Book Image

Democratizing Application Development with Betty Blocks

By : Reinier van Altena
Book Image

Democratizing Application Development with Betty Blocks

By: Reinier van Altena

Overview of this book

This practical guide on no-code development with Betty Blocks will take you through the different features, no-code functionalities, and capabilities of the Betty Blocks platform using real-world use cases. The book will equip you with the tools to develop business apps based on various data models, business processes, and more. You’ll begin with an introduction to the basic concepts of the Betty Blocks no-code platform, such as developing IT solutions on various use cases including reporting apps, data tracking apps, workflows, and business processes. After getting to grips with the basics, you’ll explore advanced concepts such as building powerful applications that impact the business straight away with no-code application development and quickly creating prototypes. The concluding chapters will help you get a solid understanding of rapid application development, building customer portals, building dynamic web apps, drag-and-drop front ends, visual modelling capabilities, and complex data models. By the end of this book, you’ll have gained a comprehensive understanding of building your own applications as a citizen developer using the Betty Blocks no-code platform.
Table of Contents (20 chapters)
1
Part 1: Citizen Development
4
Part 2: First Steps on the Betty Blocks Platform
10
Part 3: Building Your First Application
15
Part 4: The Pro-Coder

Who can build applications on the Betty Blocks platform?

The main goal for Betty Blocks is to enable business users to build their own applications with the platform. But within that group of business users, there are different levels of developers, namely the citizen developer, the no-coder, and the pro-coder. So, what’s the difference between these three personas?

All personas are business users. The citizen developer is someone who hasn’t got any or much no-code development experience, but it’s someone who wants to innovate and is tech-savvy.

A no-coder is someone who has more experience developing without code and knows all about the functionalities of the platform. They can basically build any application with the platform’s features.

The pro-coder is a developer who normally codes. They assist the other two personas by answering questions, working on security, and maybe adding some extra functionalities to the platform if their use case calls for some code.

The citizen developer

The citizen developer is a user who wants to innovate or make their job easier by creating an application but has no experience in software development. This could be a business analyst or a project manager, for example. The most important thing is that you are interested in using a new technology to empower your workflow.

So, without any experience in software development, what can these people do? Since they are users with specialist knowledge of the process that they would like to digitize, they are very important for the development of the application. In traditional development, these business users have no role in application development. They basically provide the parameters, and after the programming team has done their work they might do some testing, but that’s about it. In no-code development, they become an active part of the application’s development cycle.

What would an employee of a company normally do when they have an idea for an application they need for their work? They can usually do two things. The first is using a tool that can help them build an application. In many cases, you see people using Excel to create tools to help them make their work easier or faster. Is this a bad thing? No, but it does create what we call shadow IT. Shadow IT is something that usually occurs in larger organizations with a lot of employees, when people start creating, for example, a lot of small systems in Excel or Access. The data in these systems is usually stored on the computer or personal workspace of that user, and this involves some risks: for example, when the person who is maintaining an Excel file leaves the company and nobody else knows about that file, all that data is basically lost. Shadow IT can also easily lead to breaches of data, because everyone can start emailing the Excel file around. These are just some of the examples of what can happen with shadow IT.

Then there is the second option that our employees have. They can go to the IT department and request them to build the software they need. In most cases, it will be put on a backlog and hopefully be picked up as soon as the development team has time for it and the priority is high enough. This often means that employees will be waiting a long time before they get their software and usually are not very involved in the development process. So, they might not get exactly what they need.

When using Betty Blocks, all the apps are created in the company’s Betty Blocks environment, which means the IT department knows where it resides and can be a part of the development and maintenance process. This increases the security of the data in the application, and when a developer leaves the company, the application will be easy for the IT department to keep track of.

Betty Blocks allows citizen developers to start creating their own application from the moment they need it. They can start creating wireframes by dragging and dropping a user interface together. Once that is done, they can create the fields that the application will need so that the first prototype will already feel like a first version of the actual application.

The citizen developer will have an active role throughout the development process as well, and they’ll learn new skills by taking part in the development cycle. We’ll talk about what else they can contribute to the development at a later stage – for now let’s move on to the next persona.

To find more information on citizen developers, visit the following URL: https://www.bettyblocks.com/citizen-developer.

The no-coder

The second persona is the no-coder. They are usually business users as well, but they can also be dedicated no-coders who work for the IT department. The big difference between the two is that these users are usually very tech-savvy. These people usually learn new computer skills quickly. So, what is the difference between citizen developers and no-coders in the context of the platform? A no-coder can build an application using the platform from start to finish. They have the knowledge to use all parts of the platform to create a fully functional application. Basically, they will do the heavy lifting for the citizen developer when it comes to designing the workflows within the application and help the citizen developer to make their prototype fully functional, taking the citizen developer on this journey while building the application so they fully understand what, and most importantly how, it’s built. Since there is no coding involved in the creation of the application, it should be easy for the citizen developer to follow the development and even participate in it.

Does this mean that you don’t need any real developers anymore to create applications? Well, we all know that there is a huge need for developers and the business usually needs more from its developers than they can produce in a specific time. This is where no-coder comes in – they can help to create applications faster without the specific need for code-based developers. However, code-based developers should still be involved in the project of creating an application, since they have knowledge the other two personas don’t. So, what can they bring to the table?

The pro-coder

Professional coders, or pro-coders, still have an important role within the creation of an application, but unlike normal development, they don’t have to be involved full time in this cycle. Pro-coders don’t need to have full knowledge of the platform itself. They will need to know the basics and how to add functionality to the platform, but it’s the no-coders that are the experts on the platform itself.

Pro-coders can add code to the platform, which will allow citizen developers and no-coders to do more with the platform. What does this mean exactly? The whole Betty Blocks platform is made up of a lot of small blocks. Our business users use these to build applications in a no-code way, by selecting or dragging and dropping them. But what if they want to do something with the platform that isn’t supported by these standard blocks?

Well, that’s where the pro-coder comes in. They can add code to the platform to create or modify existing blocks, which will allow the business users to do more with the platform. For example, imagine that a business user works with a calendar on their web page, but they need this calendar to have an extra functionality for excluding weekends. The pro-coder can modify the existing calendar to support this and then the business user simply drags and drops the no-code calendar block onto their page to gain the new functionality. This is just a simple example, but this can go much deeper.

Also, a pro-coder can help to go over the application before it goes live to check permissions and some specific security requirements that business users might not be aware of.

So essentially, the business users build the whole application, but the pro-coders help them out along the way with some specific use cases. This saves the pro-coder a lot of time, allowing them to focus on other development tasks.

The following diagram shows how the three developer personas can work together within the platform:

Figure 1.1 – Betty Blocks developer personas

Figure 1.1 – Betty Blocks developer personas

So, let’s recap what the different personas bring to the development of an application in Betty Blocks.

Citizen developers:

  • Innovation
  • Wireframing
  • Adding basic functionalities
  • Designing the workflow
  • Testing the application
  • Collaborating with no-coders

No-coders:

  • Data modeling
  • Creating fully functional pages
  • Creating workflows
  • Connecting to external services (APIs)
  • Collaborating with citizen developers
  • Testing the application

Pro-coders:

  • Adding missing functionality
  • Checking security
  • Checking permissions
  • Testing the application from a developer’s perspective
  • Assisting with access to external data

Now that we know how the different developer personas can develop using Betty Blocks, let’s have a look at what you can actually build with the platform.