Low Code & No Code

Putting Low-Code into the Proof of Concept Development: 2 Weeks Instead of 3 Months

Aug 19, 2020

Proof of concept (PoC), prototype, minimum viable product (MVP) – you’ll most probably run across these terms when getting close to the software development process and its stages. They’re even used interchangeably, which is actually a big mistake.

Before you jump into software development and start working on your idea implementation, make sure you understand the difference between these 3 terms.

PoC definition

A PoC is a demo, a document, or another small-scale visualization that helps you present your product idea, show its design, and the main functionality the final product will have. It’s aimed at helping you, your stakeholders and investors understand whether the product you’re going to build is viable and will be profitable when created.

Prototype definition

While a PoC is about theory, a prototype is about practice. It’s the rudimentary implementation of your idea aimed at assessing its usability, testing it, collecting feedback. It’s an interactive model of your future product that helps you determine how your product can be built. A prototype is usually a drafted version of your product with some of the main functions that your investors can test to share their feedback, thus allowing you to further improve the product.

MVP definition

An MVP is an almost finished, bugless (ideally), neatly designed product that you hit the market with. An MVP is what your users can try in action. It should not be worse than the offers of your competitors they put on the market. You can use MVP to see how the product will feel on the market, and gather feedback from your audience to decide what functionality to add to make it full-fledged.

Proof of concept example

The client we’re going to talk about, just like many other startups and small businesses, came up with some brilliant idea, and turned to us to implement it as soon as possible. They wanted to build a mobile app for real estate serving as a fast way for landlords allowing them to manage their property, track payments, approve or reject the tenants’ applications, etc.

Understanding how painful the failure may be for a business, we suggested the client holding the horses, and conducting a PoC first to test their idea. 

The customer needed to check whether their potential investors and users would like their future product while meeting tight deadlines. Thus, we had to find a set of solutions that would allow us to decrease the project time from 3 months to 2 weeks

How we put a piece of low-code into the PoC

We know from our own experience that the low-code approach allows for doing routine tasks faster, as well as skipping several steps in the app development process, e.g., a designer can prepare an app UI without developers’ involvement (some low-code platforms still allow you to add custom code manually if needed). 

Taking into account the benefits the low-code / no-code approach provides, we’ve conducted a brief research, and have chosen a set of particular tools for this project:

The main requirement for the selected tools has been to cover all parts of the application development. The key goal’s been to minimize the manual coding as much as possible. 

Since every application needs a frontend and a backend, we’ve selected several low-code / no-code services for our proof of concept.

Since the client has been planning to build a mobile app, we’ve chosen a mobile low-code development platform – Draftbit. This low-code mobile apps builder has a full set of features required for designing a high-grade mobile app. Airtable, in its turn, has served as a database, an admin panel, and a form generator. To automate workflow and interaction between services, we’ve chosen Integromat. This service has a user-friendly interface and a huge choice of built-in integrations. We’ve used the Firebase cloud platform and its Cloud Messaging feature to send push notifications since it’s a well-known service performing well during many of our projects.

Proof of concept steps

Proof of concept steps

1. Designing.

We’ve involved the designer to prepare a mobile app UI. He’s worked on UI in Draftbit. Thanks to it, we’ve been able to avoid the need to use such tools as Figma or Sketch to make an app design. With Draftbit, we’ve been able to create themes together with custom font sizes, primary colors, etc., and use them across the app. As a result, we’ve got the UI design ready for adding logic to it.

Draftbeat screens
Draftbit overview screens

In the meanwhile, our developer has been working on a domain model. Airtable has been used as a database. It’s allowed us to create a database schema and specify dependencies fast and easily. With the features of a classic database and a spreadsheet Airtable has, users will be able to create different views over the data, apply filtering, sorting, and group the data. This service can be used as the tool for application administrators, which means that there is no need to create a separate frontend solution.

Airtable apartments
Airtable - Apartments list

2. Adding user interactions.

The developer has set up navigation, button actions, and added the basic logic using Draftbit. It has turned out that it is not possible to implement data connection to Airtable API because Draftbit supports only GET requests, and there are limitations relating to array responses (as at July 2020). Nevertheless, Draftbit allows for exporting the project code. Having exported the project as a React Native app, we’ve added the missing integrations manually.

Draftbit layout styles
Draftbit layout styles

The future real estate mobile app is supposed to have the “rent apartment request” feature allowing tenants to apply for a particular property and specify a desired period of time when they need to rent it. Landlords should be able to list and approve or reject the requests. To make it possible, we’ve decided to use Airtable as a form generator, with the data going straight to the database. Thus, we’ve needed no extra efforts to integrate additional services.

3. Setting up push notifications.

We’ve needed to notify landlords when they get new applications for the apartments. There are a lot of tools on the market to automate such workflows, e.g. Zaiper, Parabola, and others. We’ve chosen Integromat from the variety since it has a built-in integration with the Firebase Cloud Messaging. The workflow is very straight: Integromat listens for new records in the Airtable, after which the router directs the flow to Firebase Cloud Messaging, or Apple Push Notifications (the details on the device type are stored in the database).

Integration Airtable
Integromat overview

It should be mentioned that during the project, we’ve faced some difficulties working with Draftbit. This tool is in beta now, that's why there are some issues with the layout designing and application previewing. The navigation is not yet intuitive enough. We’ve not been able to perform data connection to the full extent, so we’ve had to do a part of work with manual coding.

Integromat Filter

The results of PoC development

Using the mentioned set of tools, we’ve delivered the features the client planned to have in their future product. Airtable and Integromat have turned out to be powerful low-code tools, and Draftbit has allowed us to significantly accelerate the project design & development stages. 

The proof of concept development has allowed the client to define the features their final real estate mobile app should have in the future, i.e.:

  • Monitoring the status of the apartments.
  • Checking monthly revenue.
  • Tracking payments.
  • Viewing new applications from the new tenants.
  • Receiving push notifications (for landlords), and more. 

Now, the client is busy with proof of concept testing in order to gather their potential users’ feedback, and define what functionality the MVP they’re going to prepare soon will need to necessarily have, and what features are unnecessary. 

On a final note

All in all, the set of low-code development tools we’ve used during this project for real estate has coped with all the necessary tasks. Equipped with the expertise in low-code / no-code development, we’re 100% sure that such tools can be used in any business area to make the entire development process much less resource- and time-consuming. The low-code approach has proved to work during this PoC project, and we’re going to use these and similar no-code tools to develop the final product for our client.

Thanks to the PoC stage, the client has been able to conclude that the product they were initially going to build is not exactly what their users need. 

Not only PoC itself but the low-code development put into the proof of concept process has turned out to be a great way allowing businesses to save their time that is especially valuable now in 2020, with all the economic changes resulting from the pandemic it brings.

If you’re interested in conducting a PoC to test your hypothesis before hitting the market, feel free to reach out to us. We’re willing to consult you on PoC-specific questions, or perform the entire process for you on our own.

About Akveo

Akveo is an experienced team of full-stack software experts passionate about creating reliable software and ready to accept the next tech challenge. Our expertise lets us understand the essence of our clients' business needs to deliver the best solution possible. Plus, the use of our own products in development and design allows us to reduce development time and implement new solutions faster. Check what our customers say and contact us.

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