Microsoft retools low-code push of ‘untapped superpower’ with powerful pages – Visual Studio Magazine


Microsoft Retools ‘Untapped Superpower’ Push Low-Code with Power Pages

Microsoft is ramping up its low-code push led by its Power Platform, which has just been revamped with a new offering called Power Pages for building simple, data-driven websites.

With the addition of Power Pages, the Power Platform now consists of five main components, the others being: Power BI (Business Intelligence), Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents.

Power Pages, formerly called Power Apps Portals, has just been spun off from the Power Apps component to become a new independent tool, now in a preview announced at the big Microsoft Build 2022 developer conference held last week.

Welcome to the Power Pages
[Click on image for larger view.] Welcome to the Power Pages

It’s Microsoft’s latest move to continue its push into the rapid low-code/no-code app development market, which has boomed in recent years in the face of increased demand for enterprise apps worldwide. amid a dearth of experienced professional coding talent capable of harnessing the greater power of more advanced tools like Visual Studio.

The company cited its own Low-Code Trend Report 2022 to tout the benefits of low-code. “Research has shown that low code/no code is an untapped superpower, with many business decision makers recognizing that it solves many of their key challenges,” Microsoft said. “For decision-makers and users, the use of low-code/no-code platforms has driven efficiency, accessibility, and innovation for customer and employee app experiences.”

Specifically, the report found that:

  • Using no-code or low-code platforms or applications has been shown to have an 83% positive impact on job satisfaction and user workload, and an 80% positive impact on user morale.
    Positive Impacts of Low Code
    [Click on image for larger view.] Positive Impacts of Low Code (source: Microsoft).
  • 82% of users using little or no code agree that technology allows software users to improve their development knowledge and technical skills.
  • Over 80% of users and potential users of low-code or no-code platforms say they would be more willing to work for a company that invests in their technical upskilling.
  • 71% of potential users doubt their future with a company that does not invest in their technical skills.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 business users and more than 7 in 10 personal users agree that low-code/no-code skills have made them more marketable to potential employers.
  • Efficiency and ease of use have been the main drivers for the adoption of low-code/no-code platforms or applications by all audiences. Nearly 90% of users felt that low code had a positive impact on their productivity, and 83% of users felt that low code allowed them to do something on their own that would normally require a team of developers.

“Low-code or no-code platforms like Microsoft Power Platform are transforming application and software development by attracting new users with a low barrier to entry and a shallow learning curve,” said Microsoft. “With features like pre-built templates, drag-and-drop simplicity, and rapid deployment, Microsoft Power Platform helps users of all specialties (IT teams, business analysts, citizen developers, and more) feel inspired, excited and innovative as they learn.”

The company said the new Power Pages component supports building enterprise-grade professional solutions at scale, with target capabilities such as:

  • Community services: Reach and serve millions of citizens at scale, providing community services such as self-service permitting, licensing, incident and outage reporting, and grant application.
  • Frequently Asked Questions : Provide answers to common questions about products, services, special events, policies and procedures.
  • Customer self-service: Provide all-day customer self-services such as warranty registration, returns, support requests, appointments and reservations.
  • Partner support: Streamline business processes with partners, such as supplier onboarding, sustainability tracking, request management, and supplier support.

“For years, Power Apps portals have provided users with an end-to-end experience to build external portals quickly and confidently, and customize them with pages, layouts, and content,” Microsoft said. “As a new standalone product, Power Pages offers anyone, regardless of their technical background, an efficient platform for building modern and secure data-driven websites. In addition to being low-code, Power Pages extends far beyond legacy portals to enable organizations of all sizes to securely build websites with exciting new aesthetic features and advanced customization capabilities with extensibility for professional developers.”

Running in the Microsoft Azure cloud, Power Pages uses a wizard-driven, template-driven workflow to build websites with varying levels of complexity, including a design studio, template hub, and build hub. learning, and connecting to the new Microsoft Dataverse for data. driven sites that are secured with critical features such as advanced encryption, role-based access controls (RBAC), and support for Microsoft Azure Front Door and other web application firewalls.

The full range of preview features include:

  • Design studio: This makes it easy to design, style, and publish modern business websites either from scratch or through ready-to-use templates.
  • Model Center: This provides comprehensive websites with demo data that allows users to manage application scheduling, registration, and submission.
  • Learning Center: This provides feature guides, tutorials, and videos to learn how to build sites, model business data, and use code components.
  • Pro-developer tools: This integrates with Visual Studio, GitHub, and Azure DevOps to help developers implement advanced business requirements.
  • Security and governance tools: This helps users secure their website content and data through role-based access controls and Azure.

Through the free trial, users are presented with several setup screens:

  • Indicate if you have never built a website, if you have built one or if you have built them professionally.
  • Choose a template to see the design details and features it includes. Choices include a default design template and business requirement templates, including

    • Schedule meetings with a financial institution
    • Registration for the after-school program
    • Building permit application portal
    • New Employee Onboarding Checklist
  • Add some basic details as Power Pages begins setting up a site: give the site a name; create a web address with the extension; create a test environment or select an existing environment and configure style sheets and more when opening Design Studio.

This leads the user through a five-step workflow to create a website:

  1. Welcome to the creative studio! This is where you can view and edit your pages. Play with page structure, edit text, add components and more with our simple drag-and-drop page builder and intuitive sitemap.
  2. Edit or add new sections easily: choose the section to display the editing toolbar or choose Add to create a new section. Your existing content will automatically change when the new section is added.
  3. Choose the perfect style.
  4. Power your site with data.
  5. Preview your site on your PC or mobile device

A quick and dirty demo results in this site, pictured here:

Hello Power Pages
[Click on image for larger view.] Hello Power Pages

The above workflow is specifically detailed in a building presentation on building websites with power pages, with an accompanying transcript.

For advanced functionality, Power Pages integrates with Visual Studio Code, GitHub, and Azure DevOps, which combined can help developers automate their development workflow while leveraging continuous integration and deployment practices ( CI/CD).

Time will tell how successful Power Pages will be, but the Power Apps component has already gained some positive traction. For example, last year, research firm Forrester named Microsoft a “leader” in a study of low-code development platforms for professional developers.

Low-Code Development Platforms for Professional Developers, Q2 2021
[Click on image for larger view.] Low-Code Development Platforms for Professional Developers, Q2 2021 (source: Forrester/Microsoft).

“Pervasive in enterprises, Microsoft’s Power Apps is quickly becoming a standardized low-code platform of choice,” the Forrester report said. “The software giant’s aligned technology strategy – from Azure to Office, with Power Apps as the low-code lingua franca at the center – is powerful and unique.”

In addition to introducing Power Pages during the build, Microsoft also announced many other new low-code features, including:

  • Power Apps express design: Instantly transform images, documents, Figma design files, and PowerPoint presentations into apps with cutting-edge cognitive AI capabilities using express design in Microsoft Power Apps. Go here for more.
  • Power Virtual Agents and Azure Bot Framework, now a unified canvas: Build sophisticated conversational AI bots in the new smart bot builder experience. Go here for more.
  • Autoscale with hosted Robotic Process Automation (RPA) bots: for faster and easier scaling with Microsoft Power Automate. Go here for more.
  • Data marts in Power BI enable data self-sufficiency: with a frictionless data integration experience. Go here for more.
  • Power Automate pay-as-you-go plan and built-in SDK updates: for customers and independent software vendors (ISVs) a flexible way to integrate Power Automate into third-party applications and only pay for what they use. Go here for more.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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