Low-code
Open-source
5 mins read

What is a low code open source platform (& how can designers benefit?)

Published on
September 27, 2022
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Let's face it: most of us don't have time to become expert programmers. That’s what’s so great about low code platforms — you don't need to be an expert at all to start building an app, website, or other digital solution. 

You will, however, need to make some decisions about the kind of low code platform you'll use. And that can send you into just as much of a research tailspin!

In this post, we'll weigh the pros and cons of open source low code platforms, as well as several tools that you can choose from today. 

What is a low code open source platform?

To get started, let's cover what a low code open source is. 

A "low code" platform is a tool that allows you to build digital solutions with very little coding required. Similar to how Squarespace allows you to create a website by dragging and dropping web elements, you can use low code tools to build apps, websites, and more. 

It's important to note that "low code" is not the same as "no code". You may still find yourself writing some code, but it'll be minimal enough that you'll only need to know the basics. 

Meanwhile, an "open source" low code solution is one where you can view and modify its source code. Unlike conventional apps, where you simply have a UI that you interact with and nothing more, an open source app allows you to read and change its source code. You can add features, fix bugs, and otherwise customize it to your needs. 

Putting this all together: a low code open source is a tool that you can use to build digital solutions without a lot of programming experience. And you can "pop the hood" of that low code tool to see, and change, how it works. 

Why use an open source low code solution?

At first look, low code open source may seem like an oxymoron — why would you want to view the source code of a tool that reduces your need for coding? The following three benefits go some way to explaining the added value.

Transparency

The open source nature of low code open source tools means that you can put your trust in them. You'll see how features are being accomplished, what's going into updates, and how maintenance is being performed. 

With a proprietary solution (i.e., not open source), if you want something to change with the app, you submit a request and hope for the best. But with an open source tool, you can closely monitor updates and changes in a democratized way.

Total control (without being locked in)

Going with an open source solution doesn't just provide you with transparency, but it also puts you in control. You or your team can create its own fork of the software, modifying it to better suit your needs. 

And because it's open source, you're never locked in. You can move assets around, create API gateways, and more whenever you're ready to migrate. 

A fast, affordable solution

Of course, you don't just get the benefits of an open source platform when you go with a low code open source tool. You also enjoy its low code perks, including access to a fast, affordable solution to building digital products. 

For most teams and individuals, building a low code solution is going to be much faster than creating one from scratch. With the right planning and know-how, you could accomplish weeks’ worth of work in an afternoon. That saves you time, money, and other in-demand resources. 

Potential challenges of low code when open source

If you’re considering using a low code open source platform, you should be aware of the potential drawbacks as well as the benefits on offer. For example…

Support might not be readily available 

Open source platforms have a tendency to not be as well maintained as proprietary solutions. 

This is because they're often free and managed by a community. So if you have questions or issues, you may find that you don't have a customer support team to turn to, but other users instead. At times, this can be a plus: low code platforms tend to have engaged communities of users who are happy to help. But if you’re stuck in an urgent bind, then you may not get the speed of resolution you need. 

Your preferred platform might end up "orphaned"

With any open source tool comes the chance that it will eventually be "orphaned". This happens whenever an open source tool's creator or community moves on, leaving it in its current state. 

This can dump the responsibility of maintenance on you or your team, which might not be something you have the resource to keep up with. 

4 low code open source tools

Budibase

Budibase is an open source low code solution designed to build enterprise applications. It includes features like support for external databases, prebuilt automations, and data provider components. 

While open source tools are usually free (with the source code made available to all users), certain workflows and hosting is chargeable through Budibase. 

Budibase’s three pricing tiers are:

  • Cloud Free, $0 - 4 applications, 1000 internal records, 1000 automation operations, unlimited users
  • Open Source, starts from $0 - unlimited applications, records, users, and automation operations
  • Enterprise, price on request.

Huggin

If you're looking for a low code open source tool that will help you create automated solutions, then Huggin might be the one to go with. Similar to platforms like Zapier and Integromat (now, Make), it's an open source alternative with a passionate community. 

PyCaret

For those who have more technical needs, there's PyCaret. It's a Python library built for data scientists and machine learning use cases. For this reason, those who have no prior experience may find it challenging, while the more experienced will find it to be a great expedient for their needs. 

Frappe Framework

While Budibase is great for creating enterprise applications, the Frappe Framework platform is better suited to commercial applications. So for teams and businesses looking to deploy commercial or consumer apps, this is a great choice.

Concerned that open code is a little too technical for your needs? Or that no code platforms might be a better fit for you today? Then check out the rest of the blog now to read up on the other no code/low code options available.