Ionic vs. Mendix: Choosing the Best App Development Platform

Despite all the buzz around no-code and low code development platforms like Mendix, Ionic still provides the best cross platform mobile development solutions for enterprises.

Jarrod Drysdale, freelance writer
Jarrod Drysdale
Guest Writer
Ionic vs. Mendix: Choosing the Best App Development Platform

As you modernize your app development stack, it’s natural to look into both no-code and low code tools as well as open-source driven frameworks. Ionic and Mendix are app development platforms that each represent a very different approach to cross platform mobile development. Which approach will sustain your organization for the long-term?

No code and low code development platforms like Mendix replace existing app development workflows, while Ionic optimizes industry-standard coding workflows. Both options claim to improve productivity and ROI.

Below you’ll see that despite all the buzz around no-code and low code development platforms, Ionic still provides the best cross platform mobile development solutions for enterprises.

Why Open Source & Web Standards Accelerate Mobile App Development

For years, mobile app development required separate development silos and codebases due to iOS, Android, and the web running on entirely different technologies. Now, new techniques make it possible to use a single codebase to drive all of these channels. Both Ionic and Mendix offer this capability.

Progressive Web Applications and cross platform mobile apps run from a single codebase composed of open source libraries and languages with standardized specifications. These undergo the rigors of heavy, widespread usage and decades of refinement. Think of all the advances we’ve made in the past 15 years as web standards transformed how we use just CSS alone. Those advances continue to stack up.

Ionic embraces that same open source spirit by opening up the entire Ionic framework under an MIT license. Ionic's framework is open source in the purest sense: there is complete transparency, a variety of interests can contribute and influence the framework’s direction, and you are free to modify, adapt, and implement as you see fit.

No code and low code development tools are not open source or standards based. They are proprietary platforms that essentially add a visual, drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) layer on top of coding tools, with the idea being it’s faster to build on a low code development platform than through writing code.

However, by adopting no code and low code tools, you’re playing in someone else’s playground. You no longer benefit from an open source environment where a massive pool of diverse interests are continuously optimizing and a formal specification that is defined and carefully maintained by neutral parties, but instead a single entity making all the decisions. Your success as an organization relies on the no-code provider’s success, because without their software, your apps don’t work. 

That’s not even mentioning the fact that by using no code and low code development platforms, you are always a step behind the latest technology. You’re forced to wait for the low code platform to add new technologies and features instead of just accessing them directly. Your software and company will always be behind the cutting edge. 

Ionic has a clear advantage here over Mendix. A vast majority of applications in the marketplace today are built on open technologies like Ionic, and very few professional app developers choose to build enterprise grade applications on closed platforms like Mendix. Building a quick landing page or marketing site with a no code or low code development platform is one thing, but building an entire product lineup on someone else’s proprietary tools is a risk. 

It’s the same reason that years ago, organizations began phasing out Adobe Flash. No one company should be able to decide how the tech industry at large builds software. Choosing Ionic as your mobile app development platform because of its open source ethic will ensure your enterprise can thrive and grow long-term without having the rug pulled out from under you.

Should your new app development platform fit your existing workflows?

Your design and development teams are highly trained and adept in industry-standard web app development languages and libraries. Which, using a tool like Ionic, allows them to build mobile apps quickly and easily. No code and low code solutions like Mendix propose to replace all those standardized tools with an easy software workflow. They claim to achieve a faster time to market which outweighs all the downsides of no code, but is rebuilding your workflows really cost effective? Here are a few factors to consider.

Retraining your team. Your team already knows JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and other standard development tools. If you choose Mendix no code or low code tools, your team will need new training in the Mendix Studio software. However this is not the same as the training you might be accustomed to, for example, when your team might have learned a new API or coding framework. This Mendix training requires a total paradigm shift in the way your team is used to working and must quickly make up for decades of experience that no longer matter.

Restructuring your methodology. Lean and Agile development methodologies are built on the premise of writing code. But if you’re not writing code anymore, those approaches may no longer make sense. Choosing Mendix or other no code and low code development platforms will require rebuilding your practices from the ground up. How do designers and developers collaborate? How do you pair-program? How do pull requests and version control even work? What kind of credentials do you seek when filling no code roles? You have to learn how to build apps all over again and possibly restructure your teams, which will set your organization back in a serious way.

