A weird-looking concept: End-user development?


Normally, you would think that developers and end users do not mix. And, given the current state of software development, I would agree.


But, on the other side I always thought that we need more tools that allow simple end-users to do more or less sophisticated development, but without the inherent difficulties of a programming language.


I see at least two different directions here:


1) Development in a spreadsheet. Someone said that Microsoft Excel is the most popular programming environment, and I don’t think that he was far from truth. A variable doesn’t even have a name; it’s simply a cell in a spreadsheet, something very simple to grasp. You can write complex spreadsheets to evaluate formulas without writing a line of code, and you need minimal training to do that. (But, by the way, did you know that 30% of all spreadsheets have errors?)


2) Development in the form of a visual flow diagram. My latest example here is a little-known application in Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) called the Automator. At least from my point of view, in terms of usability, this little application really shines. Of course, it still remains to be seen how well it wil be received by end users. But if there will be a “programming” tool for everyone, then I envision that it will look a lot with Automator.


Anyway, there is a lot of uncharted territory here, and I am sure that the future might give us some surprises…


 

Comments (5)

  1. Anonymous says:

    It is actually possible to declare variables in Excel 😉

  2. Johan Myburgh says:

    Have a look at the latest milestone of what the MBF guys are doing.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well, here’s a few bits of food for thought:

    – Excel is the most used development tool, no doubt

    – MS Access, with even more "wizards", would probably fit what you’re looking for

    – most so called business analysts that I’ve worked with over the years couldn’t design and implement a software solution worth the blood and sweat that went into it

    – most developers I’ve worked with, interviewed, etc couldn’t design and implement a software solution worth the blod and sweat that went into it

    That said, the term "end-user development" will turn out to be nothing more than say what currently exists and is labeled as "power user development" or "hobbyist development".

    That said, I’d love to see some tools conquer the current inadequecies that exist in our field. At the same time, the tools will most likely accomplish nothing more than the MS FrontPage site and page wizards did to web development… meaning allow for the creation of a ton of bad sites that eventually had to receive anywhere from facelifts to complete demolition and rebuilds.

    I’m rambling at this point, so I’ll stop, by I’m sure you get my point…

  4. Jeff Parker says:

    Well I would agree it is probably the most used, however it is probably the most used by the Mort developer.

    For Example a guy at work was having troubles with a spreadsheet he wrote. He asked me to help him since I am a actual developer. I solved his problem and sent it back to him. He called me up mad. What is all the Dim stuff you put in here….

  5. AdiOltean says:

    >> That said, the term "end-user development" will turn out to be nothing more than say what currently exists and is labeled as "power user development" or "hobbyist development".

    Sure – although if we talking about really end users – they should not be even aware that they are writing a program (or something that behaves like a program). I am thinking to the end user more likely in terms of average Excel user (people who don’t know programming – who don’t even know what "programming" exactly means)

    On the other side, I view Access (or the macros in Excel) as something for more advanced users.