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Will "Codeless" apps take away Developer jobs?

06 Jan 2015

So with the rise of DIY software platforms for the coding averse, does this mean that this is the future mobile app developers can expect to see? While there are lots of use cases for "point and click" apps, there is no reason to despair for developers who have been working for awhile or just getting started. I want to suggest use cases that allow for both options to co-exist in peace.

What does "codeless" mean?

There are a couple options when it comes to "codeless" apps. One is a way to actually make the app from scratch with point and click, like Squarespace for mobile apps. An example is GO!Enterprise that lets developers drag and drop elements to create the app without writing any code.

The other option is a company like Snappii that has already made a bunch of mobile apps for general purposes and lets you download and fill in the customizable pieces for your needs. An example is a Salesforce CRM app that allows you to customize it according to your specific account or an inventory app that lets you customize categories that fit to your needs.

So there are a few options when it comes to easily made apps. Reusing apps or making your own easily are both options that speed up the process if you fit into the use case.

What are some issues with "codeless" apps?

Isn't a codeless app always a good idea? It saves time and money, so why not always use it? The reason is because we are human. I know that sounds weird, but it will make sense in a minute.

When an app is created, it is created for a very specific purpose in a unique environment to meet a use case. When developers created the drag and drop interface, they might know a lot of the use cases and needs of app developers but have not thought about all of them. Often, there are limitations to drag and drop because not every need for every use case can be thought of by one person or even a team of people.

This means that when you have a need that the software doesn't include, you can't customize easily because you can't get to the code. Drag and drop isn't as flexible as a truly customizable platform that you get from working directly with code. This is when a good developer comes in handy and why experienced developers shouldn't worry about losing their jobs.

Software will never act exactly how you expect, but a good developer can help in the tough times when software makes life difficult.

"Codeless" apps would be a great idea if they also let you get into the code in case something goes wrong and you need to debug or customize beyond what the drag and drop interface allows.

What is good for business?

If you need something very basic, either as a stop-gap for a long-term solution or as an add-on to the custom solution, then "codeless" might be a viable option. It makes the time-to-market shorter and lets you focus on the big picture instead of only on creating an app. It saves time that shouldn't be spent on such a small portion of the overall goal. This is especially awesome if your other custom software has lots of issues and you would rather spend time fixing and improving that than building an app from scratch.

The only thing to be careful about is being able to integrate and use the app however you want it. If you didn't code it directly, you aren't aware of any limitations it has and might not have the power to extend those limitations to include what you want it to do. It's a better return on investment if you don't have to wrangle a piece of software to your will and can just customize as you need.

That's why we exist, to build custom solutions when an off-the-shelf is too much hassle.

What is the future for app developers?

While these "codeless" platforms have grown and gotten some attention, custom app activations grew over 731 percent in the past 12 months. Companies are developing their mobile strategy and not looking for a template to do it. This means experienced app developers are still needed and should not worry any time soon. There are a couple ways developers will still be quite handy and should not be counted out of the project or budget anytime soon.

  • Fixing problems - when a "codeless" apps goes bad and you have to get into the code to fix it, developers are the only ones qualified and you will be glad you have an in-house team or a subcontractor on hand when this happens.
  • Solving complex problems - give that custom apps have grown so much and are still growing, the use case that "codeless" apps fit is a small one because people are opting for custom solutions. Maybe this is because of a lack of knowledge about "codeless" or the problems being solved are too advanced for "codeless". Either way, developers are still necessary and can go further than a point-and-click solution.

Is this gain towards iOS or Android?

While the custom app market was largely from large corporations looking to build and grow a mobile strategy, the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 plus accounted for a decrease in market share from Android. Overall, custom apps are going to be growing and the need is ever increasing. That isn't to say that Android or Apple will win, but that the growing concern in security will definitely play a part in the side that companies take.

If you are looking to get a mobile app for your company for any purpose, definitely consider security and the standards of the platform you are using for development. You want a platform that has high standards for what it allows users to submit so the solution you get is approved and meets good guidelines. This protects your brand and your valuable data.

photo by victor hanacek