Trends in Web Development in 2021


Being a software developer means that you need to learn constantly and improve your skills in order to stay updated with current technologies and concepts that are rapidly growing. However this blog will be less about technologies, it will not be about progressive web apps or serverless which I believe are trends, but instead it will be about general, more broader terms which play an important role this year.


There I identified three main trends:


  1. User centric approach – focus on the user and don’t overcomplicate things.

What do I mean by that? Especially in frontend web development which has always been the area that I focused on mostly we definitely had growing complexity over the last years. We had more and more frameworks, libraries and approaches and to a certain extent that will stick around but to some extent things will also become more simpler.


I think we finally have more movement towards simplification of frontend web development and we put the user to the center of our thoughts more than we maybe did in the past. We can always have long discussions about whether React or Angular or Vue is better but in the end we must never forget that the visitors of our web page don’t care. What they do care about though is that they go to a web page which is fast to load and use, which is intuitive to use, which has a good user interface and user experience and therefore as a web developer that has to be our focus.


It should be about building a product users love to use and if that’s using Vanilla javascript and Vanilla HTML and Vanilla CSS that’s all good. Now, some complexity will still be needed to achieve the best possible user experience, especially when it comes to code optimisation, preloading things, optimizing images and responsive design.


These are things which have some complexity and that will not go away, but to a certain extent we can definitely also make things simpler and not overcomplicate things because users don’t care how you make that modal overlay to appear, they care that it appears in a logical and smooth and understandable way and doesn’t break their user experience, and that’s really something to keep in mind.


I think it is something we can see out there in the technology landscape as well. For example if we take React, their team is working a lot on new features which only exist to provide better user experience. Things like concurrent mode and suspense and also React server components which are all in a research and experimental phase, really have only the goal to provide a better user experience. These are not the new ways of managing state, the last addition we had in that area were React Hooks that we had in 2018, but since then the focus has shifted to these user experience focus advancements of the React library. Of course it’s not just React, we have the similar developments in Angular with the Ivy project for example which they completed in 2019, and it’s all pretty similar to Vue where they have improvements in speed and code size and so on.


So I would say there is a slight shift making things easier, you could say going back to the roots, not overcomplicating things, not moving everything to the client just for doing it, but instead rather thinking about should that code run on the server, should we prerender that page, should we maybe not use 10 libraries, but just use Vanilla javascript for that certain problem we are trying to solve, that is a trend that I definitely see for 2021.


  1. More businesses and aspects of life moving to the web

One major accelerator for that trend is the COVID-19 that we saw in 2020 and which still affects our life. I think it’s easy to say that a lot of businesses, a lot of companies suddenly felt the urge and the need to move their business to the web when the virus struck, because all of the sudden they have to close their shops, their customers were online and therefore a lot of aspects of life had to move there.


For example in Serbia we suddenly discovered that our education system was not prepared at all for digital education and therefore we are still struggling to figure that out. And even hopefully if we get rid of that virus this year this trend will still persist. A lot of businesses and other areas of life suddenly needed to move to the web and even if we don’t need web mode they are after having a web branch, having some online branch will definitely stay important. Being able to deliver education digitally will stay important even if schools can open up again.


Therefore it is a trend, and why does this matter for us web developers? Well because if more things are moving to the web, more people building these things will be needed and of course we also then need to adapt and adjust to the needs of all these businesses and areas of life moving to the web. Therefore this is definitely a trend I see for this year and probably also the next year


  1. Life-long learning is more important than ever

This trend has always been a thing. It’s not new but also with the virus is becoming more and more important. It’s probably also something that was discovered by more people in 2020 than the years before, that you need to keep evolving, that you need to keep on learning, you constantly need to grow.


Your education does not stop after school, after picking up some degree because the world doesn’t stop, especially in web development, even with the reduced complexity and the user centric trend we still have a lot of developments, a lot of technologies, a lot of areas you need to explore and you need to be willing to do that because it keeps our job spicy, it forces us to learn new things and dive into new aspects and that is interesting.


You shouldn’t feel that as some pressure, it’s not something that you feel as a must do in a bad way. Instead see it as a opportunity, it doesn’ mean that you need to learn ten new things every day but you should be out there with an open mind, pick up some new technologies, have a look at a new library, have a look at a new best practise or a new approach, question your code, try to write better code, grow as a web developer.


These are the core aspects here. Lifelong learning doesn’t mean that you have to learn a brand new thing every day. Instead grow in small things and improve in small things. That is something which always has been important and which obviously is now more important than ever before.