Let’s paint a picture of the average app developer …
Developers are experienced, work in teams, are excited about wearables and the Internet of Things and drones. They use open source software, are proficient in several programming languages and are working on mobile apps.
In a nutshell, those are the main findings of the 2015 Developer Insights Report commissioned by the Application Developers Alliance and conducted by the International Data Corporation. IDC received 850 responses to a global survey to give the Alliance an idea of who developers are and how they work, with the intention being to provide a snapshot of a workforce that IDC estimates is now 18.5 million strong.
Developers Need To Balance Their Time
Apps developers now spend nearly as long in design and testing (61% and 62%, respectively) as they do coding which, unsurprisingly, leads the way with 71% of developer time spent.
Both of these statistics provide some clues as to how the developer landscape is changing and where it might be focused in the future. Lets take gender and experience as a starting point.
The number of female developers has increased significantly in the last two years, with 42% of new developers—those that have less than a year of experience—now women.
The IDC report says that developers only consider themselves to be “established” after dedicating years to honing and perfecting their skills. Over 68% of all the survey respondents had over five years of experience, with 12% reporting over 20 years of software development.
Bridging The Gender Gap
Experience and gender are also linked. Prior to 1995, the demographic was skewed heavily towards male developers with only 14% of developers being female. This trend continued over the next 19 years with the balance only really changing dramatically in the last year to a ratio of 58% male and 42% female. According to the authors of the report, the increase in gender diversity dovetails with the increase in enrollment in computer science programs by women, but it does underline how male-dominated software development has been up until now.
Respondents also showed differing levels of focus. Business apps were the clear leader, accounting for 72% of builds while consumer apps scored 62%. Gaming was still relatively popular with 28% of developers, although the survey noted that consumer-centric apps were likely to overtake business sooner rather than later. Around 87% of companies where developers worked had a mobile-first approach to app development, with 69% of respondents creating native mobile apps.
Small Sample, Bigger Industry
Although the sample size of 850 is small in comparison to the 18.5 million (11 million professional, 7.5 hobbyists) who self-identify as developers, it is interesting to note that the majority of developers surveyed are proficient in several programming languages. The data revealed that 70% could use between one and five languages, with 3% able to develop in over 10. The most popular language was Java, ostensibly due to Android, but the survey said that being multilingual was a distinct advantage when building apps that needed to be robust enough to cope with the demands of multiple platforms, devices and operating systems.
In terms of what developers preferred to work on, open source software was the clear leader. About 43% said that they contribute to open source projects. Only 13% of those surveyed said that they didn’t use or contribute to open source projects at all.
Balancing Future Excitement With Present Challenges
IDC also considered what is trending in the apps and software economy. It can often be hard to work out what developers are excited about or even challenged by, especially as there are so many avenues of hype to follow and keep up with.
Wearables, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence and cognitive computing all received favorable responses, garnering 44%, 49% and 33%, respectively. Robotics was as cited by 39% of developers. Augmented or virtual reality scored 27%, while drones got a score of 19%.
A recent report by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, cited by Forbes, said that market for commercial drones in the U.S. alone could be worth $5 billion by 2025, although the jury is still out as to both the safety and viability of millions of unmanned, tiny flying machines taking to the air.
In terms of challenges, 57% of developers said that staying current was the hardest part. New languages, frameworks and tools are constantly being introduced and companies or clients now want developers to be a jack-of-all-trades. This can often lead to creating a unreasonable work/life balance—cited by 39% as one of their top concerns.
At the end of the day, millions of active developers know that their skills are highly coveted and increasingly sought after.
Agile Movement Means Fast Development
Commenting on the results of the survey, the authors wrote:
The Alliance Global Developer Insights survey shows an increasingly diverse developer universe that is dealing with the increasingly stressful and complex demands of modern business. The survey provides a broad view of the nature of modern application development, highlighting the increased focus on front-end development, the rise of the consumer app developer and continued adoption of agile methodologies as organizations focus on smaller software development teams. This is encouraging, as agile drives towards faster development and it is generally accepted that smaller teams work faster.
As a snapshot of the apps development sector in 2015, we couldn’t agree more.