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Gavriel Shaw
Gavriel Shaw

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Visual Modeling / Programming Interface To Begin Your Dev Process

I am a basic web developer, and beginner with javascript and python. I've worked with developer teams in my career as a product marketer, with analysts, scrum masters, product managers, etc.

I was recently introduced to the concept of visual programming or 'low-code' as Forrester Research calls it.

A drag-n-drop UI inside an IDE for a modern take on rapid application development.

The trouble is, I can't see that it's very popular, despite several platforms that seem very advanced with good reviews.

I'm guessing developers either haven't heard of it, or it's been cost prohibitive with current platforms, or there is a reluctance to use something that sounds 'too good to be true' or restrictive perhaps.

I live to learn and would appreciate hearing views from the community.

As a hobby I'm also learning a bit of robotics with keen on short-cuts as a 'maker' with raspberry pie to visually program. But with an extensible low-code platform, I don't see any limitations in what's possible.

Thanks for insights.

Top comments (4)

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Frank Puffer • Edited on

The idea of Low Code, Visual Programming or whatever else it is being called has been around for at least 30 years.

It works well for certain types of programming where it is actually widely used:

  • User interface layout

  • Certain types of process modeling (Simulink, LabVIEW etc.)

But despite many attempts it never really worked for general software development. I actually don't know why. My guess is that you just don't get the flexibility of code.

And after all, what's so bad about code? Why should clicking buttons and dragging stuff through a complicated user interface be easier than typing in letters and words, supported by a good IDE?

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Gavriel Shaw Author

Thanks for the insight Frank. I guess what might be considered bad about code is simply that it takes time to do, with a lot of repetition to kick things off. Component libraries help reduce time to code from scratch. There's also the challenge of communication with the business-side, getting clear requirements, etc. And thinking through architecture visually perhaps.

If an IDE had a visual workflow interface that allowed requirements communication and high-level modeling, and then also allowed flexibility of code within components, what else would be needed to make it genuinely appealing for more experienced developers?

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Frank Puffer

Many people have the impression that:

  • Using GUI based tools = easy

  • Coding = hard

I strongly believe that this is a misconception. It probably stems from the fact that GUI based tools are mostly used for relatively simple tasks with a limited number of options while coding is the tool of choice for solving really complex problems.

Have you ever tried to modify a large document with lots of formattings, counters and references in MS Word or any other GUI based word processor and found that it behaves totally weirdly?

The inner workings of complex artefacts created with GUI based tools are often completely intransparent.

By the way, I am glad that I can use markdown for formatting posts on DEV instead of having to use menus and buttons.

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stereobooster

To add more examples of visual programming languages:

🌚 Friends don't let friends browse without dark mode.

Sorry, it's true.