Top web development trends in that companies need to look at today

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Top web development trends in that companies need to look at today


Part One

Part Two

Part Three

1. Progressive Web Applications (PWA)

we’re now seeing a lot of the difficulties surrounding them fall away

Progressive web apps (PWAs) have long been poised to change the web landscape. In a nutshell, it promises to deliver native-app-like functionality to the web. In the most extreme examples, we may see companies developing what would have been a native iPhone/Android app as a PWA.

What seems to have kept them from becoming widely adopted has been a difficult and misunderstood path to develop a truly great experience with them. As they continue to mature, we’re now seeing a lot of the difficulties surrounding them fall away. This is leading to them becoming a fantastic opportunity to explore, especially when thinking about developing a new digital experience or app.

PWAs take all of the benefits of web technology and add a whole new layer to it. The web has long been a fantastic way of developing experiences, due to having interconnectivity at its core, being easy to update and deliver to users, and its wide adoption. PWAs layer on some of the key features from native mobile apps, such as being able to “install” apps to a local device, offline functionality, notifications, and more.

Offline functionality is one example of something that most web apps (or even websites) can benefit from.

Once seen as a complete alternative to delivering a standalone app, they also provide benefits when using the features in a more traditional web app. Offline functionality is one example of something that most web apps (or even websites) can benefit from. This is especially true now as 5G comes into the picture. Whilst networks are gaining speed all the time, we’re going to still be experiencing a whole spectrum of coverage and differing speeds as we use our devices. Having access to a version of content whilst being offline is a benefit that most businesses could offer to their users.

What it means to the business

A Gartner report says that “…by 2023, more than 25% of the mobile apps, progressive web apps and conversational apps at large enterprises will be built and/or run through a multi-experience development platform.” Thinking today about how you’ll be able to deliver an experience to your customers across a variety of platforms will ensure that you’re ahead of the competition. Progressive Web Apps are a prime example of how to implement features that will work across many devices, and deliver them instantly to your users.

Google is also starting to use PWAs as a measure of how mature and robust a site or web app is too, and will often use it in their search result rankings. Aiming for at least some of the features brought about by PWAs will not only improve the experience for your users, but may also have a positive impact on your search rankings.

Whilst they are still a fairly new technology, they are definitely worth exploring. There are also reliable and experienced web development companies that can help you to build a winning PWA.

2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Chatbots

At the heart of combining artificial intelligence with web-based technology, it allows easier and more intuitive interaction or communication with our devices and applications.

many “artificial intelligence” services are available to use in a “plug and play” type format

As artificial intelligence continues to develop at pace, we’re starting to see some interesting developments. Thanks to services provided by companies such as Microsoft, many “artificial intelligence” services are available to use in a “plug and play” type format. One example of this is image recognition, which can be easily integrated within a web application. Imagine being able to let your users take a picture of an energy meter rather than have to type in the current reading. Image recognition, and other services like it, are providing the next-level in ease of use.

One of the main benefits of AI is that it helps to take away friction. When intelligence is added to a product, we can start to aid the user in making choices, entering data, or performing tasks.

Chatbots can be an effective way to improve the interface of your web-based experience. Now that AI is beginning to power Chatbots with realistic and useful responses & conversation, they make a great addition to many products. For example, they can often replace what might be a tedious onboarding process with an engaging and personalised discussion.

Reducing friction and making your products more personalised help to delight an audience.

Taking the Netflix model of content is a really effective way to get the right content to your users at the right time. AI and machine learning is starting to pave the way for this to become more commonplace. Moreover, users are starting to expect this, and typically want to spend less time searching through unrelated content. This applies to almost any experience, whether that “content” is looking for a past water bill that they want to check, or if its video content on a streaming platform.

What it means to the business

Reducing friction and making your products more personalised help to delight an audience. In the long run, this can be the difference between choosing your services over a competitor. AI is now becoming more mainstream than ever before. With many pieces of functionality being available to use from some of the big players, it’s now very accessible as a technology.


