledge required
  • Business process management
  • Integration with other platforms
  • FAQs, forum, documentation, and customer support


Drawbacks

  • You can’t customize some set features on the platform
  • It doesn’t handle bulk data well
  • The graphic user interface is difficult to use, compared to some competitors 


Pricing

  • From 75 $/user/month for application edition
  • 150 $/user/month for enterprise edition 
  • Free 30-day trial


Quick Base


Quick Base is a cloud-based low-code development tool for IT teams within medium to large enterprises. The Quick Base goal is to help businesses achieve operational agility. 

quick base low-code platform

With Quick Base, you can build custom CRM software to centralize your data and integrate it with your existing systems. Image Source: Quick Base



Features

  • Drag-and-drop visual interface
  • Pre-built templates
  • Integration and workflow orchestration across your apps and third-party tools
  • Can import data from other apps such as SalesForce, DropBox, and Google Drive
  • Continuous deployment with real-time changes without taking the app offline


Drawbacks

  • Complexity of some processes
  • Limited dashboard customization options 
  • Formatting reports on the platform can be challenging 


Pricing 

  • from 600 $/month for team edition, for up to 50 custom business apps
  • 2000 $/month for the enterprise edition, for up to 100 custom business apps
  • Free 30-day trial


OutSystems


OutSystems provides a visual development environment to create and modify mobile and web applications quickly. It allows you to develop and deploy your applications in the cloud, on-premises, or hybrid models. Develop once for all devices, while integrating all existing systems and applications.

outsystem low-code platform

OutSystems features application development and deployment in the cloud, on-premises, or using a hybrid model.

Image Source: OutSystems




Features

  • Deployment to any device
  • Analytics dashboards that updates in real-time
  • Visual development, easily integrated with custom code


Drawbacks

  • No reliable content management to develop websites with CMS capabilities 
  • High price
  • Need for better interaction with databases and their elements
  • Vendor lock-in


Pricing

  • From 1500 $/month for standard edition
  • Custom price for enterprise edition
  • Free plan with limited features, and apps with up to 100 end users


Microsoft Power Apps


PowerApps is a low-code tool that allows quick application development. Microsoft released this product to help users in designing and deploying apps with built-in templates.

Microsoft Power Apps low-code platform

Microsoft PowerApps comes with pre-built formats that don’t require any coding knowledge.

Image Source: PowerApps



Features

  • Creative flexibility
  • Pre-built formats that don’t require any coding 
  • Helpful online learning resources and tutorials 


Drawbacks

  • Some situational formulas are more complex than expected 
  • Slow maximum upload 
  • Limited customizability with current formats 


Pricing 

  • Pay-as-you-go plan for 10 $/user/app/month
  • Subscription plans: 5 $/user/app/month and 20 $/user/month.


Kissflow


Kissflow is a low-code enterprise development platform designed for freelancers. The user can easily build, test and deploy applications within the platform. It offers a wide range of options, such as workflows, forms, and dashboards.

kissflow low-code platform

Kissflow offers over 50 ready-to-use applications.

Image Source: Kissflow



Features

  • 50+ ready-to-use applications
  • Integrates with Google apps 
  • Workflow progress tracking
  • Fine-grained access control
  • Drag-and-drop workflow builder


Drawbacks

  • Difficulty exporting reports to personal email
  • Slow response to technical issues
  • Limited flexibility within the platform


Pricing 

  • From 9,90 $/user/month for small business edition
  • 20 $/user/month for corporate edition

Retool


Retool is a low-code internal tool builder catered to developers building custom apps, dashboards, and admin panels. The platform comes with templates to enable technical teams to build powerful tools in less time.

retool low-code platform

Retool offers a complete set of building blocks to create internal tools in no time.

Image Source: Retool



Features

  • Drag-and-drop interface components to build frontends 
  • A lot of templates and integrations at disposal 
  • You can connect it to most databases


Drawbacks

  • It requires some coding and technical knowledge, it targets developers
  • Steep learning curve for teams with limited technical knowledge
  • Some important features, like white labeling, are only included in the most expensive plans


Pricing 

  • Free plan
  • From $10/month per user

Budibase


Budibase is an open-source low-code platform and an internal tool builder, helping technical teams to create apps for their workplace in minutes. It caters primarily to developers.

budibase low-code platform

Budibase is a low-code tool that focuses on operational applications that you can run inside your business.

Image Source: Budibase



Features

  • No subscription cost
  • You can import data from external databases, and you can operate data within Budibase GUI
  • You can automate processes and implement backend logic to your project (automatic email notifications)
  • Webhooks & integrations 
  • You can choose to build apps with or without writing code


Drawbacks

  • Additional costs, such as web hosting outside Budibases and additional workflows
  • Low-code platform, but it requires a technical background.


