Here's a prediction. If 2014 was the year of code, then 2015 will ultimately turn out to be the year of the citizen coder. At least it should be, but only if we embrace simplicity.
Let me explain. Self-taught and digitally native, the citizen coder is a symbol of 21st century success and a ready-made solution to a yawning skills gap. It's no surprise that politicians and businesses are fans of these non-professional developers. After the UK government's Year of Code, President Obama went out of his way to namecheck coding in his State of the Union address in January.
If there's an increasing global demand for coding skills, that's in part because there is an increasing demand for apps, especially those that bridge the gap, and provide an interface, between customers and brands.
As consumers used to social media, we are demanding a new way of interacting with organisations - one that is personalised and has more of a community feel. And apps fit the bill perfectly. Our growing attachment to the smartphone - 71% of us own one in the UK - is fuelling this adoption. According to Flurry, the Google Analytics of mobile, 86% of the time consumers spend online on these phones is spent inside apps. That's the equivalent of two hours and 19 minutes every day. And an increasing chunk of this time is with apps where we interact with brands - those that enhance the customer experience, if you like.
So the infrastructure is there, the demand is there and, it would seem, an army of amateur coders awaits.
A note of caution is required at this stage. Back in 2009 the analyst firm Gartner predicted that by 2014 at least 25 percent of new business applications would be built by what it called "citizen developers". Despite some positive signs, this optimistic forecast hasn't been met. Why not? I think it's down to too much complexity in the tools these coders have had available in recent years.
What the citizen coder needs to be effective and productive is a "drag and drop" solution, a library of template-esque, pre-built and reusable components that really simplify app creation. By providing a platform on which component parts can be assembled quickly and easily - and where tiresome but essential build work comes pre-loaded - the citizen coder can concentrate on creative execution. They can concentrate on delivering apps that answer a particular need, apps that themselves promise ease and simplicity of use to the user - apps that enhance the experience of consumers and business users alike.
There are plenty of precedents for this kind of platform approach. For example, low cost editing software has democratised the production of broadcast quality video and audio, while GarageBand has done much the same thing for the production of music. And just as the graphical user interface popularised by Apple and then Microsoft made the computer truly personal, I strongly believe the platform of today will make code citizen-friendly.
So let's hail the march of the citizen coder. And give them a helping hand along the way.Suggest a correction