In the world of no-code development, we have witnessed a significant shift from monolithic to decoupled solutions. As businesses grow and adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape, the need for scalable, flexible, and efficient tools becomes increasingly important.
In this article, we'll discuss the differences between monolithic and decoupled no-code solutions, focusing on the frontend and backend decoupling, and explore the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
Monolithic no-code platforms, like Bubble or Betty Blocks, bundle all frontend and backend components (client-facing app, backend server and database) together in a single package. This all-in-one approach allows developers to build and learn quickly, as they only need to familiarize themselves with one tool. Additionally, there's no need to worry about connecting various components, as everything is integrated within the platform.
This is ideal to quickly snap together a minimum viable product, but lends to some limitations.
It's hard to use existing backends or databases.
If you’re a company with some legacy data, you might probably have an existing backend stack or a database with thousands or millions of records. And sadly, with monolithic no-code tools, you’ll need to re-export this data back to their internal backend, rather than plugin yours with it (it's true that you plug your data with API connectors, but the experience won't be as smooth as the data won't be considered as first-party).
This might cause issues as migrating data isn’t cheap nor easy, and also time-intensive. Data could be corrupted or lost in the process, which is always bad news.
You could also duplicate the data in the new no-code tool, but having to maintain 2 databases and keep them in sync is a hard job to do too, and will double your infrastructure costs.
Most monolithic tools are black boxes.
These no-code tools are all-in-one blackboxes making it easy for users new to no-code to build their first app. But, by abstracting (sometimes a bit too much) web standards, like SQL databases, REST API calls or HTML/CSS design, they make it hard to understand what’s actually happening under the hood.
This can be a strength if you’re starting afresh and don’t care about these, but for existing companies with technical teams, that can hinder their comprehension of the app when building, debugging, or integrating with their current tools.
It’ll be hard to scale your app.
Indeed, let’s say your app is having lots of traction (well done for that by the way 👏), and millions of users are now connected to it monthly. That’s where things start to get tricky.
Users complain that your app is sluggish, taking time to load or display data to their screen. On top of it, your monthly costs are skyrocketing, meaning your business viability is at stake.
Two solutions are available to you:
Both are doable, but will require either lots of time or money.
That’s the issue with monolithic no-code tools: it’s really hard to pinpoint the exact thing making your app slow, hence, making it hard to optimize and charging you more money than expected.
All of these problems are why we switched to the Web 2.0 in the 2000’s. Websites were becoming more and more interactive (known as web applications), so costs and complexity skyrocketed.
In the end, no-code tools are following the same trend by decoupling frontends and backends. Let’s see how they differ from monolithic tools.
Frontend tools, like WeWeb, focus on the user interface and experience. These tools deal with elements visible to the end user, such as webpages, mobile apps, and other interactive components. Frontend processes take place on the user's device.
Let’s take a real-world example: Twitter.
When you open Twitter, what you see on the main page (your profile, the latest tweets, the typing input when you write a tweet, how they’re designed and rendered, etc) is done on the frontend, entirely in your web browser or mobile device.
Frontend tools like WeWeb enable you to focus on this part, with a few advantages vs monolithic tools:
But, for complex frontend apps to work, you’ll need a backend server 99% of the time. Indeed, the data in a user’s browser won’t be saved for long, that’s why you need a backend with a database.
Backend tools, like Xano and Supabase, handle server-side processes that are invisible to the user. These processes often involve time-consuming, background tasks, such as recurring jobs and data manipulation. Backend tools also manage sensitive data and privacy concerns.
Most backend tools are comprised of a server and a database:
In the Twitter example, the backend might be responsible for authenticating the user, sending the user’s tweeter feed to its frontend, and saving the tweets he just wrote, like, retweeted for when the user later connects back to the web app.
The advantages of having a separate backend tool are numerous:
If we look at our no-code app example again, with a frontend made in WeWeb, we could connect it to a backend made in Xano, which we’ll use to authenticate users and store their data.
Both tools would communicate through a REST API, using JSON data which is read and parsed automatically by both WeWeb and Xano.
When using WeWeb and Xano, you can even use WeWeb’s Xano data source and auth plugins to automatically retrieve and save your data into your Xano instance, without having to do the REST API requests yourself!
Backend tools are really powerful to have a best-in-class scalability. Often, by upgrading your backend server or database, you’ll “magically” solve your problems for every user of your app, be it on a web or mobile app, as both can (and should) use the same backend!
In the end, using a frontend and backend no-code tool in combination, like a WeWeb + Xano stack, is a strong choice to build an app that will scale with your needs, while keeping your costs optimized.
Even if beginning with a monolithic no-code tool seems easier, and is sometimes (but not always!) cheaper in the beginning, this will often prove the opposite as soon as your app gets more traffic, which we all hope 🙌