Summary: Web application development is changing and becoming increasingly important. What can we expect for 2022? How will web application development evolve and what areas should you focus on? In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the biggest web app dev trends to monitor in the coming year.
We’re going to go over some of the biggest trends to watch this year in the world of web application development. But…before we dive in, I wanted to take a quick step back and define the term. I’ve noticed a fair amount of confusion over the ‘web application development’ term recently. Many seem to believe that web app development is the same thing as web design or website development. This is not the case.
So, what is ‘web application development?’ A web application is application software that runs on a web server that users access via a web browser. Web application development is the process of creating this web app. It’s generally database-driven and includes a front-end for client-side rendering (what the user sees in the browser) and a backed for server-side rendering.
Now that we have the definition out of the way, let’s focus on the real reason for this article: Trends. What web application development trends can we expect to see this year? Bear in mind that I’m not just focusing on new trends. I’m looking at the trends that will most impact development, both new and existing. Sound good? Here are the biggest web app development trends to watch in 2022.
1. Development Speed
One of the biggest challenges facing development teams: Time, or lack thereof. Customers and stakeholders want web apps delivered right away (often with more features than they had originally asked for).
Of course, the need for development speed is nothing new. Ask any developer and they’ll tell you this issue has existed forever. So…why do I view dev speed as a big trend this year?
A couple of reasons: First, the pandemic created a ripple effect throughout the development (and business) world. It forced web-based solutions on many companies. Any organization that wasn’t prepared for a remote-work environment needed web applications, and they needed them fast. We’re still seeing residual effects of this, as organizations adapt to a hybrid work environment.
Second, business agility is more important than ever. How quickly can your organization adapt to changes? How quickly can you create the solutions you need when push comes to shove (as it did when the pandemic hit). We’re seeing the business world place more and more emphasis on speed, which directly trickles down to development.
Of course, demanding development speed is easy enough to do. The question: How do you actually improve development speed? It really boils down to three options:
- Reduce quality: Now, I don’t think any business leader would knowingly ask their developers for less quality. But, when they demand faster solutions with no increase in resources, that’s essentially what they’re doing.
- Hire more developers: This may seem like the simplest and most obvious solution. But, there are two problems.
– First, it’s expensive. Most businesses can’t afford to hire a few new developers in order to improve development speed.
– Second, finding good developers isn’t easy. Sure, you’ll find there are lots of available developers. But, how do you separate the great developers from the mediocre during the hiring process? It’s not easy.
- Use software tools to get more out of your existing team: Over the past few years, we’ve seen major growth in the low-code development software space. One of the driving forces behind this growth is the whole “do more with less” challenge. Low-code tools help your existing team create web applications 50-80% faster. How? We’ll cover this more in the next point.
2. A bigger shift to development tools
Taking the last point one step further, we’re seeing a rise in development tool adoption. According to these statistics, the low-code software market will quadruple from 2020 to 2025.
What’s driving this growth? I see it driven by a couple of big factors.
First, we’re in the middle of a massive talent gap. According to this article, the talent shortage is at its highest levels since 2008. It’s difficult to find good developers right now as they’re in such high demand.
If you’re a business that needs development help, what should you do? Rather than try to find good talent, many are opting for development tools instead. Development tools (low-code/no-code) bring web development skills to their current team.
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.
Low-code platforms address this issue by reducing development time and giving self-service development options to end users. As a result, low-code tools can be used across the business in a variety of ways. As explained below, this is one of the biggest advantages of these tools.
“No-code and low-code is not just a development model, but a technology that affects multiple aspects of a business, from staffing to goal-setting to product delivery,” says Aaron Glazer, CEO of Taplytics. “It’s going to continue to be a game-changer for business applications.”
Gartner (the research firm) has been touting the idea of “Composable Enterprises.” They define it as “an organization made from interchangeable building blocks.” It helps organizations deliver innovation and adapt to change faster.
A key part of this ‘composable enterprise’ is the idea of ‘composable applications’. Now, it’s nothing new–just a new term applied to an old concept. It refers to business applications that are made of reusable, modular components. It calls for application ‘building blocks’ which can be reused across other applications.
Again…not a new concept. But, its importance was amplified with the pandemic and the shift to remote work. Many were left scrambling to create web applications from scratch. Those who take a modular approach had a much easier time adapting.
The advantages of this approach should be obvious. It leads to:
Faster Development: When you’re creating reusable building blocks and then using those blocks to assemble applications, your development speed increases.
Improved Agility: This approach helps your business adapt to change at lightning speed. Rather than build applications from the ground up, you can build the core and add other premade building blocks. In a time of rapid change (like now), I cannot overstate how important this is.
If you’d like to see this in action, here’s a quick video that walks you through the process of creating composable applications:
4. Greater emphasis on accessibility
Web accessibility is becoming increasingly important to both web developers and designers. Why is it so important? Here are some stats (taken from this article) that might surprise you:
- 15% of the world’s population has some sort of disability
- 90% of websites are inaccessible to people with disabilities who rely on assistive technology
- In 2020, digital accessibility lawsuits rose to over 3,500 cases
What does this mean? Those who ignore web accessibility guidelines are both alienating a portion of the population and putting their business at risk for accessibility lawsuits.
