The Paradox of Citizen Development

Citizen development using no code tools

No-code platforms are on the rise, and they are enabling all manner of folks to accomplish all manner of tasks. I’ve seen everything from artistic types integrating their email to their social media all the way to technical types building an MVP SaaS product and growing a business around it. And none of them had a background in traditional development.

The fact is that within specific silo’s, there are really good tools to empower non-developers to create monumental results that just a few years ago would have required a developer. The phenomenon is commonly known as the “no-code” movement, and it is primarily driven by “citizen developers” who are actively involved in building these capabilities.

Yet, the average person, the citizen developer, is not building sophisticated, enterprise grade applications. This is the paradox of citizen development.

The tools are simple. The subject matter is not.

CitDev Quadrant Graphic

To build a complex enterprise grade application a deep understanding of data modeling and logic structures is essential. Those two concepts need to integrate seamlessly as both frequently rely on the other. This means that, no matter how easy the tool is to use, the subject matter is not so easily understood. Using variables, arrays of values, and incorporating those into a logic flow; these are things programmers are trained to do, but doesn’t come naturally to many of the rest of us.

Most tools disregard these needs.

Because there is little to no expectation that the average customer will be able to take on these more complex tasks, most citizen development tools don’t even bother to satisfy them. They ignore them entirely or they allow a programmer to write plugins if that capability is needed.

While these tools market themselves as “no code”, in fact the plugin approach is a “low code” approach. And of course citizen developers don’t write code. So again, the paradox.

But even tools like which offer true full stack development in a zero code environment only satisfy one half of the problem; the tool half. One can learn the CitizenDeveloper tool in literally minutes, it’s quite simple. But for nearly twenty years we have had to train our internal services team members, not programmers, on programmatic concepts like data modeling in order to help them be successful. Thus, leaving us back to training the citizen developer to be more like a developer. The paradox again.

While undoubtedly delivers impressive results, it’s important to acknowledge that even the most talented builders may encounter challenges when working on larger applications. This paradox is an inherent aspect of the development process that cannot be overlooked by the tool you choose to build with.

Help is on the way.

The issue, which we’ve seen this for two decades, is that individuals who are not trained developers need to learn certain development concepts and paradigms in order to build sophisticated, enterprise grade applications. Either the tool needed to be made easier, or the builder needed to be trained.

Can a tool be created that eliminates the need to understand complex concepts like data modeling and logical structures? After training citizen developers for nearly 20 years, and after 8 years of R&D on a conversational development tool, we at have found the answer. In fact, we filed the patent on it!

There really is a way to allow an untrained citizen developer to be powerfully productive building sophisticated enterprise grade applications. To give you a hint: it involves conversational development, AI / machine learning, and a very large database of use cases spanning 20 years of building enterprise applications for customers.

A paradox solution.

The no code platform journey has not been easy. It is essentially the creation of a next generation programming language that relies on an abstraction and patternization of most of the software structures that people will generally want to build. But, the evolution of this effort is a conversational development tool that will allow people to speak in terms of business use cases or agile user stories, and then to generate near-perfect application functionality as a result. It’s not just creating new functionality, but modifying existing functionality as well.

Be sure to visit and sign up for a platform account to get product updates and announcements as our conversational development tool works its way through testing and into your hands!

Tags: nocode, application development, citizen developer, tech tools, tech solutions

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