"Citizen developer" is quickly becoming a commonly heard phrase in the business world. Whereas in the past it took someone with years of education to build apps, new low- and no-code platforms like QuickBase are making app development possible for anyone with basic training.
QuickBase and platforms like it abstract the code away from the development process. Its interfaces are GUI driven and pieces simply snap together and code themselves, making it possible for almost anyone to develop an app. That's where the term citizen developer comes from: Anyone can do it.
Software like QuickBase has been around for a while, but increasing pressure on developers to deliver fast updates and new apps has made it more popular than ever, and QuickBase's latest State of Citizen Development report reveals just that.
Faster apps, both internally and externally
One of the biggest reasons citizen development is booming is that there simply aren't enough developers for all the work that needs to be done. Not only that, but no-code platforms are actually enabling faster development.
42 percent of respondents said that citizen developers are able to deliver apps two times faster than traditional programmers, and 53 percent say they're now able to get an app to market in less than two weeks.
SEE: Research: 71% already automating IT work, or plan to (Tech Pro Research)
Compared to the traditional programming route (67 percent say traditional apps take more than two months) that two-week wait is nothing.
There has also been a marked increase in the amount of no-code apps being developed for public use. Last year only 27 percent said they were building for the public, compared to 35 percent in the latest report.
Those figures mean citizen development is only going to keep growing. In fact, Gartner predicts that 60 percent of simple apps will be coded by non-programmers by 2020, giving professional developers more time to handle big projects.
Does speed equal quality?
While growth of this magnitude is exciting and may tempt more businesses to adopt low- or no-code platforms there's an important figure missing: Quality.
It's difficult to compare the capabilities and polish of a no-code app to a traditionally developed one, especially if the latter was never built. That doesn't mean quality isn't an important consideration, however.
It's evident by the growth of no-code development that citizen developers are doing a good job accomplishing their objectives, but it's important to be clear on what those objectives are. No-code apps aren't going to be full-featured, multi-purpose business operating platforms: they're going to fill a niche and make a particular task easier.
The report lists 26 common uses for no-code apps, and most are confined to some form of management: Asset, inventory, helpdesk, compliance, and facilities management are all listed as being some of the most popular. Again, these don't need to be pretty to work: they just need to work.
Businesses that need custom software to accomplish a particular task will likely find an answer in citizen development: An experienced employee can be trained to make the perfect piece of software without any coding experience, saving time and money.
Just don't expect to release the next world-changing software platform.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Citizen development is growing rapidly, and in four years it may be dominant in the development of simple apps.
- Respondents indicated that no-code development allowed them to go to market in less than two weeks, contrasted to two or more months for traditional programming methods.
- Citizen development is a great idea, but don't forget what it is: A method to build simple applications, not complex platforms. Don't fire your dev team just yet.
- Low Code, High Impact: How to Achieve 260% ROI With Low-Code Apps (TechRepublic)
- Low code development is coming: Welcome to the future (ZDNet)
- 'Citizen developers' are ready to fill the gaps in enterprise applications (TechRepublic)
- The advent of the citizen developer (ZDNet)
- Citizen Developers: Low Code Is Now Enterprise-Class (Forbes)
Brandon Vigliarolo has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.