The world of web development is constantly changing—and rapidly at that. As new technologies emerge and user expectations evolve, we see a continuous flow of new apps, websites, functions and features.
For every new development that the user encounters, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes. As a web developer in today’s fast-moving landscape, keeping abreast of these changes is a must. While no one can predict the future, it’s important to be in tune with how the industry is moving and to anticipate which factors will have the biggest impact.
As we journey through 2021, it’s time to consider where the industry is headed. What does the year hold for web development? Let’s take a look.
- Single-page applications
- Progressive web apps
- Artificial intelligence
- Voice search technology
- Website push notifications
1. Single-page applications
The first trend on our list is a direct result of user browsing habits. In the first quarter of 2021, 54.8% of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile devices. Whilst the shift away from desktop is nothing new, this serves to reiterate that designing and developing for mobile must continue to take priority.
Today’s users are all about simplicity and speed—and that’s exactly what single-page websites provide. As the name suggests, they consist of just one long web page. There’s no traditional menu or complex navigational system; instead, the page is divided up into logical sections. The user only needs to scroll down in one continuous motion, or click on anchor links in order to jump to the relevant section.
A great (and delicious) example of single-page design in action is the KitKat website. Scrolling down through the page becomes an experience itself, with every new element smoothly unfurling to tell a story.
From a user perspective, SPAs look good on all devices, are extremely scroll-friendly (the smartphone user’s dream), and may even help to boost conversions. However, as with any trend, it’s important to consider the specific use case of each website in order to determine whether this design pattern is the best option.
2. Progressive web apps
Once again, we’re seeing the influence of mobile in this next trend: the rise of progressive web apps.
Progressive web apps look and behave like mobile apps, but are actually web pages that work in the browser. As Google explains, PWAs combine the best of both: “They are useful to users from the very first visit in a browser tab, no install required. As the user progressively builds a relationship with the app over time, it becomes more and more powerful. It loads quickly, even on flaky networks, sends relevant push notifications, has an icon on the home screen, and loads as a top-level, full screen experience.”
Aside from recreating the much-loved mobile app experience in the browser, PWAs offer many advantages. They can work offline, are highly immersive and engaging, and load extremely quickly as much of the information is stored in the cache. Unlike mobile apps, they can be discovered online via search and don’t require installation.
If you want to begin to dip your toe into HTML, in this video Abhishek shows you how to quickly create your first website:
3. Artificial intelligence
It seems like the AI hype never lets up, but it wouldn’t be a trends list if we didn’t mention chatbots. The past year has shown us more than ever how inevitable automation is across all industries, with chatbots often the most visible example.
In the age of constant connectivity, user expectations are high. The traditional 9-5 customer service no longer cuts it: we want 24/7 access to answers and information, and this is where chatbots come in. These virtual assistants have quickly become the norm, with the Covid-19 crisis accelerating their usage until they appear is on the majority of business website. As they have evolved quickly from customer service into a key conversational marketing tool (with Instagram automated messaging a hot 2021 trend), today’s web developers need to be comfortable with the technology behind them.
This means getting to grips with Natural Language Processing, Natural Language Understanding, and Artificial Intelligence principles. Context-based interactions will play a key role, and the focus will shift towards real-time rather than static user experiences. This developer’s guide to chatbots provides a good introduction to the relevant platforms and frameworks.
4. Voice search technology
“But voice recognition tech has been around for over decade!” we hear you protest. It seems that in 2021, however, things are truly picking up speed.
Despite uptake smaller than predicted in the past, last year there were more than 157 million smart speakers in American homes. It’s not just people asking Siri or Alexa for the weather or to play some smooth jazz—consumer spending via voice assistants will reach 18% by 2022, with revenues hitting $19 billion.
Outside of e-commerce, voice interface technology is spreading rapidly, with demand for voice-savvy web developers (as well as UI designers with VUI) rising too. We’ve already covered how you can become a voice user interface designer, but aspiring web developers should be looking how to optimize every application they work on for voice search and navigation, particularly mobile apps. To learn more about why this is a huge trend that can’t be neglected, Jeff our Head of Design explains all in this video:
5. Website push notifications
Push notifications are not just for mobile apps. Websites are also taking advantage of this user engagement tool, and this is a trend we’ll see more and more of throughout 2021.
As with chatbots, brands are constantly seeking ways to communicate with the user and provide valuable information at just the right moment. As long as the user has notifications enabled, they can receive useful updates even if they don’t have the website open.
So how do push notifications work? The push part refers to the server supplying message information to a service worker. The service worker then sends the information to the user, in the form of a notification. This is possible on the web thanks to the Push API. From a development perspective, push notifications are fairly easy to set up, and they offer the benefit of higher engagement without necessarily needing to create a mobile app. You can get started on learning them in this coding workshop.
As you can see, a career in web development will certainly keep you on your toes; even the most experienced developers are constantly learning and adapting. Interested in becoming a web developer? Find out what key skills you’ll need to master and how to go about it here.