3. WebAssembly

JavaScript has been the language of the web now for over 20 years. It has managed to transform what the web has become, from purely static text-based websites to a platform which powers rich web applications and interactive experiences. It isn’t without its drawbacks though. For one, the performance of JavaScript has always left a lot to be desired. All web browser companies have worked hard over the years to improve their JavaScript “engines” (which turn the code into what we see as users) so that they are as speedy as they can be - but there’s only so far they can go.

WebAssembly is a new type of code that has been developed from the ground up

WebAssembly is a new type of code that has been developed from the ground up with native-like performance in mind. It’s named after assembly code, which is the low-level code which runs our PCs, laptops, and other devices. New programming languages such as Rust are being created, which compile down to assembly code for blazing performance.

We’ve still not seen a huge uptake in the wild yet, but it’s likely to become more widely used as the technology develops. One of the major reasons to keep it in mind at the moment is that it could be a viable option for more ambitious projects. Due to the performance boost, we could start to see companies developing applications built on the web that would just have not been possible through JavaScript alone.

WebAssembly unlocks new power and complexity

What it means to the business

It may be that WebAssembly unlocks new power and complexity that you can deliver to your customers. For some companies who have desktop-based applications, you might be able to make use of this new technology to reach new audiences. Just as with PWAs, there are many benefits from utilising the web as a platform, such as instant delivery, and ease of sharing.

4. Single-Page Applications

Single page applications have become a mature approach to build rich web applications from.

When many think of “web technologies”, they often think of websites first and foremost. Traditional websites are built upon multiple pages, which are loaded as necessary while a user browses through a site. Single page applications have become a mature approach to build rich web applications from. Rather than just sending a page over to the user when they land on the website, the entire site gets sent - JavaScript then takes over and manages the transition between pages. What this tends to bring is a more streamlined experience for the user, with less delay between pages.

Using “SPAs” also unlocks more rich applications for the web, by placing JavaScript at the front and centre. Google Docs is an example of one such application that would be nigh-on-impossible without this tech. You’ll be able to break free of the “multiple page” mindset, and instead be able to mirror just about any other platform.

Some of the tradeoffs to be aware of can be a small initial load time increase, due to JavaScript needing to run before the user sees anything. This can also potentially impact your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) too, as Google’s crawlers may not wait around to discover the full content on your site.

When coupled with newer technologies such as “server-side rendering”, even drawbacks such as the performance and SEO issues are now easy to avoid. This essentially does the same “first time render” as the user would experience on the web server, before the page gets sent to the user.

What it means to the business

improve the overall feel of your site, and help to increase confidence in your visitors.

Along with being able to create richer experiences on the web, single page apps also let you create more seamless websites. This can improve the overall feel of your site, and help to increase confidence in your visitors.

It can also help to improve the overall ability to release new features for your site. Whilst using a technology such as this can increase the initial complexity, you may find that it ends up resulting in a more cohesive and succinct codebase. Ultimately, this should help with reducing the time and effort that it takes to make changes or improvements.

5. Micro frontends

separate pieces of the underlying architecture are split out into isolated “services”

Microservices have been the hot development trend for the past 5 years, and they continue to show benefits over their alternatives. In short, microservices are a way of building software systems where separate pieces of the underlying architecture are split out into isolated “services”. This can bring about many different benefits, such as being able to upgrade one part without affecting others.

Whilst the backend services have become pretty mature in this area, one piece of the puzzle that has always been somewhat of a bottleneck is the front end website. With larger sites, multiple teams may need to update their associated pieces of the overall application. This can cause headaches on multiple levels. Thankfully, a relatively new approach takes all of the benefits of microservices and brings them to the front end.

larger organisations are already seeing some great benefits from using this approach

The not-so-imaginatively-named “micro-frontends” follow the same concept as their bigger brother. As it’s not as mature, there are still some rough edges to consider, such as how you ultimately bring each part together as a seamless experience for the end-user. It’s worth noting that a lot of larger organisations are already seeing some great benefits from using this approach, but it does require careful planning and consideration.

