Every year web development trends change, whether this is down to new technology available or a business decision. Either way, there's always something new available to learn, understand and take advantage of for your business or project.
These technologies and trends change year on year and shift very fast, so it's easy to fall behind with what's the latest on the block. So here's a shortlist of what we will see more of this year:
But JAM stack comes with its complications, such as it's not great for SEO because pages are rendered only when the user visits a particular page. Websites built in JAM stack can generally be on the larger side as they typically use a framework, and their bundles get large.
So along came SSG's (Static Site Generators) to fix these issues. The general idea is that your content is not being requested and rendered every time a user visits a page from a source (Generally a CMS or database) but instead, these requests are generated at the build process and stored as flat HTML files meaning the user is only requesting a 5kb file, instead of a 5MB file. Every time you hit save in the CMS, the pages are generated and saved as flat files.
Another benefit is that you can have your content separate from the visual representation of the website. It allows you to use the content elsewhere, whether this is in an app or EPOS system.
AI or Artificial Intelligence became a popular topic last year, especially once we'd seen how powerful and readily available GPT-3 technology had become. It allowed developers more accessible ways to train an AI to do specific tasks that would take a human longer to do manually, or it was not a task we'd want to do!
We've all seen those little chat windows popup on websites. Usually, John or Jane asking us if we need any help finding a product or choosing an exemplary service. They look real, right? Incorrect! Many of these chat windows are powered by AI (Chatbots) to help you make decisions based on your questions and answers. Scary right? (Maybe force a Turing Test on one next time!)
But even though it might seem scary, it can be a significant cost-saver for your business, as you won't need to hire staff to do those kinds of tasks and are they are less likely to make mistakes.
Over the past few years, other tools have cropped up, such as Copy AI, which uses AI to generate content/copy for your website by inputting a few keywords about your business and services. As well as AI for images, whether this is increasing/upscaling the quality of your image or detecting something in the picture - We can use these to our advantage.
If you're a bit of a moonlighter like me, you know that using any screen device at night can be harsh on your eyes, especially if that website/app has a bright white background! Not only is it damaging for your eyes, but it also makes it harder for you to read text due to the difference in contrast between the text and background.
Apple and other phone companies have tried to get around these issues by having auto-dimming screens and changing the hue of the screen from blue to a warm glow - Which makes your eyes a bit happier.
But we've also seen a shift in websites having "alternate" dark versions that auto change depending on the time of day (E.g. Light version in the day time, and dark versions when the sun has set) As well as detecting your preferred version based on your device settings.
From a business point of view, having a "dark" version of your website can eliminate users bouncing off your website due to not being able to scan the content quickly and improve your accessibility for disabled users.
But there are downsides to having fully dark websites - Try using one outside on a sunny day! So it's best to offer both if you can.
Maybe not a technology change, but what every business should consider in 2021 is the new rules around "Google Core Web Vitals". Essentially Google is changing its algorithm to rank websites that load faster on both desktop and mobile than ones that don't.
By improving the speed, it takes your website to load, it also, in turn, increases the user experience of the website, which is another reason why Google is ranking off these factors.
The rules mean that websites need to be fully interactive on load, defer or improve the loading of large elements (Images, videos, fonts) or have no "layout shifts" whereby the page jumps around as the user interacts with it.
These rules come in to play in May 2021.
Most of us have that little box in the corner of the room that we can shout "Hey Alexa" or "Hey Google", and we can get them to do specific tasks in our house.
We have these because it makes it easier to express and say a command, E.g. It's easier to say "Hey Google, play some electronic music" than it is to open up Spotify, find a playlist/artist that you want and have it play. Yes, we're lazy.
Solutions for websites mainly work around this idea of searching or finding something within your business. Adding a simple "voice search" option next to the search bar can increase your user's conversion rate finding a particular product or service.
As well as adding speech/voice features on your website, it would help if you also considered optimising your content for people using speech searches to improve your SEO ranking. The main idea is that when we use speech/voice to search for something via Google, we generally use more significant sentences. For example, we're more likely to say, "Where can I stay in Scotland around August this year" rather than when we'd typically type something like "Scotland holidays in August". The reason for this is that we speak to these devices in actual sentences rather than keywords, so improving your "longtail" phrases can improve your ranking.
Overall, we're yet to see clever and interesting speech features used on websites in 2021.