We all will be coders: Don't fear the future of software development

Code savvy users will demand a customized user experience like never before

Software development is unrecognizable from what it was 20 years ago, and in 10 years it will be completely different again. Soon all new hires, regardless of their role, will know how to code, and as we all know, robots are capable of increasingly complex functions that threaten jobs in previously unheard of ways.

But, against this doom-and-gloom outlook, I'm here to tell you software developers everywhere: don't worry. Our craft and our jobs are going to be OK. Here's why.

First, a bit of background: the U.K. has introduced coding into the national school curriculum, the first G20 country to take this step. This means that in 10 years, all school graduates in the U.K. will know how to code. In the U.S., organizations like Code.Org are trying to encourage the same results through programs like the Hour of Code. I believe that more and more countries will adopt these programs, which will forever change the software development industry.

The fact that, in the future, all new hires will know how to code, is important. But does this mean they will all be software developers? Of course not. What this means is that the user of the future will be more educated in software technologies, and thus will expect (or demand) more from the software they use everyday at home or at work.

The user of the future will demand customization, and they will increasingly be able to do the customization themselves. This isn't just about changing the color of a button or the font of the text. I'm talking about adding new fields to a form, validations, changing or adding new workflow routing rules, or even integrating with other applications. The coding knowledge of the future generation will be mostly used to code configuration of the software applications of the future, as opposed to the development of new software applications by everyone.

If an application is not customizable, future users will quickly look for alternatives, or for hacks that may compromise the integrity and security of an app that is too rigidly built.

Fellow software developers, if we want our craft to flourish we need to provide the future generation with applications that will benefit from a user that knows how to code. Why should adding a new field to a form in a business application involve so much custom code and database changes? Why can't a user just add a new field without having to involve IT or change a business rule without the need of BPEL? Why can't a user decide how to validate a field? After all, the user usually knows more about the business needs and requirements than the software developer.   

This is an opportunity for the development of new frameworks and tools that allow software developers to easily incorporate customization into their applications. The most successful applications of the future will be the ones that offer configuration and customization to its users. There will be no market for rigid applications.

Software developers: the software development industry will not die because everyone knows how to code. A lot of people know how to cook and I don't see the restaurant industry disappearing anytime soon.

What will happen is that the next generation of users will be the most demanding in the history of software. Regular users will now understand how software applications are built and will demand a quality user experience, and customization that have never been expected before.

The user reality of the future will demand a new breed of software developer: one that can design to the requirements of the uber user, the user that can code.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.