Building Low-Code Applications with Mendix

By Bryan Kenneweg , Imran Kasam , Micah McMullen
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  1. Chapter 1: Introducing Mendix

About this book

Low-code is a visual approach to application development. It enables developers of varying experience levels to create web and mobile apps using drag-and-drop components and model-driven logic through a graphic user interface. Mendix is among the fastest-growing platforms that enable low-code enthusiasts to put their software ideas into practice without having to write much code, and Building Low-Code Applications with Mendix will help you get up and running with the process using examples and practice projects.

The book starts with an introduction to Mendix, along with the reasons for using this platform and its tools for creating your first app. As you progress, you’ll explore Mendix Studio Pro, the visual environment that will help you learn Mendix app creation. Once you have your working app ready, you’ll understand how to enhance it with custom business logic and rules. Next, you’ll find out how to defend your app against bad data, troubleshoot and debug it, and finally, connect it with real-world business platforms. You’ll build practical skills as the book is filled with examples, real-world scenarios, and explanations of the tools needed to help you build low-code apps successfully.

By the end of this book, you’ll have understood the concept of low-code development, learned how to use Mendix effectively, and developed a working app.

Publication date:
February 2021
Publisher
Packt
Pages
332
ISBN
9781800201422

 

Chapter 1: Introducing Mendix

First off, hello, welcome, and thank you for taking the first step and joining us on this journey. This book has been co-written by current Mendix developers with over 20 years of experience. Low-code is an exciting and fresh field, and we are thrilled that you are taking the first step on your path of low-code, as well as Mendix.

This is what you should expect from this book:

  • Learn what low-code is
  • Learn what Mendix is
  • Use Mendix features, including its Studio and Studio Pro platforms
  • Create your own baseline app
  • Gain knowledge of domain model basics
  • Work with microflow basics
  • Learn effective troubleshooting
  • Become proficient at error handling
  • Create REST APIs
  • Use advanced microflows
  • Learn what you need, as well as how to prepare for the Mendix Rapid Application Developer Certification exam

We will take you from point A all the way to Z, and by the end, you will have a strong understanding of what low-code is, what Mendix is, as well as low-code application development skills and experience. You will have created a functional application, and have all the skills needed to pursue the first level of certification through Mendix.

In this introductory chapter, we'll learn about how Mendix came into existence, and learn why so many companies have made the decision to implement low-code in their business. By the end of this chapter, you'll have learned why low-code is so different from traditional programming and will be prepared to start using Mendix yourself.

This chapter will cover the following topics:

  • What is low-code?
  • What is Mendix?
 

What is low-code?

The term "low-code" or "no-code" did not really exist until a couple of years ago, but the concept is hardly a new one. For a while now, in enterprises as well as in small businesses, there has been the concept of a "power user" or a well-known "citizen developer," or just business users (who usually have little to no traditional developer experience) who take it on themselves to improve processes and even go as far as building whole applications. To do so, they often explore technologies such as Visual Basic for Applications, Microsoft's now legacy, event-driven programming language. Low-code tools such as Mendix expand on that philosophy, from the most tech-savvy of super developers to any average person who sees a business problem or process that a simple app could improve and solve and sets out to build it themselves.

Let's touch base more on the visual aspect of low-code development. The use of visual modeling allows you to build apps more rapidly by reducing the need for traditional code. In addition, the use of the interface to assemble and configure applications enables developers of various degrees of experience to create web and mobile applications using drag-and-drop components as well as model-driven logic. This allows developers to skip all the infrastructure and re-implementation of patterns that can and usually slow them down. The following screenshot shows the difference between visual code and traditional code:

Figure 1.1 – Visual code versus traditional code

Figure 1.1 – Visual code versus traditional code

Now that we have a clear understanding of what low-code is, as well as how visual modeling plays into it, let's take a look at the platform piece that connects everything together. The growth of low- and no-code platforms has mushroomed exponentially due to a lack of skilled developers and the need to improve the turnaround time for projects so business process problems can be solved quickly. So, generally, a low-code platform is a visual development environment that allows developers, with any degree of experience, to drag and drop application components, connect them together, and create a mobile or web app.

With a platform like this, you don't need to code an application line by line. You get to draw it out, a lot like a flow chart. This makes developing powerful new applications extremely fast. Using this modular approach allows professional developers to quickly build applications by significantly reducing, or even relieving, the need to write traditional line-by-line code.

These platforms have also enabled anyone, from a business analyst (BA) all the way to business owners, to develop and test applications. This is because they have unlocked application development from having to know anything about traditional programming languages. All developers see is a user-friendly interface that allows components and third-party APIs to be hooked together and tested. You can see some examples in the following screenshot:

Figure 1.2 – Platform examples from left to right: Mendix, OutSystems, Appian

Figure 1.2 – Platform examples from left to right: Mendix, OutSystems, Appian

You now should be seeing why would you take the low-code route, and that these platforms are extremely powerful. According to Gartner:

"By 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity."