This approach is especially useful when you have multiple teams of developers who are working somewhat independently. Micro frontends can allow these groups to operate autonomously, without stepping on each other’s toes. The deployments are also typically much less risky, quicker to deploy, and end up being more resilient to faults. And, you’ll likely end up with simpler decoupled codebases to boot.

What it means to the business

This new approach to front end development is definitely worth considering for newer projects. With the benefits it can bring about, it’s not only useful to larger enterprise teams, but also to startups who need to move quickly, and just about anyone in-between.

Ultimately, the benefits that you’ll get from this are a better development flow, stronger teamwork, and a more resilient web application. These underlying factors are often overlooked but can make a big difference to a successful product, and one that is easy to update and support.

6. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality has long been the promised technology to really disrupt the world as we know it. As it currently stands, things are now really starting to heat up in this space, and we’re bound to see some real innovation come from it in the near future.

As the more widely discussed of the two, Virtual Reality looks to bring about complete immersion for the user. By creating virtual worlds and experiences, we’re able to make the user feel like they are somewhere completely different. This may become an invaluable tool for those who are looking to try and tell a story, or embed some sort of emotion in their audience.

long been the promised technology to really disrupt the world as we know it.

In Augmented Reality (AR) images digital images and models are overlaid onto the real world. This normally works by using a camera on a device, such as a phone, and then combining the live video feed with extra models and graphics. Technology in this area is being widely developed at the moment, with everything from wearable technology such as smart glasses, to Lidar sensors, which all add up to a future where AR could become commonplace.

As with many native platforms, the web is also getting a lot of support for VR and AR. Now that phones and laptops are becoming powerful enough to deliver these experiences, the other benefit that the web brings is a much easier setup for the user. Rather than having to purchase an expensive headset, or install and set up an app, the web allows us to deliver experiences to users in a simple fashion, to the devices that they already own.

What it means to the business

unlock new features and functionality that you can deliver to your customers

As web apps become more prevalent, AR and VR will become useful technologies to integrate. They unlock new features and functionality that you can deliver to your customers. Especially for those companies that are selling a product that you can “show” your audience through AR, or those who are delivering truly immersive experiences with the use of VR.

The wide range of applications is also an appealing aspect of these technologies. It’s not hard to imagine a retail company allowing users to “see” their products virtually with AR, or a car manufacturer using VR to show you what the car looks like in different settings.

7. Performance

As one of the more fundamental aspects of experiences on the web, in many cases it’s getting easier than ever to deliver something that performs well for users. As our networks and devices get quicker and more reliable, we’re able to deliver more interactivity without thinking about it.

As our applications become more complex, we must remember that not all users will have the latest and greatest in terms of their hardware. Equally, other factors such as their location (such as being in a rural area), or their current situation (like being on a train in a tunnel) might impact their ability to load content in a timely manner.

getting easier than ever to deliver something that performs well for users

Thankfully, more options than ever are now available to help improve the performance of your site or web app. Two of the main frontrunners in this area that are worth considering are Responsive Animation Idle Load (RAIL), and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

RAIL is a framework that helps by thinking about the user’s experience at its core. RAIL stands for response, animation, idle and load. If you’re able to nail each of these aspects, chances are that your site will feel fast and performance. Response is the time that it takes for a user action (such as clicking a button) to be performed. Animations should be snappy, and keep to a fluid 60 frames-per-second. Idle time should be used proactively to prefetch any expected resources, but also not hog attention from any potential interactions from the user. Finally, page loads should be given extra attention, and especially the phase that does the “first meaningful paint”.

Accelerated Mobile Pages is an open-source framework developed by Google, which helps to create websites which are quick to load, and work well on mobile. It’s essentially a stripped-down version of HTML, which is designed to be very lightweight. By carving away available functionality, browsers can be much more clever about how they then deliver your site, and they can also cache it much more effectively. All of this adds up to a very fast and efficient website.

Users expect snappy performance

What it means to the business

Users expect snappy performance, and many of the web experiences still tend to be slow. This can lead to a pretty poor user experience and put a lot of your customers off.

It’s also worth noting that performance and load times have a big impact on your search rankings. AMP in particular is a great place to look for improving your load times and hopefully jumping up the listings.

