Mar 23, 2022
Low-code and no-code platforms are transforming software development. What started as a way to help developers work faster and automate repetitive tasks is now disrupting the tech industry and promising to democratize innovation.
The hype surrounding low-code and no-code platforms has spiked interest from startups and large companies seeking to innovate, streamline their development processes and cut costs and time-to-market.
And, of course, we get a lot of questions about them here at Torii.
Clients often ask why they should invest in a custom-developed platform when they can build for less — and much faster — on a no-code platform. And we get where they’re coming from. No-code and low-code platforms can be fantastic alternatives for building apps and websites. But their limitations mean these platforms are not the one-size-fits-all solutions that most people believe they are.
Sometimes, you just need to throw something together fast — either to test it out or because there’s an urgent need. In these situations, low-code and no-code platforms present an excellent alternative to developing an MVP or even a full-scale solution without the need to assemble a development team.
For those without the technical skills to code or the budget to hire someone to do it for them, low-code and no-code platforms have become a ticket into opportunities that had, until very recently, been out of their reach. Entrepreneurs across all industries can now bring ideas from inception to launch in a matter of weeks — sometimes even days — without the need to write a single line of code or hire developers.
Depending on your needs and goals, an app or website developed and hosted on a low-code or no-code platform may be all you need. After all, plenty of highly successful businesses are running entirely on these platforms.
But, in our experience, once a business hits a certain threshold and is looking to scale, being tied to a low-code or no-code platform can present some serious limitations. That was the problem that Darkstore, a same-day delivery service built on Shopify, was experiencing when they approached us for help.
The company was seeking to invest freshly-raised capital on a custom-developed platform that would enable them to launch FastAF, a standalone 2-hour delivery service for premium products.
Up until then, their Shopify website had served their needs well. It helped them launch their business and lay the groundwork for their new venture. But, as they sought to scale, being tied to Shopify was holding them back.
Using Shopify’s platform meant that Darkstore had limited control over its store and its customer journey. User experience was suffering too: limited sorting and filtering options made it hard for users to find and view products. None of this would be attractive in FastAF, which targeted an upscale and design-conscious audience.
Plus, operating on Shopify was getting expensive. In addition to the subscription price, Shopify charges merchants a commission on every sale. And integrating third-party apps for value-adding features such as live chats adds to those costs.
Torii Studio took care of FastAF’s internal fulfillment system with a desktop dashboard and mobile application for warehouse personnel. Our solution provided their teams with a suite of custom features previously unavailable to them on Shopify. They could now manage inventory more efficiently, supervise order and service centers and make real-time inventory updates with an easy drag-and-drop feature.
With this custom-developed software, Darkstore launched FastAF in Los Angeles in late 2020 and grew from one warehouse to five in less than one year. Since then, FastAF has expanded to New York and San Francisco and closed its Series A funding in December 2021 with a valuation of $200 million.
So, how do you know when it’s time to pivot to custom-developed software? Here are a few pointers:
You’re looking to scale. Plug-and-play solutions are great for starting out or businesses that plan to remain small, but they can make it difficult to grow past a certain point. If you want to increase your size, capacity or revenue, custom-developed software can provide your business with the strong, scalable foundation it needs to grow.
You want to cut costs. Fees and commissions can quickly add up and eat into your profits. Though it requires an upfront investment, many businesses find that a custom-developed platform is more cost-effective in the long run.
You want more flexibility. Building on low-code and no-code platforms involves subscribing to their chosen or proprietary technology stack. Depending on the platform, finding developers who can work with those stacks can be challenging — and further increase your costs and limit your capabilities.
You want increased security and control. Relinquishing control over servers, security protocols, data storage, and the code itself means that you are never 100% sure on how secure or reliable your operation is. Having full control of your product and who has access to it can help minimize common risks associated with low-code and no-code platforms, such as shadow IT or exposure of the API.
You want to stand out with a fantastic user experience. Pre-built templates and themes save time and help ensure consistency when you’re in a rush. But if you’re looking to compete with larger businesses, a fully-customized platform can help solidify your authority and further your brand with a memorable customer experience.
Low-code and no-code platforms are a fantastic tool for bootstrapped founders with small budgets and those looking to test the waters on a new idea. Once things start getting serious, custom-developed software is the way to go for boosting growth, ensuring a more secure operation, and furthering your brand.
Looking to build high-performing digital products that scale? Contact Torii Studio and we’ll make it happen for you.