This is the reason why low-code and these platforms exist, and why there is always going to be the need to be able to rapidly develop low-code applications.

Now that we have established an understanding of what low-code is, let's learn what the Mendix platform is and how it relates to the use of low-code.

 

What is Mendix?

Now that you have learned what low-code is, as well as the different platforms there are, we will now go into more detail about the one we will be discussing in this book, Mendix. This is how the Mendix logo looks:

Figure 1.3 – Mendix logo

Figure 1.3 – Mendix logo

Mendix is a low-code platform, as well as being the leader in low-code development. It provides tools to build, test, and deploy applications.

A little background into Mendix's history: Founded in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 2005, Mendix has been building out the platform so that businesses can go live sooner and attain success faster. In addition, on October 1, 2018, Mendix was acquired by Siemens, the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe. This allowed integrations and improvements to happen in a short period of time. You can see the entire Mendix team in the following photo:

Figure 1.4 – Original Mendix team members, 2007

Figure 1.4 – Original Mendix team members, 2007

I mentioned that Mendix is the leader of low-code. Here are some key points as to why it is used by so many companies:

  • Cloud-native architecture
  • Collaborative visual development
  • Multi-channel user experiences
  • Scale without redesign
  • Able to deploy anywhere

This high-productivity platform allows the development of both mobile and web applications while keeping up the agile (like SCRUM) and DevOps best practices. Mendix even goes above and beyond, allowing business users to give direct feedback to the application, allowing important feedback to be directed to those developers who will be fixing or improving business processes.

While exploring the different low-code platforms and providers, there can be large, critical differences between collaboration and handling application life cycle management. The Gartner 2020 Magic Quadrant beautifully displays how Mendix is leading the way:

Figure 1.5 – Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Multiexperience Development Platforms

Figure 1.5 – Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Multiexperience Development Platforms

Mendix states (https://www.mendix.com/resources/gartner-2020-mq-for-multiexperience-development-platforms/):

"Mendix is the only Leader that supports all four mobile architectures, and the only one that supports the complete suite of mobile deployment options—web, PWA, hybrid, and native mobile apps—which enables our customers to leverage appropriate architecture to deliver the best mobile app for each use case".

You might also be wondering who even uses Mendix. To name a few, ConocoPhillips, Ingersoll Rand, Chubb, Canada Post, New Balance, as well as eXp Realty. These businesses saw the need to transition to a low-code environment, as well as seeing how Mendix would help them achieve their goals – goals to modernize, to engage at an unprecedented level, to innovate, as well as to automate when possible.

 

Summary

In this chapter, we went into to what to expect from the book. We also then dived into what low-code is, how it differs from traditional programming, as well as low-code platforms. We then explained what Mendix is, the low-code platform that we will be using and discussing further in this book. We gave some details on the history, as well as what makes Mendix different from the other low-code platforms.

In the next chapter, we will further explore Mendix, and the many features it provides. We will take you through account creation and your account overview. We will then go into the Mendix Forum, the place where many developers go to get help or ask questions. Lastly, we will look at the Mendix App Store, where many developers, as well as Mendix itself, share free apps and widgets.

 

Knowledge check

Test your understanding of the concepts that were discussed in this chapter. Answers will be provided at the end of the Knowledge check in the next chapter.

  1. The use of which of the following allows you to build apps more rapidly.

    a. Code

    b. Visual modeling

    c. Low-code

    d. A calculator

  2. True or false: with Mendix, you don't need to code an application line by line.

    a. True

    b. False

  3. Mendix was founded where?

    a. Austin, US

    b. Tokyo, JP

    c. Rotterdam, NL

    d. San Diego, US

  4. Which of the following is NOT a reason why Mendix is used.

    a. Cloud-native architecture

    b. Ability to deploy anywhere

    c. Scale with redesign

    d. Multi-channel user experiences

  5. What is Mendix?

    a. Mendix is a low-code platform.

    b. Mendix is a traditional coding language.

    c. Mendix is a code editor.

    d. Mendix is a type of fruit.

About the Authors

  • Bryan Kenneweg

    Bryan Kenneweg is a Mendix Advanced Certified software engineer at eXp Realty specializing in low code development. He has worked as a consultant at TimeSeries and freelance developer. Bryan enjoys finding solutions for organizations to be more successful.

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  • Imran Kasam

    Imran Kasam is a software architect at eXp Realty. He is a Medix Expert Certified Developer and Mendix Customer and Community MVP. Imran likes to help companies mature their Engineering teams and Software Delivery practices. In his spare time, Imran records and produce a podcast with his mentor called "The Architect and The Executive.“

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  • Micah McMullen

    Micah McMullen is a software engineer and team lead at eXp Realty. He is Mendix Advanced Certified and specializes in low code development, software integration, business analytics, and Jedi Mind tricks.

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