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Who is using low-code / no-code tools?

Stathis Georgakopoulos · July 14, 2022

This is a chapter from our latest State of the Developer Nation 22nd Edition, which is free to download. You can watch our Lightning Session on the key findings and also read below for the whole report and insights on low-code / no-code tools.

Low-code/no-code (LCNC) tools provide a visual approach to software development, abstracting and automating parts of the application development process. This allows those without prior software development experience to create custom applications and provides potential time- and cost-saving for professional developers. In this chapter, we investigate the extent to which developers are using LCNC tools, showing differences according to professional status, geographical regions, and experience levels.

When it comes to reducing development overheads, addressing the challenge of finding skilled developers, and accelerating taking software to market, LCNC tools are becoming increasingly attractive. The sophistication of these tools is increasing rapidly, providing the potential to significantly disrupt the software industry. This begs the question, to what extent are developers1 using LCNC tools for their development projects?

We begin by separating developers according to their professional status – differentiating professionals from non-professionals, who are hobbyists and/or students. We excluded from our sample those who indicated that they were unsure about what share of their development work was done using LCNC tools. Just over half (54-55%) of developers in each group report that they are not using LCNC tools at all for their development work. This proportion is marginally lower for non-professionals who are students (55% of those who are exclusively students and 53% who are students and hobbyists) than non-professionals who identify as exclusively hobbyists (57%).

46% of professional developers use low-code/no-code tools for some portion of their development work

State of the Developer Nation 22nd Edition

The proportion of developers who do use LCNC tools does not differ across groups (46% of professionals vs 45% of non-professionals). This highlights that LCNC tools are finding traction among those less likely to be familiar with coding and that use-cases within professional software development are also common.

As experience increases, developers are less likely to use LCNC tools at all. This is particularly true among those with more than ten years of experience. These tools are often framed as being best suited for simple programming tasks. Hence, the complexity of development work assigned to more experienced developers may be less appropriate for LCNC approaches. Furthermore, experienced developers are likely to have mastery over simpler coding tasks, which leaves little room for the efficiency gains that LCNC tools are often heralded for.

Using LCNC tools without a degree of accompanying manual coding is highly uncommon across all experience levels. The proportion of developers who use LCNC tools for a small amount (up to a quarter) of their development work remains relatively constant (between 17-24%) across the experience spectrum. Therefore, LCNC’s most likely role is as an occasional adjunct to existing coding tools, regardless of developers’ experience.

Experienced developers, particularly those with more than 10 years of experience, are the least likely to use LCNC tools

State of the Developer Nation 22nd Edition

More extensive use of LCNC tools, i.e. for between one-quarter and three-quarters of all development activity, peaks slightly for those with around three to ten years of experience, revealing that it is early to mid-experience developers, rather than newcomers who are most likely to elevate LCNC tools’ status to essential. This is perhaps due to the recognised career importance of gaining traditional development experience, before reducing reliance on writing code. Only 2-4% of developers across all experience levels use LCNC tools for 75% or more of their development tasks, indicating that it is highly uncommon to shift the balance heavily towards LCNC-driven development.

Our data reveal notable differences in adoption and engagement with LCNC tools across different geographic regions. The Greater China area emerges as the region in which developers are most likely to be using LCNC approaches. 69% of developers in this region report using LCNC tools, compared to the global average of 46%. This suggests that the Chinese LCNC tool market has transitioned from an introduction phase to a growth phase. According to Mendix’s State of Low-Code report, IT professionals in China are the most likely to suggest that low-code is a trend their organisation can’t afford to miss (84% compared to 72% globally). Non-developer, or citizen developer, audiences also likely account for a large part of LCNC’s growth. However, as in all regions, the majority of bona fide software developers in the Greater China area currently use LCNC tools for less than half of their overall development work. It remains to be seen whether their reliance on such tools will also expand as the market and tools mature.

19% of developers in North America use Low-Code/No-Code tools for more than half of their coding work – almost twice the global average of 10%

North America has the second-highest LCNC tool adoption rate and stands out for the proportion of developers using LCNC tools to conduct more than half of their overall development work – 19% of developers here report that their use of LCNC tools outweighs their manual coding (comprising 13% using them for half to three-quarters of development work and 6% using them for more than three-quarters); almost double the global average of 10%. Hence, North America appears to be at the forefront of the LCNC movement, providing the strongest evidence that these tools can supplant traditional development approaches – even in a region where 81% of developers identify as professionals.

South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and East Asia excluding Greater China are all above the global average in terms of LCNC tool adoption. Despite considerable uptake in these regions, LCNC products have not matured to the point where their use is a dominating feature of developers’ processes. Regions such as Western Europe and Israel, Oceania, Eastern Europe, and South America are all below the global average in terms of LCNC tool adoption.

The shortfall in these regions is particularly linked to smaller than average proportions using LCNC tools for more than 25% of their development work. The proportion using them for less than a quarter of their work is more comparable to the global average, suggesting that the market is still in its introductory phase in these regions – developers are evaluating the tools but are yet to rely on them for a substantial portion of their work.

Access the full free report to dive into insights on:

  • Language Communities
  • Understanding Developer Personalities
  • Who is using low-code / no-code tools
  • Spotlight on China and the Rest of East Asia
  • How developers generate revenue
  • Emerging technologies

If you have questions about the data above, want more or want to explore other topic areas we cover, talk to us.