Staying on top of emerging web development trends is a critical requirement for staying on the cutting edge. That said, developers often get comfortable (read: complacent) in their positions and don’t prioritize delivering the most significant possible outcomes from their work. Don’t be one of them.
We’ve compiled this list of the most impactful web development trends of this year and beyond. We’re not talking about short-lived fads that will be irrelevant six months or a year from now, but the advancements that will have a lasting impact on how development is done as a whole.
These are the development trends you need to be paying attention to remain relevant and competitive in your space.
Personalization and Immersive Technologies
One of the greatest trends emerging in the development space is that of hyper-personalization and immersive technologies being used to enhance the way users interact with technology, especially online.
1. Artificial Intelligence
Society has been talking about AI for years as if it were some far off technology from science fiction. As developers, we know that AI is all around us but often don’t fully understand how it’s impacting the work we do day in and day out.
Simple AI chatbots are popping up everywhere you look, but what about using AI to expand the way our users interact with us online? Machine learning, inference, planning, and perception have the potential to provide an enhanced user experience and streamline prospect/customer interactions.
Without the ability to learn, applications approach problems the same way each time. The same mistakes appear over, and over and nothing is done to optimize the result based on prior experience.
Machine learning allows web apps to adapt based on user habits, preferences, and idiosyncrasies to deliver an experience tailored to their unique qualities. It’s something every developer should be excited about incorporating into their designs and skillset.
2. Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR)
The next development trend on the list is two development trends all wrapped up into one, or at least two distinct technologies that can support an exceptional UI when well executed.
Both Virtual Reality (completely simulated) and Augmented Reality (a mix of virtual and real world inputs) can be used to deliver information to the user in a way that immerses them entirely, creates a unique experience, and delights.
Well executed VR can take consumers into a whole new world, and more importantly, into an entirely new level of understanding about a product or offering faster than any other experiential development to date. Similarly, AR can make the mundane interesting, piques curiosity, and allows for measured, interactive consumption of information.
While these two toolsets are past their infancy and are still somewhat novel but you can plan on them being a standard feature of websites, apps, and software in the very near future.
3. Voice Assistants and Conversational AI Platforms (CAPs)
Voice assistants have been supporting users on mobile devices and in their homes for years, and their increasing popularity has given rise to the need to prepare your web assets for voice search, as well as their inevitable integration. Companies like Snips are helping device makers incorporate voice assistants without the need to develop proprietary software.
As you might imagine, it’s only a matter of time before these voice assistants become a part of the enterprise business website. The implications that these will have on development are substantial, as these sites will essentially need to be able to execute commands based on the user’s vocal instructions alone, entirely independent from any traditional input interface.
While individual voice assistants aren’t here yet, it’s critical to understand how your current web assets can benefit by supporting today’s user’s voice-centric demands. In doing so, you’ll be able to take the smooth incremental steps toward what the future holds, versus a giant (and potentially messy) leap.
The Need for Speed
You find speed at the forefront of any discussion about the future of development (and technology as a whole). Speed has always been a must, but the UX demands of tomorrow’s top performing websites will require a greater developmental focus on speed and performance than we could have possibly imagined just two years ago. The following trends all have a focus on speed.
4. API-First Headless CMS and Fast Omnichannel Delivery
An API-first headless CMS can deliver content to multiple channels—such as a laptop, mobile phone, and a smartwatch—a whole lot faster. Unlike a traditional CMS, a headless CMS can leverage an API to provide content directly to any channel, even emerging ones, without changes to the core dev. Also, to integrate best-of-breed solutions for content delivery, such as adding a personalization engine, a headless CMS eliminates the need for a traditional CMS specialist to try to integrate a solution with a single coupled system.
Beyond speeding up omnichannel delivery, a headless CMS is faster and less expensive than a traditional CMS in regards to development and content creation. A headless API-first CMS lets the content team work independently on content while developers work separately on building CMS templates. This separation does not exist in a traditional CMS, where both the coding and content are linked together within one system requiring developers to handle formatting for delivery in the same space as the content.
Another speed benefit is that most API-first headless CMS solutions typically exists in a Content as a Service (CaaS) cloud environment, they are much much easier to scale and deliver omnichannel content than a traditional server-based CMS. In addition, some cloud-based headless CMS offerings include a Content Delivery Network (CDN), which is a group of servers distributed around the world that cache and deliver content from a server in close proximity to the user making the request. A CDN reduces bandwidth from local servers and reduces latency resulting in much faster delivery of content.
