The year is already coming to an end, and while it’s a bit too early to tally the results of 2019, it’s certainly time to look ahead and consider future trends in web development. As a web development company, it’s in our interest to keep abreast of these things. In this article, we list trending technologies and approaches — new and old — we believe will have significant pull next year. Read on to learn what they are.
For clarity and convenience, the article is divided into sections: backend, frontend, web design, and miscellaneous.
- Backend trends
- Bots and AI
- Frontend trends
- Progressive Web Apps
- Accessibility (a11y)
- CSS frameworks
- Motion UI design
- Other web application technology trends
HTTP/3 is the latest version of the HTTP protocol we’re all familiar with. It’s a significant leap from HTTP/2, mainly because HTTP/3 is built on the UDP-based QUIC protocol (pronounced “quick” and standing for Quick UDP Internet Connections), while HTTP/2 is based on TCP (Transmission Control Protocol). HTTP/2 uses a single connection, which is generally not an issue unless we’re talking about a low-quality network. In a low-quality network, HTTP/2 can be extremely slow, as it needs extra time to reprocess dropped packets.
A traditional UDP connection has a problem with data transfer reliability owing to its lack of extra error checking mechanisms. When a packet is dropped, the system doesn’t retransmit it, since it has no overhead for opening/maintaining/closing the connection. QUIC solves this problem with multiplexing or the simultaneous transmission of several signals via a single channel. It combines the reliability of TCP with the speed of UDP.
QUIC is basically what its name suggestions — a faster protocol. It’s simpler, lighter, and more efficient, all while maintaining reliability. No wonder it’s one of the future trends in web development.
GraphQL is an API query language and a standard for developing APIs. It’s a child of Facebook, and it’s not even all that young — it was developed in 2012 and made open-source in 2015. But GraphQL is being adopted by more and more companies these days, which has compelled us to add it to our list of web development trends for 2021.
Before GraphQL, we had REST, whose main issue was that it required multiple endpoints and pulled too much data from them, not all of it necessary for the task at hand. GraphQL is different. With GraphQL, you only get the data you specifically ask for through a single endpoint. This makes GraphQL faster and much more efficient. Also, the API code is way shorter, since you don’t need to write a separate endpoint for each request.
Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind that GraphQL is an open-source language, meaning it can be upgraded by virtually anyone. Open-source makes for constant evolution. We’ll see what new trends GraphQL brings in the future.
Bots and AI
Chatbots are everywhere these days, aren’t they? They’re trending on the web as well as on mobile. And they’re not going to stop any time soon, it seems. Moreover, with the help of AI-powered natural language processing (NLP) systems, they’re becoming smarter and more efficient.
While a couple of years ago chatbots only offered strictly preprogrammed conversations that solved a limited range of problems, today, chatting with a bot almost feels indistinguishable from chatting with a human support specialist.
AI has now crept its way even into web design. Tools like Sketch2Code can automatically turn a website sketch into an HTML prototype. AI enhances the user experience, makes search and recommendations more precise, and offers voice search optimization.
Nest.js is a Node.js framework that allows web developers to build scalable server-side apps. Nest.js has secured a place among the web development trends every CTO needs to keep in mind for the next year (and maybe longer) thanks to its combination of flexibility and safety.
The best thing about WebAssembly is that it’s not a completely new language. You can write in the language you prefer and then compile it to a WASM file to run in browsers. Languages currently supported by WebAssembly are C/C++, Elixir, Rust, Python, Go, C#/.Net, and Java.
WebAssembly wasn’t invented in 2019; it’s been on the market for some years already. But it’s developing fast and offering more and more options. It’s also now supported by all major browsers by default, which makes having it under your programmer’s belt a great thing.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
A progressive web app is basically a web page with functionality close to that of a native mobile app:
- It can be “installed” on devices in just a moment — users simply pin the page to their smartphone’s home screen to have access to it at any moment, even offline.
- It’s responsive — it adjusts to the device’s screen size and mode automatically.
- It’s safe — PWAs must be served via HTTPS.
- It looks and operates like a native app but takes up way less space.