8. Cybersecurity

It’s almost a shame that this has to be called out as a “trend”, but the good news is that security on the web is now starting to get the attention it deserves.

Websites continue to become more complex

Websites continue to become more complex in both their features, but also how they are developed and delivered. This can open the door to vulnerabilities if you’re not careful. Cloud computing goes a long way to providing infrastructure that’s easy to create, but you must ensure that good practices are followed to keep all the data contained there secured.

As data continues to be a valuable part of many businesses, we must also strive to ensure that our data is as secure as possible. This not only relates to the databases that we store it in, but also in how data is transferred to different applications, and how a user may control their own data.

As data continues to be a valuable part of many businesses, we must also strive to ensure that our data is as secure as possible

DevSecOps is a practice that can be useful to apply to software and IT teams. It can bring the security concerns front and centre throughout any development process to ensure ownership and transparency.

The tools that are available to us to help protect our infrastructure are getting better all the time. For simpler sites, monitoring tools will alert you to suspected attacks. Machine learning is set to bring big benefits to the defense of our applications over the coming years too.

Finally, ensure that you’re including at least some level of security or “penetration” testing in your development cycle. Many external companies are available that specialise in this type of testing, and can help to uncover any potential vulnerabilities in your applications.

What it means to the business

It goes without saying that security is a hugely important part of any serious business. It’s an investment that will often seem insignificant, but you’ll know when you’re missing it. Attacks and data breaches can be devastating to a company, not only from a legal perspective, but also in the trust of your users.

9. Cloud Computing

we can dial up and down based on demand

As one of the bigger improvements to technology, cloud computing is a true step-change in how we are able to deliver more powerful experiences in a cost-effective way. With the major players being Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS and Google Cloud, competition has driven great advancement over the past few years.

With the ability to utilise scalable resources, such as flexible computing power from huge server farms, we can dial up and down based on demand. This way, the power is there for when we get spikes in traffic so that users don’t experience any bottlenecks, but we can equally get cost savings for when traffic dies down. This leads to faster experiences for users, backed by scalable power.

gives them the responsibility and power to marry up the hardware along with their software

As DevOps continues to become the go-to approach for many companies, developers now have the ability to spin up and tweak resources as they need to. This “developer-led architecture” approach not only speeds up their workflow, but also gives them the responsibility and power to marry up the hardware along with their software.

Cloud services have also started to make way for many managed services. No longer do we have to worry about provisioning a server, and installing the latest software and OS patches, just to get a database up and running. Instead, we can make use of abstracted services which manage the hardware automatically for us. Serverless computing is another advancement which layers on more abstraction here, and allows for true per-operation costing.

What it means to the business

The power of scalability is hard to understate from a company perspective. It brings about performance when you need it, and cost-savings when you don’t. When coupled with managed services, it also helps to reduce the time needed to continually provision and maintain infrastructure.

Reducing the need for in-house infrastructure also helps with the security and redundancy aspects. The large companies backing the main options have similar levels of security and redundancy available as Google employs for its own servers.

10. Voice Search Optimisation

As AI improves, they will become more prevalent

So many of us now make use of digital voice assistants (such as Siri for iPhones, or Google Assistant for Android-based phones), and they are starting to become another important tool in our daily lives. The trend seems to keep pushing more users to these features. As AI improves, they will become more prevalent.

Smart speakers are also another type of device that are being introduced into homes more and more, and they will also drive the use of assistants over the coming years.

it’s now more important than ever to be at the top of results rankings

Search is a big part of what makes these assistants useful, and interacting via voice (both asking a question, and getting a result/answer) is the primary way of using them. Therefore, search is becoming increasingly used via voice, and it has some interesting differences to traditional search.

One of the main takeaways is that fewer results get surfaced. When a digital assistant responds to a query, there just isn’t the time or expectation that the “top 10 results” will get shown. Instead, it’s now more important than ever to be at the top of results rankings.

What it means to the business

Search has always been very important in driving traffic to companies. Now that the landscape is changing, it’s a great time to use the opportunity and get ahead of the competition. Those that don’t are sure to be left behind.