How agencies can reduce development time and improve user experience
As government agencies build new websites, tools and applications for internal and external use, they face multiple development hurdles, including integrating with legacy systems and following strict guidelines on the design and security of new software.
Fortunately, agencies can take advantage of low-code tools that can improve applications and software development. Reducing the need for coding and shortening overall development time, these tools can help agencies build better services for citizens and employees.
Here are three ways low-code tools can assist with streamlining, securing and improving government technology.
1. A faster development process
A significant portion of solutions already used by government include proprietary, open source and mixed source code that requires no custom code development. However, some application design and software functionality needs call for custom code. Everything from the color, position and style of a website or application must be created according to a uniform standard and deliver a consistent user experience. With a custom code solution, developers can address every requirement, down to the smallest detail. Any modifications can be done carefully to change only what is intended and nothing else, but that approach takes time and developer cycles. A low-code platform simplifies the process by relinquishing some control over details and letting the tool automate most of the coding.
By simply describing what the application should look like and how it should function (e.g. a table with columns of data, filterable by a field), the low-code solution will translate that description into an application. If changes need to be made, altering the description of the application allows the platform to react and automatically implement the modifications. This approach provides the benefit of adhering to design and functionality guidelines without most of the time-consuming custom code development. As low-code platform vendors or providers continue to improve their solutions, optimizations to performance and resolved issues will accrue over time.
Low-code solutions come in varieties that address different user experiences. Some are "drag and drop” configuration tools meant to be used by employees or departments to suit their own needs while other tools offer “simplified coding.” While agencies may not be able to control all aspects of the development process with low-code solutions, they give development teams the flexibility to use custom code and create solutions as needed. Low-code tools cover as many functional use cases as possible, leaving the extremely complex and specialized use cases to the development team.
2. Added security from vendors
Low-code solutions offer a second set of eyes on security. With a pure code solution, agencies are vulnerable to an attack based on the code that they write. With a low-code solution, the vendor has a vested interest in keeping its applications and software safe from attack. In fact, many vendors have a dedicated security team looking out for potential exploits and provide additional support for agencies.
3. Better user experience
Government's mission is to serve the people, and a better online user experience is vital to achieving that goal. As many low-code solutions allow non-developers to contribute, they effectively increase the size of the agency's development team and further reduce the time it takes a solution to reach the end user. On the flip side, less custom coding gives developers more flexibility to change approaches without rebuilding everything from scratch. Furthermore, the time saved from not working on low-level details allows developers to focus on the finer points that truly impact the user experience.
Custom code is irreplaceable, but as government agencies strive to deliver better solutions to citizens and employees, the benefits of a low-code platform cannot be ignored. Automating coding for non-vital aspects of user experience, but important to design and security standards, is a logical choice to save time and resources. With millions of people relying on government, shorter development times and improved user experience will have tremendous effects on the country’s productivity.
J. Tingle is the director of software engineering at Skuid.