There are still limitations to PWAs, of course, and they can’t push native apps away completely. (Do they need to, though?) In particular, being essentially web pages, PWAs can’t use most hardware features like NFC and Bluetooth. However, not all apps require this functionality.
PWAs are faster, easier, and cheaper to develop, which is why they’re trending in web development this year and will certainly continue to trend in 2021.
This is one of the most important trends in web application development. We believe accessibility should be on the top of every website developer’s list not only for new sites but for updates to old ones.
Accessibility, or a11y, is a principle that says computer systems should be convenient for all kinds of users. Websites should work well on all kinds of devices, yes. But they should also work well for users with all kinds of impairments and disabilities. A11y generally refers to the accessibility of both software and hardware.
When it comes to web development, accessibility can be achieved via:
- larger or customizable font sizes
- optional high-contrast pages
- support for speech synthesis/text-to-speech
- subtitles in video
- transcripts for all audio files
- speech recognition for navigation
- plain-language texts
- highlighting important parts
- consistent navigation with as few steps as possible
- simplified authorization (but without sacrificing data security)
- navigation with a keyboard instead of a mouse/touchpad
- semantic HTML
The name a11y comes from the fact that there are 13 letters in “accessibility,” so there are 11 between “a” and “y.” But if you look closely, a11y looks like the word “ally” — a friend, an assistant, a partner.
Gatsby is an SSG, or a static site generator. And if you think that static sites are a thing of the past, we’ve got news for you: they’re among the latest technology trends.
One of the biggest pros of Gatsby.js is that it doesn’t require traditional servers; it works with BYOC (Bring Your Own Content) and can build a website based on data from a CMS, CSV, APIs, and markdown files. Gatsby also uses GraphQL, a high-end API query language we’ve mentioned before, for building data layers.
Mastering Gatsby.js does require a developer to know React Native and/or GraphQL, but you don’t need deep knowledge right off the bat — you can start learning all three at the same time.
Gatsby.js is an SSG that’s perfect for developing ecommerce websites. This React-based generator helps you create sites that load in the blink of an eye, quite literally — we’re not talking seconds here, we’re talking milliseconds. Any ecommerce business owner knows that sometimes a split-second delay in page loading can make all the difference in whether the customer makes the purchase. This is true for other types of sites, though maybe to a lesser extent.
You’ve probably noticed how with most websites, there’s the same basic interface for all, or most, pages. Still, when you go to a different page within the website, the whole page reloads, including those elements that are the same. That’s what happens with multi-page web applications.
SPAs, or single-page applications, are web apps where the page doesn’t reload fully when a user clicks between sections; it only pulls up the necessary data instead of requesting a complete update of the HTML. This shortens the loading time. It also requires way less bandwidth.
Today, SPAs can be implemented with three main frameworks: React, Vue, and Angular. React has the biggest market share, while Vue, being the new kid on the block, has the smallest. However, Vue.js is probably the best tailored to work specifically with SPAs — it’s really small yet scalable, flexible, and offers top-shelf integration options. We foresee it becoming an influential player next year.
At the end of June 2019, Evan You and the team behind Vue.js posted an RFC (request for comments) regarding the new iteration of the framework, Vue 3, which was met with quite a bit of negativity within the community. But as it turned out, this negativity was loud but not all that massive. Also, as often happens, it was born out of a number of misunderstandings.
The reason some web developers had their panties in a twist was because Vue.js suddenly got a function-based component API to replace the familiar object-based one. However, that wasn’t exactly correct. The new function-based component API is an addition of sorts and can be used together with the traditional object-based API if you want to.
The new syntax in the Vue 3 Composition API has better logic and makes for better code structuring. Some developers even say it shortens the code slightly. As of the time of writing, the Vue 3 framework is available as a plugin for Vue 2 using the Vue Composition Library.
Introduced by Rich Harris at JSConf EU 2019, Svelte is at the same time similar to and different from Vue. It’s similar in that it’s also a component framework. However, unlike Vue, Svelte is a component compiler that runs during build time. This makes it possible to load only the components necessary for displaying your app. You don’t use a virtual DOM when you work with Svelte.
