Summary: Over the recent years, web development has changed significantly. Driven largely by the rise of recent trends (like mobile), the world of development is rapidly evolving. In this article, we’ll uncover what has changed, where development is headed, and how this effects your business.
Think back 10 years ago. The web was a completely different place. Smartphones (as we know them today) didn’t exist. Internet Explorer still dominated the browser market. Development methods were far different than they are today.
Since that time, we’ve seen smartphones and tablets emerge. Mobile browser usage has already surpassed the desktop. Development methods have changed dramatically to keep up with this (and other) trends.
The big question: Why is this important to your business?
Keeping up with changing development trends is important on two levels.
First, you don’t want to be that company stuck doing things the old way. This makes your business look “behind the times,” and gives potential customers a negative view of your company. For example, I recently saw a company site that required Internet Explorer. What kind of message does this requirement send to their users? These days, your website and apps should not only work across every browser, but every device as well.
Second, you could be missing out on the advantages that these changes provide. Changes introduced over the past few years have improved application speed, capabilities, security, and more. In the future, new changes will create even more advantages. Do you really want to ignore that?
Today, let’s explore these changes and the effects they have on your web development. Here are a few ways development has changed, and will evolve in the near future.
The rise of mobile has transformed many aspect of web development. One major change: It’s changed user’s expectations. It’s forced developers to create web applications that behave more like native applications.
As a result, we’ve seen a trend over the past few years: The shift towards client-side development. In the past, the client-server model relied on the server doing the heavy lifting, and then sending the results to the client.
2. The rise of cyber attacks
Cyberattacks are increasing. Attackers are more sophisticated than ever. This trend is only growing. In fact, 2014 was a record year for cyber attacks. 2015 isn’t shaping up any better.
The problem: As mentioned in this article, developers are still making the same security missteps that were made a decade ago. According to this study, 96% of all web applications contain at least one “serious vulnerability.”
That being said, we’re finally seeing an increased focus on security. While application security lags behind now, it must become a major development focus over the next few years.
“Security is one of the primary issues on the minds of developers these days, due to the number of security breaches we have observed over the past few years,” says Mark Tuchscherer, Co-founder and President of Geeks Chicago. “Developers are using SSL and two-factor authentication far more than they have in the past. Everyone is also trying to add a security layer to everything they build now a days. We have also seen the release of HTTP2, which should assist with security and discovering issues in a much lighter protocol.”
3. The growth of HTML and CSS
HTML5 became the standard in 2014, but is constantly evolving. New features and APIs are added regularly. While HTML5 is still surrounded with confusion, it’s changing web development in one very important way: HTML5 is delivering features that help web applications behave like native apps.
“There are two large changes that define the space,” says Drew Thomas, CTO of Brolik. “One is the addition of all the new HTML5 APIs that add native-like features to web browsers. The limited list of currently available APIs like camera access is rapidly growing to include new features like local storage / offline access and notifications (and many more).”
But, it doesn’t stop there. HTML works hand-in-hand with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)–which are also undergoing some pretty exciting changes. CSS is responsible for the layout and look/feel of a page. It’s behind responsive design–a web application’s ability to appear different on different devices and screen sizes.
What’s changing with CSS? As explained below, CSS4 will emerge in the near future, bringing some significant changes along with it.
“One of the really interesting things I’m really excited about as a developer is the upcoming advancements in CSS,” says Orun Bhuiyan, Marketing Technologist at SEOcial. “Not the least of which is, of course, variables that can be manipulated right in CSS (without the use of pre-processors or post-processors). Firefox has already implemented this as of version 38 and it’s coming to Chrome soon too. Realistically it’ll be several years before people start adopting this as old browsers won’t support it, but it represents a new era for CSS as we step into CSS level 4.”
4. The Single Page Application mentality
As mentioned above, the growth of mobile devices is changing web application development. Another big change is the growth of the single page app.
Let me quickly explain why this is important. In the past, a web application or a website consisted of multiple pages all linked together. The problem with this approach: Pages load slower on mobile devices. Navigating a complex site becomes frustrating on a mobile device, as the user must wait around for pages to load. As a result, we’re seeing applications switch to a single-page approach.
“Another change is the Single Page Application (SPA) mentality and all the new frameworks that come along with it,” says Thomas. “Again, in an effort to emulate native apps, web apps are being built as a single page so that we never load an entire new page. This makes our web applications feel faster, and it allows for more visual transitions from state to state. This comes along with many challenges, from security issues to SEO issues to framework choice issues.”
5. The growth of UX
Yet another change brought on through the rise of mobile: The importance of User Experience (UX) has skyrocketed. While this change is already accepted by most, I add it to this list because many companies still haven’t grasped the importance of UX.
The user experience can make or break a mobile app, and that’s carrying over to web applications. Users now expect simplicity. They expect a web application to have an intuitive experience.
Now, a good user experience is different than a good design. It accounts for the path a user takes when navigating your application. It accounts for application speed. It’s about how the application responds to the user. We’ve seen this area grow rapidly over the last few years, and can expect this change to continue.
“There is a greater emphasis on UX upfront vs. clients streaming in asking for ‘just a website,’”says Aalap Shah, Co-Founder of SoMe Connect. “There are now customer journeys, blueprints, and more discussion around the experience that a client/brand wants to convey vs. putting up a website just to put up a website.”
6. The way we use the web
What does it mean to use the web? In the past, the answer was simple. You opened a web browser on a computer, and browsed the internet.
Today, it’s not so simple. We now have mobile apps and browsers. We have smart devices that access the web. Going forward, the Internet of Things will blur the line even more. As explained below, web development is becoming less about the page, and more about the data and experience you deliver to your users.
“One major change we’ll see, and are already starting to see, is a change in how we use the web,” says Michelle Burke, Marketing Manager at Future Insights. “There will no longer be a major focus on the browser, but more of a focus on the user experience (UX) and engagement. Gadgets like the Apple Watch have used these tactics to make opening a browser less significant, and rather more integrated with our daily lives (think: IoT!).”
Now, these are just a few ways development is changing, but the list could go on. If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.
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