Multiexperience Development Platforms: Are They the Same as Low-Code Tools?
March 01, 2023

Jason Beres

Software development in 2023 picks up from where it left off in 2022, addressing priorities like scalability, hyper-automation, digital transformation, and sustainable technology. To keep up with the rapid pace of delivering of these priorities, the trend in enterprises both large and small is the accelerating adoption of multiexperience development (MXDPs) and low-code application platforms (LCAP).

What is the difference between an MXDP and LCAP?

This article will look at both multiexperience development platforms and low-code tools, examining their purpose, focus, target users, and use cases so you can better understand what types of problems they solve, to what extent they change the software landscape, and how they contribute to the entire product development life cycle.

The Market in a Nutshell

Undoubtedly, more and more businesses and IT companies are adopting process automation solutions that not only help them speed up product development life cycles and achieve faster time to market, but revamp internal processes in a cost and time-efficient way. Market analysts forecast even higher rates of low code implementation in the next two to five years.

In the Market Guide for Multiexperience Development Platformsreport, Gartner highlights that "by 2025, the MXDP market will reach $4.7 billion, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.5% for the period 2020 through 2025, while the LCAP market will reach $14.4 billion, with a CAGR of 26.4%."

Reasons for this massive spike include:

■ Post-pandemic shifts in design and development workflows, requiring remote working practices.

■ The need to handle the demands from business units faster, where the demand for solutions currently exceeds the supply.

■ Shortfall of developers that is expected to reach about 4 million by 2025.

■ Managing democratization of programming and inviting more citizen developers.

■ End-users who grow to be extremely digitally savvy, requesting better digital and online experience across different touchpoints - mobile apps, chatbots, virtual reality, wearable tech.

■ The use of multiple tools, tech stacks, and the time-consuming and costly investment in training on systems and how to use them for the purpose of a given project or specific business needs.

■ Global recession and inflation creating uncertainty in every business, causing workforce reduction.

Multiexperience Development Platforms vs Low-Code Development Platforms

In essence, a multiexperience development platform is a set of front-end development tools and "backend for frontend" (BFF) capabilities that allows developers to craft devices, apps, and digital journeys across several touchpoints. MXDPs support a combination of interaction modalities like touch, voice and gesture that have a foundational role when building things like wearables, AI projects, wearables, conversational UI, music recommendation apps, and so forth.

Low-code app development platforms help digital product teams create apps with visual modeling tools and simple drag and drop UI builders. The best part is that there’s little to no up-front coding involved to start building and then deploy a production-ready application. The low-code approach to software development eliminates the need for heavy hand-coding in areas like screen design, UX flows, theming, branding, data binding, deployment, and even GitHub integration.

Using them, teams can all but eliminate the need for manual HTML & CSS tweaking which, according to Gartner, can take up to 60% of the application development time.

MXDP and low-code tools may seem to be one and the same thing, however, they differ in terms of the problems they solve, the purpose they have in a team/company, and the outcomes they deliver.

Multiexperience Development Platforms — Purpose, Focus and Use

Consider the brands you use and hear about on a daily basis. Their physical devices (wearables, apps, mobile devices, etc.) deliver digital experiences that contribute to how we perceive the brand itself. Multiexperience development platforms aim at strengthening, solidifying, and enhancing the perception and the interaction.

Purpose: Deliver the necessary set of front-end and back-end tools and services to developers that enable the development and delivery of consistent experiences for end-users across different devices, form-factors and digital mediums.

Main focus: Building applications for end-users with a cohesive digital UX and better interaction modalities across creating multiple device targets for new digital touchpoints and platforms.

Who uses MXDPs: Experienced developers who want to use code-centric tools to build different types of responsive apps in support of user journeys across apps, devices, and interfaces, interacting with different modalities like voice, touch, gestures.

Types of apps built with MXDPs: Mobile apps, progressive web apps, voice assistants, chatbots, immersive apps, wearable tech, AI/VR devices, and more.

Low-Code Development Platforms — Purpose, Focus and Use

Over the last several years, low-code tools have evolved tremendously. Low-code tools have matured to the point of general acceptance by IT departments in the enterprise. For the most part, we are past the days of tools that produced impossible to maintain, test or debug spaghetti code. Today, we see advanced low-code platforms that streamline the entire design-to-code app development life cycle.

The most comprehensive examples of such technologies are feature packed. They include design system integration that helps developers take a complete design file and convert it to code, a toolbox with real UI components, all sorts of view layouts, navigation/structure between the views, and more. On top of this, everything is drag and drop, delivering seamless WYSIWYG development experience.

Typically, a low-code tool:

■ Works as a time-saver that produces code to kickstart your app with the same, or better quality as the code you would write yourself.

■ Supports interoperability, data integration and data exchange standards.

■ Allows you to start your app from scratch, from ready-to-use project templates, or from already finished design files.

■ Serves as a single source of truth that facilitates collaboration between developers, designers, PMs, and stakeholders that can come in at any stage of the app development cycle.

■ Consumes the common application model through the parsers (the meta data provided from the UI kits) and produces it through its design surface.

■ Receives continuous enhancements and features.

Purpose: The main purpose of these tools is to speed up all processes from design to code, eliminating heavy and error-prone hand coding. By delivering WYSIWYG app development experience through reusable drag & drop components, low-code platforms also enable citizen developers to participate in less complex tasks, while IT engineers and more experienced programmers can focus on business logic and strategic efforts.

Main focus: Component parity, reusability, drag & drop functionality, code generation and preview, streamlining workflows, eliminating designer-developer handoffs, converting design files to code, supporting citizen development, facilitating collaboration.

Who uses Low-Code Tools: A comprehensive low-code development platform allows citizen developers, designers, professional developers, and non-technical stakeholders to participate in the digital product design process. Gartner calls this a "Digital Product Design Platform," which encompasses the capabilities needed to design and deliver successful software, including a low-code design-to-code solution.

Types of apps built with Low-Code Tools: Any application that requires a beautiful UX, data display & data entry, navigation flows and logic, that typically runs in the browser. Examples include travel apps, e-commerce apps, booking systems, HR dashboards, task managers, team collaboration apps, remote monitoring healthcare apps, hospital management systems, electronic health records and patient registering, analytics platforms, and more.

MXDPs and Low-Code Platforms Serve Different Purposes

While there are still major concerns in the C-suite of every enterprise, like inflation, global recession and post-pandemic effects on workflow and work environments, 2023 brings exciting innovations in tooling that will help IT deliver on major backlog items like scalability, hyper-automation, digital transformation, and sustainable technology.

While MXDPs and low-code platforms operate in the same field, they serve different purposes. Multiexperience development platforms deliver a set of front-end and back-end tools for building consistent multiplatform experiences through voice, gesture, and touch. Low-code tools accelerate all processes from design to code and eliminate heavy and error-prone hand coding by providing reusable out-of-the-box UI components, design system integration, code generation capabilities, and more.

Researchers and market analysts predict that in the next two to five years both the MXDP market and the low-code market will see massive compounded annual growth rates, which answers the critical question — it is not "if" you will adopt, but "when" you will adopt these tools and platforms to accelerate the delivery of your digital transformation projects.

Jason Beres is SVP of Developer Tools at Infragistics, and creator of Indigo.Design
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