5. Progressive Web Apps
Progressive web apps (PWA) are touted as the future of the web, primarily because they deliver what people want from their web experience: exceptionally fast load times, highly intuitive user experiences, and functionalities that emulate those found in your phone’s native apps.
With more development frameworks popping up all the time, developers are spoiled for choice. Google’s Polymer Project is working to standardize the reusable web components that make PWA so that these elements can be swapped between frameworks, allowing you to create hybrids with multiple toolings based on the unique requirements of your project.
6. Static Website Generators
Static website generators are all about generating code that is as simple and light as possible while maintaining the dynamic impact delivered by a traditional website. They’re fast and secure, and they’ve been an increasingly popular development tool in recent years, especially for those building smaller sites. Larger sites tend to shy away from them due to the poor UI and lack of a proper CMS.
That said, they’re important tools that every developer should be aware of, as they may advance in the future to serve larger and larger website development projects. It is also important to note that since these tools cater to many new businesses, who can’t afford elaborate development, they have a captive audience who are building loyalty to a specific generator and may take those tools with them as their companies and needs grow. To put it another way, today’s WIX may be tomorrow's WordPress, so keeping your eye on these generators is pertinent.
7. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, aren’t exactly groundbreaking as they’ve been around for a few years now. However, as Google continues to prioritize the mobile user experience, these pages are becoming increasingly important.
The AMP Project is one of Google’s initiatives to deliver the ultimate experience to its majority of users (mobile users) across every site they visit. Essentially it’s a list of criteria that developers must follow to provide fast load times and an easy-to-consume mobile website.
If you aren’t already developing AMP, you should be. Having your mobile projects rank well is critical to successful development, and Google controls the game. You can be that AMP is a fast track to good Google mobile results.
The web is a scary place, and high profile breaches, hacks, and malware have all eyes on cybersecurity as a critical factor for success and stability. Long gone are the days when only the IT department had to worry about security. Good developers have to produce code that protects their products, companies, and consumers.
8. GDPR Factor
You need to be developing with GDPR in mind.
GDPR made headlines for a good reason. Europe is leading the way with the protection of personal identity and personal info, and developers in the know understand that this is the way the world is heading. This web development trend isn’t one any of us can ignore. It’s made enough headlines on its own for you to be aware of it, but don’t miss this excellent article from Smashing about how it will impact your job directly.
9. Internet of Things (IoT) and Security
The Internet of Things has taken the world by storm, with more smart devices than one ever thought possible filling the homes of today’s gadget-happy tech enthusiasts. Development for these technologies has become an increasingly important web development trend on its own, but the popularity and prevalence of this technology has also presented developers with a new challenge—keeping users secure.
Some of these devices can tap into users’ private info on their own, while others represent a backdoor network through which threat actors can gain access. As development for advancing IoT applications continues to increase, it’s important to pay special attention to what can be done to fortify the security of these devices.
10. Blockchain and Cryptocurrency
The rise of blockchain technology, as a support of cryptocurrency, in recent years has been fascinating, to say the least, and presents incredible opportunities for developers. You may have even invested in bitcoin, for better or for worse, but you may not be fully aware of why this tech presents itself as the final web development trend on our list.
Blockchain has shown us that every transaction can be encrypted and only accessed by a private key. Sure, all financial and confidential data transactions can be made far more secure, but this takes peer-to-peer encryption to a new level and ups the ante for virtually all online communication.
Furthermore, because every blockchain revalidates its content every ten minutes, users would have to override an entire network to corrupt a single piece of data in a block. This validation provides both security and stability, in a way that we are only beginning to understand the capacities of. The implications this technology can have on development are astounding and cannot be ignored.
The development space can be highly personalized, with each developer conducting themselves differently than the next. Different toolings, skill sets, and work habits produce different results. However, the web development trends outlined in this articles will impact us all. Some already are, others may take time before their presence is felt within your particular work environment, but at some point, they will make themselves known and have some level of impact.
The best web developers are those that remain aware of everything happening in their world, both immediate and for the future, to be better equipped to embrace what will inevitably come knocking at their doors.
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