Maintaining no code and low code apps. The work up until launch day is only a fraction of the total work required to develop applications, and while maintenance is no one's favorite topic, every tech company must do it. Low code apps may certainly be easy to launch. However, because you don’t always have deep access to or control over the entire tech stack, even simple maintenance tasks can suddenly become more challenging. Mendix and other no code and low code development platforms providers tout faster and easier development, but maintenance costs will quickly outpace those early gains.

Can design-led companies use no code and low code?

You already know that design offers a competitive advantage for any enterprise. No code and low code tools will certainly affect that advantage. Mobile apps live and die by design. Regardless of your industry, if you have a presence in mobile platforms—and as an enterprise how can you not—losing the competitive advantage of great product design is a major issue.

Think, for example: would Slack or Intercom be the dynamic businesses they are today if they used no code or low code tools like Mendix?

The answer is obvious; of course not. We’d never have seen the innovative UIs of Slack’s magenta sidebar or Intercom’s friendly chat widget created in a no code tool.

By using no-code and low code tools, your designers are extremely restricted. There is less room for your product designers to work their magic, and many innovative interfaces are likely impossible. By adopting no-code and low code tools, you are often accepting a limited set of UI components and puzzle-piece functionality. Sure, you can launch an app faster, but it’s entirely possible your app will end up looking and feeling like cookie-cutter software.

While Mendix’s no code and low code software restricts your product design capabilities, Ionic’s app development framework provides over 100 pre-built UI components and plugins to speed up development while integrating your own innovative and entirely custom design systems and UI libraries.

Taming the Wild West of Open Source

Building a mission-critical app using open source technology can feel like the wild west. It can at first glance seem like a lawless, rapidly changing, and complex environment. For example, even a simple app built with a popular library could have hundreds or even thousands of dependencies (have you run `npm ls` lately?), and you might not even view the source code of a single one of them.

Low code vendors remove that concern by providing a closed environment and a support team to back you up. However, with the closed environment, as you’ve learned, you lose out on so many of the positive aspects of open source and standards-based technology.

Ionic provides that high quality support and platform to back you up, making the wild west of the open source world much more manageable, stable, and predictable. You get both upsides: the freedom and power of open source and standards-based technology, along with professional assurances, premium solutions, and expert support so you can rest easy while accelerating development.

Sacrificing Developer Happiness Does Not Earn Efficiency

The open source movement and the ensuing success of so many popular coding libraries came about partly because of one important idea: happy developers are productive developers. 

Developer happiness is the lifeblood of tech.

Ionic helps your dev team become more productive by enhancing their favorite workflows and tools. Ionic will fit right into your workflow and it’s plain for all to see that developers love building with Ionic.

Now, consider how your team will react if you rip Visual Studio out of their hands and replace it with what they may view as a basic WYSIWYG tool. I’m sure you’ve heard of the French Revolution.

Joking aside, there is a reason why coding schools are still proliferating and learning to code has become such a widespread ambition for so many people from so many diverse backgrounds: coding is a superpower.

Better coding tools like Ionic empower skilled coders to make even better software. The no code and low code premise is to take all that away for the sake of a few small speed gains (while introducing other problems, as you’ve learned).

In a time when anyone can learn to code, when that skill might just have become the great equalizer, and when it is better than ever to be a person who writes code precisely because we have amazing tools like the Ionic app development platform, proposing to abandon all of that for another Adobe Flash or Microsoft Front Page facsimile in new clothes doesn’t seem like progress.

When it comes time to decide between Ionic vs. Mendix, the choice is clear. If you are design-led, care about developer happiness, believe in the open source ideal, and need to create enterprise-grade applications, Ionic is the best app development platform for you. Our Ionic App Strategists are ready to help you get started.

About Ionic

Ionic is the leading cross-platform developer solution with 5 million developers worldwide. It powers 15% of apps in the app store, not including thousands of apps built internally at enterprises for every line-of-business need. Ionic is unique in that it takes a web-first approach, leveraging HTML, CSS, and Javascript to build high-quality iOS, Android, desktop, and Progressive Web Apps.

Ionic is a leader in enterprise app development. Thousands of enterprise customers use Ionic to build mission-critical apps for their customers, both external and internal.

You’re in good company. Ionic powers millions of apps at some of the smartest companies in the world.

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