Low-code and no-code tools can help users with no software development experience develop their own apps, and they have become increasingly popular in recent years. With so much information readily available on the public web, citizen developers can take advantage of free resources to effectively build apps through low-code tooling.

Before we discuss those resources, however, let’s understand the term "citizen developer."

What Is a Citizen Developer?

A citizen developer is a business user in a non-technical role who builds applications, either for internal use or for customers. These applications and solutions are usually accessible through channels that are sanctioned by the company's IT team, though this is not always the case. Citizen developers do not have a professional background or any training in coding, and neither do they have hands-on exposure to IT application development.

This trend may ostensibly appear to be a novel concept, but is not a new trend. Per a recent Gartner research report, 61% of organizations have a plan in place or will be planning to have active citizen development initiatives.

How Do You Know If You're a Citizen Developer?

Below is a quiz with a set of basic questions that you can take to ascertain whether you are a citizen developer. There may be three possible answers: Yes, Sometimes, and No. You should give 3 points to yourself for every "Yes," 2 points for every "Sometimes," and 1 point for a "No."

If your total score is somewhere between 12 and 15, then you are indeed a potential citizen developer with problem solving skills. If your score is between 8 and 11 points, then you are interested in citizen development, but you may need to put in extra work to reach the next level. If your score is between 5 and 7, then you are likely not a good fit for citizen development right now, although that can always change. The questions are listed below:

  • Do you frequently think of improving your current processes by adding new IT solutions and recognize the need for improved IT at your business?
  • Do you feel good after contemplating and coming up with innovative solutions to problems that you face at work?
  • Do you love learning new technologies yourself?
  • Have you worked (or can you work) on new projects all by yourself with limited external guidance?
  • Are you good at handling constructive criticism?

If the answers to all these questions is "Yes," then you are a potential citizen developer and you have everything you need to become one. You can identify pain points in a business and think of creative solutions that apply your current skills.

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How is Citizen Development Useful to Organizations?

Citizen development helps organizations increase their speed to market and adds agility to their day-to-day operations. When IT is distributed responsibly among technical and non-technical users, existing operations and projects can be modified in response to rapidly evolving workflow requirements that involve data and quick decision making.

Citizen development is also known to save money, as cross-functional users can now build apps – thus, saving the entire organization expensive IT and development hours. Citizen developers also assist the company by coding various task-level automation programs to replace day-to-day activities. There are even specialized Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Citizen Developers who work with product teams to quickly deliver automation processes.

A Cognizant report further substantiated this trend where RPA-focused citizen development is helping businesses to automate certain tasks, specifically those related to the citizen developer's role. In a nutshell, citizen development enables teams to respond to changes quickly and in an efficient manner.

Citizen development can be valuable irrespective of the industry vertical that the organization is operating in. Citizen development also finding a home in businesses of all sizes. Everyone from entry-level employees to sales and marketing professionals, and even executives at the CXO-level, can take advantage of citizen development to create basic applications without much technical know-how. Over the long run, their dependency on product managers and software developers will decline.

Free Educational Resources to Understand App Development Basics

There are many free resources on the web that a citizen developer can access to learn about the basics of application development.

Our Guide to Low-Code Platforms

Every low-code tool requires you to understand what you're building on at least a basic level, but some tools also require more advanced knowledge of app development basics. If you have a semi-technical skill set but aren't sure which platforms are a good fit for your current coding knowledge, this guide has you covered.

Nocode Essentials

Nocode Essentials is a collection of resources that cover different no-code and low-code tools and techniques. If you're browsing citizen development tools or wondering where to start for a citizen development project, this is a great place to begin your research.

Our Simple Guide to Native, Hybrid, and Web Apps

If you're not sure precisely what sort of app you are hoping to build, we've prepared an easily digestible guide to the three most common app types: native, hybrid, and web. These distinctions are most critical for determining how users will access your app. Will they use their phone or their desktop to open it? Will it be accessible from the browser or the home screen? How do you want it to perform on different devices? Read the article to learn more.

"What is a database in under 4 minutes" by Linux Academy

Anyone who has ever used an app understands the basic structure of an app's frontend: it has different screens that display text, images, colors, buttons, and so on. However, citizen developers with less technical experience may feel overwhelmed when it comes to assembling the data that powers the app behind the scenes. This quick overview from Linux Academy will help to orient you when it comes to data storage and retrieval for more serious business applications.

Web Architecture 101 by Jonathan Fulton

For citizen developers who are hoping to deploy apps in a critical business context, it can be useful to at least have a passing familiarity with the basics of web app architecture. Nearly every no-code tool will abstract out these decisions for you, but your app may function incorrectly if it doesn't take into account the IT infrastructure in which it's deployed (especially at the enterprise level). This handy overview of standard web architectures is a good starting point for a conversation with IT.

Free Mobile Development Online Courses

Wait, you might be thinking, isn't the whole point of citizen development that you don't need to know how to code?

Well, sure. But knowing how to code can't hurt. And there's a wide range of free, high-quality online courses that can teach you the basics of coding in nearly any environment. Most low-code tools provide you with the option to insert custom code, and that's often a faster and more productive way to use them.

Class Central is a website that aggregates and ranks free online courses for nearly any subject, including nearly any type of programming work. If you have the time and the inclination, you might consider browsing their site for a course that is relevant to the app that you're building.

Build an App Yourself with Crowdbotics

For citizen developers, there's no better way to learn than by doing. The Crowdbotics App Builder enables anyone to build real, full-stack React Native and Django applications with built-in scaffolding, deployment, hosting, and maintenance. If you're curious about how how to build a business application without coding, then the Crowdbotics App Builder is a great place to start.

If you'd like to move faster when building with Crowdbotics, check out our step-by-step instructions on building a custom mobile React Native app. If you find that you are stuck, check out our knowledge base.

Professional Development Is Still Valuable

Citizen development opens up exciting new horizons for innovation, but don't discredit conventional development by expert engineers. If you are hoping to create a business application for a highly regulated or complex use case, then most low-code tools will not be sufficient.

In those cases, you can still build quickly with managed app development from Crowdbotics. Our expert engineers are experience across a wide range of verticals, including healthcare, technology, and defense. Get in touch with us for an estimate on a custom app build today.