Svelte has a simple syntax that enables developers to access variables from markup instead of using state wrappers that are different for different frameworks. This makes Svelte a nearly perfect framework for those new to web development. For more experienced developers, Svelte means the possibility to write code faster and get higher-performing websites as a result.
In the year since its presentation, Svelte has gone through major improvements and updates, resulting in what many developers today call one of the simplest and most beautiful frameworks in existence.
Frameworks make everything simpler, and that includes the much-maligned CSS. Let’s see what’s trending in CSS this year.
The result is that parsing takes way less time, developers don’t need to wait for browser providers to expand CSS, and designs can become more customized and unique.
There’s still one issue, though: Houdini isn’t yet supported by all major browsers. But the process has been launched and we’re waiting for the way we use CSS to change completely.
Bulma is one of the most modern industry trends. It’s built with the Sass (Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets) extension and based on the CSS Flexible Box Layout Module, or Flexbox for short. Flexbox is a module often used for building responsive websites.
Bulma is a free open-source CSS framework that offers a range of community-created themes with as few styles as possible. It’s simple to implement and can be customized thanks to the Sass build. Owing to the simplicity of Bulma’s CSS code, websites built with it are usually compatible with all browsers and pose little to no issues. Currently, it’s one of the most popular CSS frameworks among developers, and it looks like it’ll hold the position next year as well.
The Tailwind CSS framework has been around for some time but has risen in popularity quite a bit in recent months.
The peculiar thing about Tailwind is that it’s not a UI Kit, which sets it apart from other CSS frameworks. It has no built-in UI components. Instead, Tailwind offers a set of widgets for fast UI development with Atomic CSS utility classes. This means you’ll be able to build from scratch and exactly the way you need, unrestricted by themes and styles other CSS frameworks offer.
You’ll need to be familiar with Atomic CSS, though, which makes Tailwind a little bit of a challenge compared to its rivals. On the bright side, it will give you the most custom look and feel.
Motion UI design
Motion UI is the biggest new trend in web design and development. In a nutshell, Motion UI means exactly what the name says — adding action to your website’s pages. And it doesn’t only include visuals. Micro-interactions are as much a part of Motion UI as animations. Responsive gestures can help your visitors understand the meaning behind an element — for example, by simply rolling out an explanation when the cursor is hovering over it.
Adding motion to your website’s interface can achieve a number of goals:
- Help users navigate the site with ease
- Attract attention to the important parts of your website
- Entertain and distract users while they wait for a transition from one screen to another
- Enhance your brand identity
Motion helps website owners tell a story in very few words. Or in no words at all. The key is to do it just right — not too much and not too little.
Other web application technology trends
We’d like to point out several trends that aren’t exactly frontend-, backend-, or design-related. These are simple things that matter more and more with each passing year and as technology develops.
Data security and privacy
Today, we have shorter and shorter breaks between new data leak scandals. But it still takes a leak for someone to try and patch a hole. It’s the same in the physical world and online. For this reason, new high-end security protocols are developed constantly: SSL certificates, security checks, DDoS attack protection, and so on and so forth.
In May 2018, the European Union issued its General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. According to the GDPR, websites ought to inform visitors of what information will be gathered about them (either through cookies or by providing an email address and filling out a profile) and how that information will be used. As a result, we’ve seen a huge increase in investment in cybersecurity. People demand safety online now that we manage our identities and finances on the internet.
Data security isn’t a future trend anymore. It’s today’s trend, and it will only become bigger with time. So if you’re a website owner, you need to keep your eyes open.
If you’ve read this article in its entirety, you might have noticed the number of technologies, both backend and frontend, that are focused on faster page loading, faster task completion, faster everything. We’re always in a hurry, and when a page loads too slow, we abandon it and go for an alternative. After all, there are plenty. Loading speed was, is, and will be trending in web development in the next few years, and web developers need to keep in sight all the new technology aimed at speeding up websites.
This is our take on the web technologies we expect to be hyped over the next year.
Written by Svitlana Varaksina and Artem Chervichnik