Low-Code Platforms

Extending Low-Code Platforms with Custom Code: When and How to Do It

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Low-code application development platforms have become popular in recent years, thanks to their ability to accelerate application development. These platforms feature numerous pre-built components, including templates, modules, widgets, and application logic. As a developer, you can simply customize these components to meet business-specific needs.

But did you know that not all solutions can be built with the low-code platforms’ pre-built components? Some situations require you to extend low-code platforms with custom code to meet specific requirements or overcome limitations. Join us as we take a deeper look into extending low-code platforms with custom code, including when and how to do it to get the best out of these platforms.

When to Extend Low-Code Platforms with Custom Code

Here are some situations where extending low-code platforms with custom code will be necessary:

1.    Building Complex Business Logic

The complexity of applications varies and so is their business logic. Low-code platforms often provide simple pre-built templates and business logic. These components may not be applicable when building complex applications that require sophisticated business logic or rules. In fact, complex business logic can be challenging to achieve with low code visual modeling capabilities, implying that custom code may be necessary.

So, while most low-code platforms provide a wide range of built-in components and visual tools, they may not be applicable in all scenarios. And that’s where custom code comes in.

2.    User Interface Customization

Most advanced low-code platforms, such as Mendix, provide pre-configured user interface (UI) elements. However, you may require a highly customized user experience that goes beyond what the low-code platform offers.

Custom code lets you build highly tailored user interfaces. Also, you can improve existing components or integrate with specialized UI frameworks to achieve the desired user experience.

3.    Performance Optimization

In some scenarios, low-code platforms may have performance limitations or bottlenecks. Extending low-code platforms with custom code enables you to fine-tune crucial parts of your application, optimizing its performance and scalability. In fact, custom code grants more granular control over optimization solutions and resource utilization.

4.    Integrations

Usually, most low-code platforms support out-of-the-box integrations with specific external APIs and systems. But what if you need to integrate your app with APIs or external systems that are not supported out of the box the chosen low-code platform? Should this be a deal-breaker?

Well, that’s where custom code can save the day. Custom coding lets you build connectors to external web services, data sources, and other proprietary systems that require specialized code.

How to Extend Low-Code Platforms with Custom Code

Here is an overview of the steps to follow to extend low-code platforms with custom code:

1.    Identify the Need

The first step is assessing your application’s requirements and determining whether the chosen low-code platform fulfills them through its native features. Doing so will help you identify specific areas where custom code may be necessary. For instance, your application may have complex logic or require integrations with external systems that the low-code platform does not support out-of-the-box.

2.    Select the Right Programming Language

Many programming languages exist, and different low-code platforms support specific languages. So, you should determine the programming framework or language that best complements the low-code platform. Of course, you must ensure the chosen language aligns with your development team’s skills.

Also, ensure compatibility and understand the guidelines or limitations the selected low-code platform imposes regarding custom code integration.

3.    Use the Low-Code Platform’s Extension Capabilities

Most popular low-code platforms offer extensibility options, such as SDKs, custom code integrations, and APIs. For instance, Mendix low-code development platform lets you extend its functionality via the Mendix Connector Kit, Java request handlers, Java actions, data storage, and JavaScript widgets.

However, each low-code platform is unique. So, you should understand the platform’s available extension mechanisms and leverage them to seamlessly integrate your custom code.

4.    Follow the Best Practices for Custom Code Integration

When creating custom code, always follow the standard software development best practices as well as those that govern the low-code platform. This includes following the set coding conventions, conducting thorough testing, and version control.

Also, you should consider documenting your code as other developers will need to understand it and possibly improve it once you publish it, especially for open-source low-code platforms like Mendix. Treat the custom code as a separate entity that interacts with the low-code development platform.

5.    Ensure Upgradability and Compatibility

Low-code platforms are ever-evolving. So, when developing your custom code, ensure it remains compatible with new platform versions. Also, it’s crucial to stay updated with platform documentation, announcements, and releases to address breaking changes and new integration options.

Consider adopting the microservices architecture when building custom code. This will ensure the maintainability of your custom code without affecting the overall functionality of your application.

6.    Balance Platform Benefits and Customization

Excessive customization can hurt the low-code platform’s benefits. So, while creating custom code, you should find a balance between using the platform’s visual modeling capabilities and leveraging custom code where it adds significant value.

7.    Engage with the Community

Low-code platforms often boast a robust community that features expert developers and specialists. Therefore, engaging with this community can help you seamlessly extend the low-code platform’s capabilities with custom code.

Consider joining developer communities, and user forums, and attending platform-specific events. This will help access a wealth of knowledge and experiences, as the community members share different experiences with custom code integrations. Also, these communities are super supportive even to beginners and can guide you to a successful custom code integration.

What’s more, collaborating with the community helps you gain crucial insights and discover common challenges faced in custom code integration and their solutions. Also, it helps you tap into the collective expertise of other developers who have navigated the intricacies of extending low-code platforms.

Final Thoughts

Extending low-code platforms with custom code opens you up to endless opportunities, enabling you to get the best out of these platforms. While low-code solutions offer visual development tools, some scenarios may require custom code. For instance, when building complex business logic and integrations that are not offered out-of-the-box the platform. However, you should always observe the best practices when integrating custom code into low-code platforms to extend its capabilities. Doing so will facilitate seamless custom code integration.

Interested in learning more about low-code platforms? Visit our blog for more articles on low-code development.