What are the web accessibility standards that your business should be following? The W3C has a nice accessibility guide which you can read here. It shows web developers why it’s so important and how to create web apps and websites that can be accessed by those with disabilities. While these standards have existed for years now, you can expect more and more emphasis to be placed on web accessibility standards in the coming years.
“With growing recognition that accessibility is part of a standards-based approach that most development teams struggle with, the effort is underway to close this industry gap,” says Lee Dale, CEO of Say Yeah!.
5. More emphasis on APIs
We’re seeing a shift in development focus over the past couple of years. In the past, developers tended to focus on the software first while APIs came second. These days, more developers put APIs first as companies place an emphasis on interconnectivity.
For those unfamiliar with the term, an application programming interface (API) is a software intermediary that allows different applications to communicate with each other. It defines the kinds of calls or requests that can be made, how to make them, the data formats that should be used, etc… Essentially, they let different software applications pass data back and forth.
Why is this so important now? I see the rise of APIs driven largely by a couple of important factors:
1. Changing software structure: Enterprise software structure is moving from a monolithic to a microservices approach. What’s the difference? With a monolithic approach, every feature is built into the software. It’s one big single unit. On the other hand, software built with microservices is composed of smaller, independent parts. These parts rely on APIs to communicate.
2. The growth of SaaS: Software as a Service (SaaS) adoption has grown enormously over the past decade. Businesses adopt SaaS solutions to address different needs across their organization. For instance, you might have a SaaS tool for your CRM, one for eCommerce, another for your helpdesk, and so on. The problem is, these pieces of software stand on their own. By default, they don’t communicate with your other pieces of software. That’s where APIs come into play. Most SaaS offerings include an API which makes it possible to pass data between each one. Essentially, they help tie everything together.
“API first, as the name implies, is a strategy that treats APIs as first-class citizens,” says Sara Johansson, Customer Success Manager at Onsiter. “API stands for application programming interface, which is a piece of code that enables two software applications to communicate with one another. Developers can use this interconnectivity to effect different goods into their applications to improve their functionality and performance. APIs enable new IoT devices, software tools, and web interfaces to communicate with each other and provide users with a seamless digital experience.”
I hesitate to add cybersecurity to this list, as it could be listed every year. It’s an ongoing trend. Cyberattacks are increasing, and the problem is only growing worse.
But, I add security here for a simple reason: According to this research, 68% of web applications contained a flaw listed in the OWASP Top 10–a list of the most important web application security risks. These vulnerabilities are widely known and fixable.
Think about that for a minute. We’re not talking about obscure vulnerabilities here. We’re talking about widely known vulnerabilities that have existed for years. Any web developer should be familiar with the OWASP Top 10 and how to address each issue.
Yet, over two-thirds of web applications still have these issues.
Why do developers struggle so much with security, despite its importance? In my experience, it boils down to a few issues:
- No incentives for security: Peter Drucker is famously quoted as saying, “What is measured improves.” The problem for many developers: Security isn’t measured or rewarded.
- Short deadlines: Let’s take the last point one step further. Most businesses incentivize development speed, often at the expense of security. Developers rush through the project—ensuring it meets all the business requirements. But, this often comes at the expense of proper security practices.
- New developers in the workforce: New developers are stuck maintaining code they didn’t develop, and don’t always understand what a weakness looks like. The bigger problem: As explained below, most developers haven’t received a proper security education.
7. Web 3.0
I also hesitate to add this point to the list, as we’re in the beginning stages of web 3.0. Will it have a big impact on development this year? For some, it will. For most, probably not. But, I include it because it has the potential to impact web application development in a big way. At the very least, web app developers should work to understand what technologies are included in web 3.0 and how they work.
What is it? Web 3.0 is all about a move away from middlemen. It’s about creating a decentralized web that moves control over to the user. The important part: It’s all driven by the blockchain.
Now, I’m not trying to give you a full explanation of Web 3.0, blockchain, crypto, or anything like that. I’m just saying that change is coming. Some say this is the biggest technological shift since the internet. Regardless of your business or industry, it’s something that you should understand. Here’s a Here’s a nice article that goes into far more detail if you’d like to learn more.
What can you do about it? This is the time to understand everything you can about what’s coming. Read all you can about the blockchain, web 3.0, and tokens. It might be hard right now, but try to understand how this can change your business.
“We’re at a pivotal place where Web 3.0 promises to give the web back to the people and out of the hands of the large companies in charge of the cloud today,” says Jonathan Girroir, Senior Technical Marketing Manager at Tech Soft 3D. “This movement is really in its infancy, and we will see it develop far beyond 2022. Through this, we will have better equity for individual creators with their ability to monetize content on the blockchain, more targeted and gated marketing, and the development and adoption of new technologies and workflows. It really will be a paradigm shift in the way we experience and interact with the digital world.”
These are just 7 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.