Pricing

  • Open-source (Free)

UI Bakery


UI Bakery is a low-code visual internal tool builder tailored to save hours of development. With an evolving feature set, you can cover even non-standard cases of internal tools development, while the configuration convention means you won’t spend ages getting set up.

UI bakery low-code platform

UI Bakery’s default convention over configuration paradigm means you won’t spend ages on configuration, as it decreases the number of decisions that you need to make.

Image Source: UI Bakery



Features 

  • Multi-page applications
  • Advanced workflow builder
  • Fixed-price on-premise offering


Drawbacks

  • Development background required (JS/database knowledge)
  • Limited end-user mode on a free plan


Pricing 

  • Free plan
  • From $10/month/user

Mendix


Mendix is a low-code platform catering to large enterprises. With a wide range of tools covering the entire application development process, it enables bigger teams to work together despite technical disparities.

mendix low-code platform

Mendix is a low-code platform catering to large enterprises.

Image Source: Mendix



Features

  • Packed with enterprise-grade features (collaboration, security, integrations)
  • Two different development environments can communicate bi-directionally: a no-code option for business users and a low-code one for developers.
  • You can build native mobile apps from a single integrated visual development environment


Drawbacks

  • Pricing: the standard plan to build department-wide business applications starts at $950/month
  • Some reviews recommend improvements to the user interface 


Pricing

  • Free plan for personal use 
  • From $60/month for 5 users

The no-code alternative to low-code tools


Low-code is a fantastic option to build your own business apps. However, as an exception, we think Softr is worth a mention.

softr no-code alt to low-code platform

With Softr, your Airtable data becomes a full-stack app, running membership options, payment with Stripe, and business logic.

Image Source: Softr.io



Softr is a no-code development platform that you can use to generate code-free apps. You won’t need design or coding skills to work with it, plus it integrates with a range of your favorite tools for internal collaboration and workflow automation.

Some of Softr’s main features are:

  • Zero learning curve, you won’t need any IT support or coding
  • Plenty of templates to suit your needs
  • 100+ pre-built blocks, including Charts, Lists, Pricing, and Checkout
  • When you build an app with Softr, you can collaborate on it with your team and set granular permissions for the app users
  • You can create pages that index high on Google, with native SEO features
  • It runs on Amazon AWS-powered security
  • The platform’s native integration with Airtable allows for real-time, two-way data sync, so collaborators can update projects seamlessly
  • You can embed your favorite tools, such as Typeform, Youtube, and Zapier


Watch how Jaime from No-Code Ireland creates an e-commerce store with Cart and Checkout. He works on a custom integration using Stripe Connect, with a bit of coding to spice things up:

Scale your business technology with zero effort.

Join 80,000+ Softr users creating no-code web apps with pre-built functionalities, designed in no time.

