For almost two decades now, an interesting cycle has taken place within the software development arena: as any given software category becomes popular, a new visually driven platform will emerge as a base to let the masses (i.e. non-technical audiences) create their own product without having to do the code work.
Take web development for instance. Just short of a decade ago, creating a website was only possible by coding HTML from scratch, line by line. As the popularity of websites spiked, this created a lot of jobs for developers, and many small development companies were founded to serve the need. Fast-forward a few years, and WordPress emerges as a visual platform that anyone can use to create custom websites in minutes. This drove development shops to move up in the value chain, allowing them to devote more time to the non-technical aspects of web presence.
Shopify did the same for e-commerce, making the manual development of online stores obsolete for the majority of companies. Also more technical areas of software, such as cloud service integration, have been made both accessible and interesting to the mass market with help of companies like IFTTT and Zapier.
...when a software category grows fast enough ... visual tools will always emerge to help develop the most common use cases.
So it’s clear that when a software category grows fast enough, and the supporting technologies reach maturity, visual tools will always emerge to help develop the most common use cases. This makes custom development of basic use cases with complex development tools obsolete.
Now the same is about to happen to mobile app development, and it shouldn’t be a surprise. Why would this be any different? As the needs for custom app development continue to rise, it’s only a matter of time before a visual platform will emerge to make development of apps easier and faster for broader audiences.
This is extremely important for app development firms to understand because, at the moment, enterprise apps are about to soar in terms of demand from businesses. Gartner has already pointed out that by the end of 2017, market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than an internal IT organizations’ capacity to deliver them. Additionally, according to Gartner, in 3 years time more than 50% of all B2E mobile apps will be created with visual tools.
Businesses are actively seeking ways to adopt mobile apps as part of their core operations, as these are clearly the key to streamlining data driven processes such as Sales, HR, finance and more. As the need for business apps continues to grow, there’s plenty of work for app development firms to do.
But this will hold true if development firms take up visual tools, as these decrease the development time for an individual app by an order of magnitude, and in turn give more space for the non-technical aspects of app development as well as lower barriers to collaboration with non-technical counterparts. Visual tools also allow for more resources to be spent on thoughtful design, conceptualization, user testing and iteration. In some cases, version 2 or 3 of the production software will be built with the resources that would have otherwise only been enough for the first MVP version.
...you either embrace visual tools and move up the value chain and win, or you miss out and lose.
As the development time for client projects decreases, so does the firm's total development cost for every app created. This means lower costs overall and hence a higher return on investment. This, in turn, can create a positive cycle in favor of development firms: if projects return the invested resources quicker, more money will flow into software development.
App development firms cannot ignore this change, as it will have huge implications in the economics of app development in the context of external resources. As a development firm you either embrace visual tools and move up the value chain and win, or you miss out and lose. Those who embrace the visual development tools early on, and learn to extend and customize them, will dominate the market share. And that’s a trend development firms want to be part of.