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2021 In Review: The Biggest App Development Industry Trends


Isadora Teich wrote this article


As 2021 winds down, let’s take a look at some of the biggest trends that shaped the app development industry over the course of the year.

We will likely be seeing these things going forward too, so keep your eyes open! The industry is always evolving, so keeping tabs on the big shifts is key to staying relevant and competitive.

GitHub’s Annual Report

Code hosting and sharing service GitHub releases an annual report on app development trends. This year, it showed a number of interesting changes in the industry.

Automation was a hot topic. In general, institutions want to accomplish more, faster. Improving developer tool kits was also in focus in 2021.

Sustainability was also something very important in the industry this year, but maybe not in the way that most people would think.

Low Code And No Code App Development

Automation is bringing about whole new ways to create apps. What do we mean by low code and no code apps exactly?

Low-code platforms use graphic visual tools to allow users to drag and drop portions of reusable code, rather than having to enter it manually over and over again. This includes updating legacy systems and building a wide range of apps.

No code development takes this even farther. With these types of platforms, someone who cannot read code at all uses simple graphics to create apps. Imagine if you, despite having no coding know-how, could create the app of your dreams tomorrow.

If you want to learn more about this, check out our blog post on the subject!

According to Constellation Research Analyst Holger Mueller, this was originally seen as a threat by developers. It was also somewhat looked down upon as a tool. However, this has started to change. According to Mueller:

“They realized there is still so much demand for coding for things which are interesting to build or hard to get the requirements of.”

The Benefits of Automation

These tools will make it faster for companies to build and scale the tech infrastructure they need. Automation has been a hot topic in 2021 for good reason and is not going anywhere.

In fact, data shows that teams and developers that use automation to write and deploy code have a huge advantage over those who do not. They perform 27% better in open source and 43% better at work. However, this is about far more than simple productivity.

Good automation helps teams communicate better and more clearly, and the research shows that better information flow is key to a better culture. Having better tools also helps developers feel empowered to do their work and feel fulfilled.

AIOps To Increase Efficiency

Gartner Analyst Arun Chandrasekaran said that interest in AI was high in 2021, with a range of new AI products coming into the market to reflect that interest.

He says that a lot of this has to do with companies trying to cope with the sheer amount of data they create and need to manage.

“I think more and more enterprises are starting to recognize that the amount of data that they are generating is only increasing and they are also now operating in these multiple environments. AIOps would be an effective technique for doing that. We definitely saw a lot of interest in that space in 2021.”

AI is also being used to check the work of coders and make sure they are working better. AI-augmented practices were huge in 2021, and this will likely continue into the future.

Developers are still working out some operational kinks. This means that these tools will likely only improve with time.

The Year Of The Platform Team

Platform engineering was really put into practice over the course of 2021 by a wide variety of organizations.

Essentially, this involves more and more organizations creating platform teams, which work with developers or product teams. Platform teams provide all of the foundational pieces that these organizations require, for example, a code repository.

It is the job of developers to write code, test it, and perfect it. Platform teams take care of other tasks, so developers can more effectively do their jobs.

An Emphasis On Sustainability In The App Development Industry

Many people think of sustainability in terms of green tech on a large scale and thrifting or eating locally grown food in their personal lives.

However, over the course of 2021 especially, we have seen the importance of companies turning this sustainable focus inward.

In the US, we are currently in the midst of what is called The Great Resignation. People are leaving their jobs in record numbers.

There are a lot of potential reasons for this happening, but one thing is clear. Companies are struggling to attract and retain workers.

If people do not like where they work, they will simply leave. If employers do not make worthwhile offers, people will not come at all.

High Profile Examples

This can be seen in many industries. This fall, fast-food chain Raising Cane’s had to place half of its corporate staff in restaurants because they simply couldn’t find people to work there.

Likewise, Apple was making headlines for being in a stalemate with office employees, who threatened to quit en masse if they couldn’t stay remote.

Not even the incredibly powerful and prestigious Apple, which has been accused of meddling with government legislation and helming a monopoly, is safe from worker demands.

Why Sustainability Is The Solution

According To GitHub’s Sustainable Communities Report:

Teams with high trust are more likely to have a healthy collaborative culture — 2x more likely in companies, and 3x more likely in open source. Mentorship contributes to a developer’s sense of identity and belonging in their community, but a very strong culture can reduce the need for mentorship.

To put it simply, developers do better work when they feel valued and like they are part of a community of people they trust who are working toward common goals.

Sustainability is all about building a work environment that attracts and keeps employees, so organizations do not have to deal with the expensive problem of employee burnout and unrest, understaffing, and high turnover.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, this year has been a fascinating year for the App Development Industry. The tech itself is changing, as well as the culture around how it is produced.

We are seeing advancements in automation, AI, and collaborative tools. As these things improve with time, they will fundamentally change how apps are built, maintained, sold, and used.

As well, likely due to the pandemic, we are seeing a big shift in how companies and employees relate. It used to be brag-worthy to stay up all night coding. These days, even Apple employees don’t want to come into the office anymore.

All of these trends in tech and overall culture will profoundly affect how organizations operate going forward.

What do you think? Comment below!

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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