The Future of Programming May Not Involve Coding

By Bola Rotibi, Research Director, Creative Intellect Consulting

Part 1 in a 2 part series

It is perhaps ironic that we live in a time when governments and many others are calling for young people to be better educated with regards to writing code, yet at the same time the software development industry is requiring developers to write less code. Microsoft’s Azure App Service or Salesforce.com’s Lightning are recent examples of new tools that aim to eliminate code writing from the process of developing an application (desktop or mobile).

The principle of this approach is not new and tools such as Uniface have long aimed to increase developer productivity and application quality by reducing the number of lines of code that need to be written. The terminology, approach and experiences have evolved and differ but the aim has remained the same.

Even in the world of code writing the popularity and growth in frameworks from .NET to JQuery have sought to reduce the amount of code written. As has tooling like Integrated Development Environments such as Visual Studio and Eclipse. For example, tools provide drag and drop controls with properties windows that mean a developer can add a control to a screen or web page without writing the underlying code. We saw this in Visual Studio, Adobe FlexBuilder and others. Perhaps the question is why it has taken so long for low-code development environments to see wider adoption?

Making the complex simple is a challenge for tooling

Part of the reason may be technology. It is inherently difficult to make the complex process of writing applications into something that can be done in a way that involves no or little code. Modern applications are incredibly complex, often using multi-tier architectures and integrated with other applications. Creating a visual development experience that can work with these complexities and provide the myriad possibilities that the modern developer requires is inherently challenging. Changes in technology have made it easier in recent years.

The wide spread adoption of the API economy and the proliferation of micro-services has changed application architectures and exposed capabilities in more simplistic and easy to consume ways. Let’s take a rather modern concept such as mobile Push notifications. Each mobile platform (iOS, Android and Windows Phone) implements this capability differently and it involves a degree of complexity and quite a bit of code to manually create. Instead there are a number of services exposed as APIs (Web Services) that abstract all of this complexity and allow developers access to the capability via a few simple calls.

By basing these APIs on common programming concepts such as RESTful Web Services and JSON formatted data it allows development tools to more easily create a further level of abstraction that means developers do not need to write the few lines of code required to work with them. SOAP made consuming any service from within a development tool even easier as the WSDL allowed tooling to auto introspect and understand any service. REST is not as simple but is now widely accepted as the way to build modern services. Modern tools are finding ways to make working with RESTful services very simple.

Part 2 (coming soon):  Developers: I’m better than you and I need my code

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