Low-code tool comparison table


Key features Drawbacks Pricing Best for
Softr (no-code)
  • Zero learning curve, you won’t need any IT support or coding
  • Plenty of templates to suit your needs
  • 100+ pre-built blocks, including Charts, Lists, Pricing, and Checkout
  • When you build an app with Softr, you can collaborate on it with your team and set granular permissions for the app users
  • You can create pages that index high on Google, with native SEO features
  • It runs on Amazon AWS-powered security
  • The platform’s native integration with Airtable allows for real-time, two-way data sync, so collaborators can update projects seamlessl
  • You can embed your favorite tools, such as Typeform, Youtube, and Zapier
  • If you need high design customizability, templates and pre-designed blocks options might be too limited
  • At present, Airtable is the only data source that you can use with Softr (but more integrations are on their way)
  • Softr offers more limited coding possibilities compared with low-code platforms
  • Free plan to get started
  • 24 $/month, started option
  • 65 $/month, professional potion
  • 165 $/month, business option
from small businesses to medium enterprises, as well as citizen developers
Appian
  • Case management
  • 3-step quick apps development, with no technical knowledge required
  • Business process management
  • Integration with other platforms
  • FAQs, forum, documentation, and customer support
  • You can’t customize some set features on the platform
  • It doesn’t handle bulk data well
  • The graphic user interface is difficult to use, compared to some competitors
    Free plan to get started 24 $/month, started option 65 $/month, professional potion 165 $/month, business option
  • From 75 $/user/month for application edition
  • 150 $/user/month for enterprise edition
  • Free 30-day trial
from small businesses to large enterprises
Quick Base
  • Drag-and-drop visual interface
  • Pre-Built templates
  • Integration and workflow orchestration across your apps and third-party tools
  • It can import data from other apps such as SalesForce, DropBox, and Google Drive
  • Continuous deployment with real-time changes without taking the app offline
  • Complexity of some processes
  • Limited dashboard customization options
  • Formatting reports on the platform can be challenging
  • from 600 $/month for team edition, for up to 50 custom business apps
  • 2000 $/month for enterprise edition, for up to 100 custom business apps
  • Free 30-day trial
from small businesses to large enterprises
OutSystems
  • Deployment to any device
  • Integration of any existing system or database
  • Visual development of the application, easily integrated with custom code
  • No reliable content management to develop websites with CMS capabilities
  • High price
  • Need for better interaction with databases and their elements
  • Vendor lock-in
  • From 1500 $/month for standard edition
  • Custom price for enterprise edition
  • Free plan with limited features, and apps with up to 100 end users.
from medium businesses to large enterprises
Microsoft Power Apps
  • Creative flexibility
  • Pre-built formats that don’t require any coding
  • Helpful online learning resources and tutorials
  • Some situational formulas are more complex than expected
  • Slow maximum upload
  • Limited customizability with current formats
  • Pay-as-you-go plan for 10 $/user/app/month
  • Subscription plans: 5 $/user/app/month and 20 $/user/month.
from small businesses to large enterprises
KissFlow
  • It comes with more than 50 ready-to-use applications
  • It integrates with Google apps
  • Workflow progress tracking
  • Fine-grained access control
  • Drag-and-drop workflow builder
  • Difficulty exporting reports to personal email
  • Slow response to technical issues
  • Limited flexibility within the platform
  • From 9,90 $/user/month for small business edition
  • 20 $/user/month for corporate edition
freelancers, and from small businesses to large enterprises
Retool
  • Drag-and-drop interface components to build frontends
  • A lot of templates and integrations at disposal
  • You can connect it to most databases
  • It requires some coding and technical knowledge, it targets developers
  • Steep learning curve for teams with limited technical knowledge
  • Some important features, like white labeling, are only included in the most expensive plans
  • Free plan
  • From $10/month per user
from small businesses to large enterprises
Budibase
  • No subscription cost
  • You can import data from external databases, and you can operate data within Budibase GUI
  • You can automate processes and implement backend logic to your project (automatic email notifications)
  • Webhooks & integrations
  • You can choose to build apps with or without writing code
  • Additional costs, such as web hosting outside Budibases and additional workflows
  • Low-code platform, but it requires a technical background. It caters primarily to developers
  • Open-source (Free)
from small businesses to large enterprises
UI Bakery
  • Multi-page applications
  • Advanced workflow builder
  • Fixed-price on-premise offering
  • Development background required (JS/database knowledge)
  • Limited end-user mode on a free plan
  • Free plan
  • From 10 $/month/user
from small businesses to large enterprises
Mendix
  • Packed with enterprise-grade features (collaboration, security, integrations)
  • Two different development environments can communicate bi-directionally: a no-code option for business users and a low-code one for developers.
  • You can build native mobile apps from a single integrated visual development environment
  • Pricing: the standard plan to build department-wide business applications starts at $950/month
  • Some reviews recommend improvements to the user interface
  • Free plan for personal use
  • From $60/month for 5 users
large enterprises

The accessible approach to software development 


Low-code is revolutionizing application development. You can finally create tailor-made platforms that fulfill the needs of your business. And you can do it fast, cutting down costs and without coding from scratches. 


It doesn’t stop there: with the no-code counterparts, such as Softr, you can go one step further, by completely removing any coding barrier. When you go no-code, anyone in your team is empowered to support app development and create the tools you need to help your business thrive.


So, get ready to optimize your business technology and build a set of tools that support you and your team, with no effort.

Scale your business technology with zero effort.

Join 80,000+ Softr users creating no-code web apps with pre-built functionalities, designed in no time.

Frequently asked questions about low-code tools

Low-code tools are applications, websites, platforms, and internal tools built with a graphical approach. The coding involved is limited to customization, whereas templates allow a solid starting point.

Low-code platforms are a great option to cut down production time, as they don’t require programming from scratches.

Users build low-code software products with low-code platforms. They can include a wide range of tools, websites, and applications such as: - Landing pages - Workflows - Internal tools - Forms to collect data - Client portals - Online communities - Resources directories - Marketplaces

Low-code’s main target is developers, as it requires some coding expertise. It’s based on an open system that allows customization through coding. No-code is an approach to development that is completely visual. Citizen developers are its main market and they work on a closed system, where customization happens through the options available on the platform.

It’s a development environment where a minimal amount of programming language is required. It develops on reusable modules, drag-and-drop interfaces, and visual blocks. The user can develop code solutions to customize the tool.

Multiple profiles can take advantage of low-code solutions. IT teams can enhance their productivity and cut down on delivery times. These solutions are also within reach of citizen developers with coding knowledge.

Client Portal | Internal Tools | Web App Builder | Free Website Builder Made with Softr