If you’ve lived in the UK, you’re probably familiar with prefab houses. They came about as a necessary solution to a crisis.
After WW2, the UK was in desperate need of new housing. The Blitz had destroyed millions of homes and young servicemen returning to their families needed to live somewhere.
With all this demand, prefabricated houses – prefabs – were a simple, but effective solution to the problem.
They were erected incredibly quickly, were very cheap to build, and, most importantly, solved the immediate problems around the housing crisis.
That’s not to say prefabs were perfect – far from it. As they were emergency houses, they were originally built to be temporary. So they weren’t made from the highest quality materials and they stood out when compared to traditional brick and mortar.
And while I personally wouldn’t call the houses ‘ugly’, there were many who looked down their noses at prefabs.
Low-code application development – the prefabs of the app world
Low-code application development methods were similarly created in order to solve the immediate problem of long development cycles and overwhelmed IT departments.
It has also been around for quite some time – some versions date back to the 1960s.
‘Low-code’ was a simpler, less code-heavy method of creating applications. Developers could simply drag and drop the various components they wanted.
And in many ways, they’re a lot like prefabs – apps created on low-code platforms were cheap and efficient to develop and often did their jobs very well.
However, they lacked the polish of traditionally made, handcrafted apps. They often had stripped back user interfaces making the user experience clunky. Users sometimes even required training to learn how to use them.
For these reasons, much like prefabs, low-code applications are often looked down upon as just a propped-up, temporary solution.
It’s not that low code apps weren’t doing valuable work for organizations, they just no longer held up to our modern standard for apps. So, they’ve also fallen out of fashion in recent decades.
However, as they say, history is cyclical.
Prefabs are now back in vogue, repackaged, and fit for a new era – and so is low-code.
Old solutions for new problems
In recent years, the same issues that led to prefabs in the ‘40s and low-code in the ‘60s have cropped up again.
The modern UK housing debate revolves around the insufficient number of houses, obscene prices, and inordinate lengths of time to build.
So, the UK government brought back the prefab, but repackaged it and gave it a new name – modular houses.
However, the reinvention wasn’t just a brick-deep. Lessons from the last round of maligned prefabs were taken onboard. These new houses are equipped with double glazing, they let in more light, they have good insulation and renewable energy sources built in.
This while still fulfilling the same purpose they did in the 40s – they’re cheaper and much quicker to build – some can be erected in just 36 hours!
Sure, they can still look a bit ‘cookie-cutter-ish’, but they’re growing in popularity, with some even featuring on the popular housing TV show, Grand Designs in recent years.
Low-code application development is also having a revival.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic put the world on lockdown, what most businesses were demanding from their in-house teams of developers far outstripped their capacity.
Traditional methods of app development, with its hard coding, hand coding, and libraries take the combined efforts of a lot of skilled people to build from the ground up. These can take anywhere from three to nine months on average to complete.
However, new low-code development platforms – multi-experience development platforms – have brought the low-code method into the 21st century.
Apps created on multi-experience platforms are almost indistinguishable from traditionally built ones. Because they are built as reactive web pages, they look great and are incredibly adaptable whether viewed on a desktop of mobile.
And because they’re automatically optimized for delivery, it’s ideal for omnichannel functions.
So, they’ve in-built security as standard, exposable APIs and they’re able to consume APIs like you would expect a modern app to. In all ways, they meet current accessibility standards.
However, while you would be normally be looking at months for the delivery of a traditionally built app, multi-experience apps can be built in a matter of days. We once even created an internal app in a few hours!
Flexibility and efficiency in uncertain times
With the current crisis we’re all facing, companies are having to react to problems exponentially faster than ever before. And that’s with the added complication of maintaining social distancing measures.
Multi-experience app development is an incredibly quick way for primarily brick and mortar businesses to re-engage their customers.
It's also a useful for companies trying to bring a level of consistency and uniformity to their existing channels. Its adaptability means you can stick it on the front end or later extend low-code apps to include more features.
What’s important to remember is multi-experience apps are no longer a stopgap – they’re a quick way to create high quality applications. And they can be used for much longer these days, some we’ve created have been in use for more than two years now.
And with security and accessibility standards built in, developers spend less time sweating the small stuff and more time making channels creative and unique.
As they should.