Do Low Code, No-Code Platforms, And Citizen Developers Herald The End For Engineers?
Amidst the speculation about the impact of low code, no-code platforms, from developers’ perspective, some may be concerned no-code means a future where engineers are not needed?
What is the difference between no-code versus low-code development tools? Fundamentally there is no such thing as “no-code.” It’s a marketing label, just like Salesforce’s slogan of “no software.” There is always code and software running somewhere, just hidden.
I predict that just as in the past, people who embrace change and adapt their skills and knowledge to using low code no code platforms effectively will be assured of a bright future, particularly if they hone their communications abilities and are prepared to take a team leadership role in helping business users to define and create new solutions.
No-code does not necessarily mean no technical skills are needed. Tools that are positioned as no-code aim to provide all the building blocks for customers, usually on an ongoing release basis. These vendors try to offer small assembly blocks so developers can assemble a bigger custom application component if needed, but writing code is not allowed. No-code implies no programming language is used, but even some visual modeling tools require technical expertise or understanding programming metaphors.
In my experience, far from not needing professionals, during a time of disruption and change the opposite is true. While history shows that changes in technology often disrupt, change and ultimately revolutionize processes, there is no substitute for human creativity, applied skills, and experience to bridge from the old to the new. Take the profound changes that have taken place in design and publishing processes as examples.
Back in the day before Apple revolutionized the world of publishing, the process of producing anything from a simple black and white advertisement to a color brochure was a skilled analog process. carried out by trained and highly experienced professionals using specialized equipment and getting their hands dirty and their fingers sticky (literally) — ordinary people couldn’t even publish a simple piece of text. For example, producing even a simple black and white newspaper advertisement required the services of a professional typesetting company working from a typed (or handing a written copy sheet) on instructions provided by an artworker or typographer who would mark up text, typefaces, noting typefaces, point sizes, and layouts to match the dimensions of the published space size.
Then, having received the typesetting back from typesetters on white photographic paper, the artworker would slice the type sheets with a scalpel and layout artwork pieces on a piece of white artboard (CS 10) taped to a drawing board, accurately lining and gluing each piece in place around the exact parameters of the required publication and space. Finally, the finished piece would then be photographed in a dark room on white photographic paper by a special camera, a process called photomechanical transfer (PMT) to create a single sheet to size.
This was just black and white (mono) publishing. Creating and publishing color images was an expensive, more complex process taking color film images, photographed on film, then developing this to produce transparencies that were often retouched by hand by an expert working with an airbrush. To publish the work as color print required, the black and white PMT (text and layout artwork) would be supplied together with the retouched color film to a litho filmmaker, and the image would be combined to create a set of four-color separated films from which the blocks were then made for printing. End to end a drawn-out and expensive process that today sounds archaic, yet this was the norm until a little more than 25 years ago.
Publishing was the first market the Mac disrupted and revolutionized is a more accurate description. Steve Jobs set t a revolution in motion when he introduced the first desktop laser printer creating desktop publishing (DTP) capability. But this was just the start; the real revolution resulting in the total replacement of all the analog processes with software solutions, kicked off after the first Apple Mac supporting color, the Apple Macintosh II with Motorola 68020 32-bit CPU was launched in March 1987 capable of running publishing like Quark Xpress launched the same year and opened the door to and image manipulation software like Adobe Photoshop 1.00 that came on the market in February 1990 setting the scene for manual processes becoming obsolete, and predictions that human skills like typography would become irrelevant
Yet this did not happen, the people skills were adapted for the new digital design and publishing world, and in particular, the new generation of young art workers, designers, and other professionals built on their college training and the agencies, threw out the art materials and invested in Macs including High Definition screens that enabled WYSIWG images
Art workers, designers, agencies, and other professionals, invested in ever-faster macs with more RAM to speed the often painfully slow rendering process. They adapted their skills and training — typography and layout to the digital environment, learned new skills, and upped their game, changing not only the production process but the revenue model. Out went marked-up charges for typesetting etc., and in came charges focussed on skills and time-based professional fees. Arguably people rapidly became more valued and valuable in this digital creative world.
Design professionals didn’t just survive the digital revolution; those who adapted their skills to the new normal and became experts in using software to push the creative boundaries of the possible thrived and found themselves in demand and able to command a premium
Computers are still tools, more a Swiss Army knife than a pen or pencil, and just like the old machines and processes, they still need someone with experience to use them correctly — and that required training to get the most out of these professional tools!
Andy Fuller Brand//UX/UI designer
There is an old saying; the more things change, the more they stay the same. As time goes on and as media changes rapidly, many things remain the same. The need for quality content, skilled designers, and capable marketers are more critical than ever. Giant volumes of clickbait with subpar content will always be eclipsed in the long run by solid writers, top-notch photographers, and designers who are able to create engaging, eye-catching layouts.