Summary: As web application development evolves, it’s playing an increasingly important role in the business world. More and more, application development directly contributes to a company’s competitive advantage. How has web application development changed, and where is it going? Learn more in this article.
Web application development is evolving. Development standards are changing. New tools and libraries emerge on a (seemingly) daily basis.
The big question: Why should businesses care about these changes?
As businesses rely on the web more and more, application development plays an increasingly important role in sustainability. According to a Forrester study, “The software you deploy, and especially the custom software you create, will increasingly be part of your competitive edge.”
The fact is, web application development is evolving, and these changes have a significant impact on the business world. How has development changed recently, and where is it going? Today, let’s explore a few ways development is changing, and how you must adapt.
1. More hardware diversity
Over the past few years, we’ve seen smartphones and tablets explode in both the consumer and business world. This led to the growth of responsive design. Your web applications must now adapt to various screen sizes and interfaces.
Going forward, this trend is only expanding. We’re seeing a new wave of “smart” devices, like watches, glasses, TVs, and more.
What does this mean for development? As explained below, these changes force developers to rethink their development approach.
“Recently, and ongoing, screen sizes and resolutions have changed from the past,” says Marie Sonder, Web Designer and Developer at EZSolution. “You used to be able to just design for a desktop and the different browsers, but now it comes down to all the different screen sizes and resolutions. It forces the developer to determine the hierarchy and what’s most important; like logo, phone, navigation, etc.
Speeds of devices are all different. While smartphones and tablets are getting better, they still don’t have the processing power and memory that a power desktop has. It makes the developer have to code differently and make sure everything is clean to get the best page load time possible.
Lastly, touchscreen functionality makes a huge difference. You have less “mouse-overs” to get more information, so you have to make it obvious where buttons and certain places are that you are calling for action. They need to be more visible, have some color, and stand out in some way so you know there is an action to be made there from a touchscreen. Again, hierarchy comes into play so that you focus on what is most important, and what needs to stand out and be actionable.”
2. Increasing focus on security
While web app usability and interfaces improved over the last few years, security lagged behind. How bad is it? A recent study found that 96% of all web applications contain at least one ‘serious vulnerability.’
What does this mean for development? Going forward, we’re seeing a greater emphasis on application security. Developers must become well-versed in proper security standards, and make it their top priority.
“The biggest change coming is the pressure for super-high quality applications is going to outweigh the need for development speed,” says Alan Willett, President at Oxseeker Inc. “Cyber-attacks are increasing in number and sophistication. The ramifications of failing to protect from those attacks to the developers of these applications is great financial hardship which will just become worse as the scale continues to grow. This will force developers to rethink the practices they believe are giving them speed but instead are leaving wide open barn doors for the pirates to walk in.”
3. Greater emphasis on tools
Web app development is becoming more complex, requiring an ever-increasing number of skills. Developers must understand architecture, security, databases, front end layout, and more.
As a result, we’re seeing a greater emphasis on tools. We’re seeing new libraries, frameworks, and tools emerge that not only improve productivity, but also fill in the skills gaps for developers.
“Web development tooling, or, tools to make your job as a web developer easier, was ignored for a long time,” says Skyler Slade, Co-founder and CTO of Tandem. “With so many developers switching to web development in the past several years, the mindshare and talent is now focused on making web developers’ lives easier. Tools help you automate a lot of manual work. For example, image “spriting” where different images would be combined into one single file to so that they’ll download quicker. Previously this had to be done by hand, using a tool like Photoshop. Now, using automation tools like Grunt, this process can be completely automated. This saves hours of time. Automation tools can also correct syntax mistakes, format your code to a standard, and a whole host of other things.”
4. More focus on user experience
When mobile apps became popular among consumers, something changed. Users learned to expect the simple, intuitive interfaces found in their mobile apps.
This has serious ramifications for developers. As user expectations change, the user experience becomes critically important. Developers who don’t provide simple, intuitive interfaces will struggle with user adoption.
“As web app development has matured, the focus on making web apps easier to use has grown,” says Mark Calkins, VP Development at Bluehost.com. “Quite a bit of web app development now starts with UI design and even better with user experience testing to provide a simpler, more intuitive user experience.”
5. Greater demand for APIs
In the past, businesses ran all of their software in-house. Now, that’s changing. More businesses are opting for SaaS options that address specific needs. They might use one service for CRM, another for collaboration, and may build their own reporting applications.
What does this mean for developers? Your applications must provide a way to communicate and integrate with other applications. This is why we’ve seen such rapid growth in application programming interfaces (APIs)–a trend that will gain steam in the coming years.
“Everyone wants to integrate with various systems,” says Konstantin Mirin, Founder of IQRIA. “Your customers may have systems in place and you need to provide an API for that. If you keep this in mind from the very beginning, the best way to address it is API-centric architecture.
6. Rich interactivity
We’re already seeing a strong push towards web applications that behave more like native applications. However, this push towards faster and more powerful web applications requires a shift in development methods.
What does this mean for developers? We’re seeing a shift from server-side development to client-side development. As browsers become more powerful, much of the traditional server-side work is now moving to the client side.
7. Real time applications
As we move towards web applications that behave natively, a new trend has emerged: Real-time web apps. These are web apps that can communicate with the server and update the application without a page refresh.
What does this mean for developers? As explained below, the push towards real-time web apps opens up some great possibilities. This is a trend we will see more and more in the coming years.
“Building real time applications used to be quite difficult,” says Calkins. “Now, with Node.js and Socket.io, building real time apps has been simplified by an order of magnitude. This is great for instant messaging, chat, real time document collaboration and editing, real-time analytics and a number of other apps. Trello, Yammer, Zendesk and many others are using Socket.io to create real time apps.”
So, what do you think? Is there anything you would add to this list? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments.