Summary: As digital technologies transform the business landscape, web development becomes increasingly important. In the near future, those who keep up with changing development trends will have an advantage over those who don’t. So, where is enterprise application development headed in the coming year? Learn more in this article.
- Rapidly evolving: Web application development is going through major changes. Tactics are evolving. Tools and libraries crop up on a regular basis. New standards have emerged that will dramatically improve web application capabilities.
- Becoming more powerful: With these changes come new capabilities. Tasks that were never possible with web apps just a few short years ago are now commonplace. Web application capabilities have grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years.
- Playing a greater role in the business world: As the business world becomes increasingly web-based, your business applications play a growing role in your success. The research firm, Forrester, sums it up nicely with this quote: “The software you deploy, and especially the custom software you create, will increasingly be part of your competitive edge.”
As application development plays an increased role in business, companies that keep up with modern development trends will have an advantage. Companies that don’t will fall behind.
So, how is enterprise application development changing? What big trends can we expect in the coming year? While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, here are some of the most important trends to watch in 2020:
1. SpeedOne of the biggest overall trends in web app development revolves around speed. Businesses want fast web applications. This is driven by a few factors:
1. Google rewards speed: It’s amazing how much of an impact Google has on web trends. Algorithm changes start a domino effect. For instance, Google started using page speed as a ranking factor last year. Since that time, we’ve seen an increased emphasis on speed.
2. Attention spans are decreasing: It’s been widely reported that humans now have shorter attention spans than your average goldfish. (If you’re wondering how they measure a goldfish’s attention span, you’re not alone.)
What does that mean for web app development? A recent study found that bounce rate (the rate at which visitors/users leave a web page) increases with page load time. If your web app loads in 1 second, the bounce rate is only 7%. If it loads in 7 seconds, that rate skyrockets to 53%!
3. More mobile users: Because mobile networks often deliver slower download speeds than wired internet, application speed becomes even more important. Modern web applications must not only be responsive, they must be blazing fast.
How do you improve web app speed? While I won’t get into all of the tips here (as there are many), let’s focus on one important trend: Building “lighter” web applications and web pages. This starts with good coding practices and decreasing the amount of data that’s required for the page to load. In 2020, we’ll see more use of tactics designed to improve speed. As explained below, lazy loading is one such tactic that we can expect to grow in the coming year.
“We’ll see more modular designs with a lazy loading philosophy where applicable,” says Jason David, CEO of Software Portal. “This means that components of the application will only be downloaded when necessary, keeping the applications footprint on the device (and our user’s data plan) as small as possible.”
2. Motion UI
I just finished telling you how important speed is to a web application. But…what if I told you that actual page speed is only part of the equation?
Let’s take a step back. What’s the point of a fast web app or web page? User satisfaction. Our goal: Keep the user engaged so they don’t get frustrated or leave. Speed is just one way to reach this goal. So, the real question is, how else can we improve the user experience?
I’d like to explore a couple of options: Perceived performance and motion.
1. Perceived performance: Research has found that perceived performance is often more important than actual performance. In other words, how fast a web app feels is just as important as how fast it really is.
Why is that important? Boosting perceived performance can actually improve user satisfaction and decrease bounce rates.
What can you do to improve perceived performance? This is where things like loading animations come into play. They keep the user’s attention while they wait. That’s just one tip, but here’s an article that outlines more actionable ideas.
2. Motion: Simple animations in your web app can go a long way towards a better user experience. But, I must warn you: Don’t go overboard. Too much motion in a web app will overwhelm the user and make things feel busy. However, subtle movement can go a long way in improving user engagement and experience. Here’s a great article on how to use motion in UX if you’d like to learn more.
“Motion User Interface (MOI) is designed to make client’s lives easier, says Jitesh Keswani, CEO of e-intelligence. “With this innovation, users will get to experience personalization. A certain amount of life will be added to the searches that people go for, making their user experience better.”
3. Automated InteractionsIndustry analysts predict that we’ll see an uptick in both automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in 2020. But, how will that impact web app development?
No, we won’t see AI take over web development any time soon. However, we’ll see AI and automation used to create smarter chatbots, which can replace the functions of many websites and apps. These chatbots can interact with customers/prospects and even perform tasks. In 2020, we can expect chatbots to continue their growth in web development.
“A lot of industry experts, including Gartner, have predicted that the majority of customer interaction will be automated by the end of next year,” says Mark Hill, CIO of Nelson Frank. “That means the number of businesses using chatbots continues to rise, and all evidence suggests that uptick will accelerate in 2020.
“Two factors are making them increasingly popular. Firstly, there’s been a massive leap in quality, so that the conversation is seamless from a customer’s point of view. Secondly, the satisfaction with the service from end-users is incredibly high. People don’t care who is fielding their questions, just that they’re getting answers.
4. VoiceDid you know that smart speaker adoption is growing faster than any technology since the smartphone? The importance of this fact goes far beyond the speaker itself. Voice interfaces are the next big thing, and smart speakers are just the beginning. We’re already seeing voice-based interfaces make their way into other areas.
What does this mean for web application development? If you’re creating public-facing web applications that are found through search engines, you must optimize for voice search. That involves creating short snippets that directly answer questions, rather than long-winded explanations. I won’t get into all of the other details here, but here’s an article that explains the topic.
What if you create web apps that aren’t searchable? Voice still applies to you. If you haven’t started educating yourself on voice interfaces, now is the time. While we won’t see a wholesale change to voice-only interfaces anytime soon, it will play an increasingly larger and larger role in web development. It’s best to get ahead of it now.
“Voice search compatibility will drive change with any user interface, including web apps. Technology advances have led to significant increases in the ability of AI systems to hear, interpret, and properly understand voice command,” says Will Ellis, IT Security Consultant and Founder of Privacy Australia. “This, in turn, has turned smart home devices like the Amazon Echo into a must-have item. As more households start to utilize voice control technology, consumers will lean on voice more to search and obtain information that they need. It has become relatively easy for web designers to integrate voice recognition technology into websites and apps, so it will become necessary to have that as a part of future developments. Even if your audience is not likely to currently utilize that type of technology, we are trending more toward voice technology, so your future audiences will need voice recognition. Jump on the trend now and give yourself a leg up on the future of consumer browsing.”
5. Self-service development
Citizen development. Low-code development. Self-service development. While this trend goes by many names, there’s no denying its growth. According to Forrester, the market has a compound annual growth rate of 40%.
What’s driving this growth? We typically see this driven by a couple of factors.
First, there’s the growth of easily accessible, third-party solutions. If the business users don’t get the solutions they need quickly, they’ll license these solutions themselves–bypassing IT altogether.
This practice–known as “Shadow IT”–is growing faster than business leaders realize. In fact, this survey found that Shadow IT usage was 15-20 times higher than CIOs estimated.
Second, there’s the need for speed. We live in an “instant” world. The modern business runs on the web. Users demand solutions quickly. They won’t wait months for new solutions, as they did in the past.
The problem is, IT departments can’t meet this development demand fast enough. The increased demand for both web and mobile apps has grown faster than IT’s ability to deliver.
How bad is it? Gartner shared this surprising statistic at their recent Application Strategies & Solutions Summit: “Through 2021 market demand for app development will grow at least 5x faster than IT capacity to deliver it.” The fact is, business demands on the IT department are increasing…but IT departments are still hampered by old systems, processes, and a lack of resources.
As businesses try to reduce their reliance on IT, we’re seeing an increased push towards self-service. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen businesses turn to user-driven development platforms as a way to counteract these trends. These platforms let users create their own applications, while giving IT control over data and user access.
In the coming year, I believe we’ll see this trend pick up steam. As development platforms improve, and users expect instant solutions, self-service development will become commonplace in the business world.
6. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)Proposed by Google back in 2015, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have grown in popularity. As defined by Google, “Progressive Web Applications take advantage of new technologies to bring the best of mobile sites and native applications to users. They’re reliable, fast, and engaging.”
Essentially, progressive web apps (or PWAs) are web applications and/or websites that feel like native mobile apps. They take advantage of the host of features on web browsers but deliver an app-like user experience. They work offline, provide near-instant loading, and have the ability to send push notifications.
Why is this trend so important?
Since mobile apps first rolled around, businesses have faced a difficult choice: Develop native apps or mobile web apps? Native apps provide the best experience, but are expensive to build and difficult to maintain. They also require a separate app for every operating system. Mobile web apps work across all platforms and are easier to build, but can’t match the native experience.
PWAs offer a viable alternative to native app development. They offer the development benefits of the web combined with the user experience benefits of native. Going forward, they’re poised to change how businesses develop cross-platform applications.
“As smartphones continue to dominate internet usage, many companies have made the wise decision to meet their consumers at a user-preferred location,” says Gary Stevens, Founder of Hosting Canada. “In 2019, offering a mobile view of your webpage is a must, but many other companies have started to take it a step further and are now using progressive web applications (PWA). These applications grant users easy to navigate applications and allow businesses more reach with their consumers via things like push notifications and offline availability. Applications are some of the most used features on smartphones. Internet browsing, while useful, may result in distracted users as they search. Even worse, consumers may stumble across another company providing similar products in their search for your website. Nor does web surfing urge consumers to look through company offerings the way that mobile applications do. A PWA gives companies a chance to maximize their consumer’s attention and present the best the business has to offer, all while capturing as much information as users are willing to provide.”
Yet another trend revolving around speed, This applies to mobile web apps and sites. Google launched their “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (AMP) project a few years ago. It is designed to create fast-loading web pages/apps on mobile devices.
Now, Google is putting pressure on businesses to get on board. Shortly after its release, they started prioritizing mobile traffic for AMP pages. Those who implemented AMP on their sites saw a jump in search traffic.
What does that mean for your business? First, if you haven’t created mobile versions of your website and web apps, that should be priority number one. Second, implement AMP on your pages. This growing focus on speed will continue for years to come.
“Although it is not so new, it is becoming more and more important as the penetration of mobile devices usage is constantly increasing,” says Grzegorz Rogoziński, CEO of Cut2Code. “Website owners should consider creating AMP versions so users can see the website’s content faster and without Internet connection.”
8. SecurityI hesitate to add security to this list, as I feel it’s a topic that could be added every year. However, I include it for one huge reason: It’s still a big problem. In fact, studies find that 92% of web applications have exploitable security flaws or weaknesses.
Here’s the crazy part: Most of the exploitable security vulnerabilities in these applications aren’t new. They’ve been around for over a decade. The risks and fixes for each are widely known. Yet, many business applications aren’t protected against these common threats.
Why does this happen? Why do businesses keep creating applications with known vulnerabilities?
As mentioned in this article, many of the problems boil down to priorities. In some businesses, management places little focus on creating secure applications, and more focus on speed. In other cases, the developers lack proper security training.
As data breaches become more prevalent, and the risks of ignoring security continue to rise, we’ll see the focus shift primarily towards security. In the coming year, we can expect big changes in security priorities and training budgets.
These are just 8 enterprise application development trends, but the list could certainly be longer. If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.