What it is: The citizen developer is a term describing someone developing programs for their own use but without formal training in programming.
The biggest problem with programming is that the people who know how to program don’t necessarily know what people need, and the people who know what they need don’t know how to program. Given this problem, programs are often created for the programmers themselves, but may be poorly designed for the actual users who must rely on it.
This obstacle can never be eliminated because the people who understand the problem don’t have the time to learn programming and the people who know programming can never have enough time to fully understand the problem. That’s the idea of a citizen developer.
A citizen developer is meant to be someone who understands the problem but doesn’t rely on traditional programming tools. Instead, they use much simpler but capable tools that allow them to turn their ideas into working programs quickly and easily. In the beginning, Apple helped create the idea of a citizen developer when they released HyperCard for the Macintosh. Then Microsoft took this idea further when they released Visual Basic for Windows.
Unfortunately, Apple eventually stopped development of HyperCard and Microsoft made Visual Basic so much like C# that it’s way more complicated than it should be. The end result is that citizen developers have to rely on other tools.
Citizen developers are important because professional programmers don’t have time to write all the programs needed in an organization and they don’t always know the needs of the actual users. That’s why citizen developers are crucial because they know what needs to be done. The biggest drawback is that they don’t know how to turn their ideas into reality.
If you’re a professional programmer, it’s time to specialize in a specific field and learn exactly what’s needed. If you’re a user, it’s time to learn simple programming tools to learn how to make your own programs. If you want the spirit of HyperCard, use LiveCode. If you want the spirit of Visual Basic, use Xojo. Both LiveCode and Xojo run on Windows, Linux, and OS X. LiveCode can also create Android and iOS apps while Xojo can only create iOS apps.
Yet both LiveCode and Xojo can still be too difficult for non-programmers to use, but they’re far easier to use than dedicated programming tools like Xcode using Swift and Objective-C or Visual Studio using C#.
The idea of a citizen developer is nice, but reality has a way of destroying fantasies. Despite this problem, the idea of a citizen developer is appealing so if you can develop your skills to meet these needs, you should find yourself much in demand wherever you go.