How low-code/no-code has given rise to the ‘Citizen Developer’


With the rapid expansion of digital technology the doors are wide open for the "citizen developer."

What's a citizen developer? A person who builds business development applications using low-code/no-code platforms that are programmer-friendly, powerful and flexible. They don't have to write a single line of code (well, almost).

The rise of the citizen developer is moving business ideas, once managed by IT departments, project leaders and other coders, towards faster solutions to business problems because applications can be delivered more quickly.

Citizen developers are impacting growth in the low-code/no-code arena

Innovation is unstoppable.

Those that want to be part of the booming application market, but don't have the coding capabilities or experience, can now build apps that are making a difference for SMBs and enterprises.

Using low-code/no-code platforms, the citizen developer can use drag-and-drop technology to create custom forms, configure workflows, build informative pages, and get an app up and running in days rather than weeks or months. Whether it's logistics or inventory management, the possibilities are endless.

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong (at some point)

So, what happens when something goes wrong?

In coding, a comma in the wrong place, an extra space between commands means a program can't execute. What happens when a low-code/no-code application doesn't work or worse, becomes mission critical?

Things can go off course, rapidly. The downside to a citizen developer, is they don't know what they don't know. They are not high-level developer experts. That’s why a back-up plan is always needed, because you cannot rely on the citizen developer to fix the problem. 

At Coactive, we believe the focus of a developer is to have a target or goal in mind for developing a feature or application. When any developer runs into a problem with an existing app, or “creates a problem” because they are trying something new, they can call us to fix the issue. We never outsource our development so all our knowledge is in-house. 

But let’s say you are fully reliant on the citizen developer – what do you do when a problem strikes? There are basically 4 options in front of you.

The Google Machine

The difference between an okay developer and a great developer, whether they are citizen or professional, is the ability to use Google. Look for someone else who has run into the same or a similar issue and has posted their solutions. This gives us ideas, configurations, even code to try. It’s the open source solution for everyone.


There is official documentation for everything. Even if you don't like reading manuals (not everyone does), you can still usually find official documentation online for troubleshooting.

Ask your guru

Most of us have that one person who just has a knack for creative solutions to problems. Whether your guru is local or remote, the most sustainable approach is to have them look at the issue instead of spending hours trying to fix it yourself (and often making the problem worse through lack of knowledge).  

Straight Troubleshooting or Debugging 

Like Coactive, all good development tools have debugging features.

This is the figure-it-out mode where a developer, citizen or professional, work the problem using the tools at hand.

This can be the initial approach when first presented with a problem. The goal here is to clearly understand the instructions and to replicate the issue repeatedly in order to troubleshoot and debug it. 

By following the rules of approved tools and platforms, citizen developers can build their own solutions faster while staying within the guidelines of IT policies.

"You can't rely on people to be secure in DevOps. You have to put some sort of sheriff in town, and the automation is the sheriff: it enforces the protection, it enforces the steps to be followed and it enforces the security scanning." (Source)

OK, they aren’t bullet-proof solutions, but citizen developers simply aren’t bullet proof either. 

Anything that can go right will go right.

Citizen developers are problem solvers and a creative force that should be leveraged by organizations. 

For SMBs, the citizen developer is like the new superhero on the block.

They can take an idea for an app that will improve one (or several) business functions, use a platform like Coactive, and within the week have a working solution...problem solved.

65% of citizen developers build "get work done" apps

The low-code/no-code platforms and tools are time-savers. It's excellent when business users, like citizen developers, build stand-alone and non-mission-critical applications. 

42% of citizen developers build "run the business" apps

According to the 2016 State of the Citizen Developer Report by Intuit

Customer-facing web and mobile applications are the fastest growing applications being built on citizen development platforms, rising to 35% of application builders from 27% since last year. Citizen development reduces unfulfilled request backlogs by 65%. Further, it results in faster time to market by enabling applications to be built in less than 2 weeks for 53% of organizations. (Intuit)

Start-ups and young companies can save time and costs by adopting a citizen developer approach, underpinned by low-code/no-code platforms, instead of expensive IT development costs at the start of their growth. They can invest in these later in their life-cycle when more financial resources are at hand.

Citizen developers aren't here to replace the developers or IT teams, after all, they wouldn't be able to do their things if developers and coders weren't here doing theirs! Most IT teams build the first 75% of the application, it's the citizen developers that run with the final 25%, customizing applications to fit specific processes.