6 Web Development Trends for 2021

Get your company ahead of the competition by implementing these trends in your next web development project.

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As with everything related to the digital world, web development is in constant evolution. That’s especially true for the last decade in which websites went from a simple group of barely animated pages to highly-sophisticated platforms that feel more like apps than traditional sites.

You can thank the notorious digital evolution of those ten years for that sophistication — and you can keep on thanking it for what’s to come. Because web development can’t stand still, at we’re already seeing some bubbling trends that promise to be standards in the upcoming future. In fact, some of those trends will surely solidify during 2021, including the exciting ones we list below.

1. Artificial Intelligence Development

AI has seeped across virtually every human activity you can think of — and development isn’t the exception. Given its cognitive functions, AI is proving to be a highly valuable ally for software engineers all around the world. That’s because AI’s ability to collect data, analyze it, and learn from it opens a myriad of possibilities and uses in custom software development and, specifically, in web development.

One of the things that AI is bringing to the table for custom software developers working on web projects is the now-ubiquitous chatbots that pop up on a lot of websites. But some of the newer things AI can provide to web development are algorithms that can automate testing and QA tasks, drive customer research for better UX and AI design, adjust websites automatically for hyper-personalized experiences, and even code websites themselves with minimal human input.

Some of those things might sound strange, but AI’s increasingly improved capabilities are making them possible to a point where 2021 might see their extended adoption throughout web development teams.

2. WebAssembly

JavaScript has been a mainstay for web engineers for quite a long time and it doesn’t feel like it’s going away anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean that JavaScript can be topped. Truth be told, the fact that WebAssembly is already making its way among web developers proves that there’s always room for improvement. In this particular case, WebAssembly is a powerful alternative to JavaScript, especially in those projects where JavaScript lags behind in performance.

WebAssembly is an open standard that facilitates the interactions between programs and their host environment by ensuring that code written in any programming language is compiled into bytecode. This allows it to run in a browser, which brings a series of benefits for web engineers, including software independence from hardware, language, and platform, high-security level, and lightning-fast performance, especially for calculation-heavy applications.

In short, WebAssembly provides cross-platform scripting, speed, and a minimal footprint, the holy trinity of web development aspects coveted by web developers. That’s why WebAssembly’s popularity is soaring and will continue to do so during 2021.

3. Motion Design

Web design has now gained the respect it long deserved, mainly because developers understood that UI can make or break the user experience on any website. That’s why motion design promises to be so big next year — because it brings elements to add a new dynamic to websites of all types.

It’s not that you haven’t seen what it can bring, which mostly includes header transitions, pulldown menus, dynamic popups, and animated buttons that have a certain dynamism. However, motion design isn’t just about animating elements but doing so with purpose. In that way, motion design will bring websites to life in a way that “suggests” specific navigation for the visitor.

The idea is to improve the UI and UX through movement, highlighting important navigational elements, providing interactivity with flair, and drawing the user’s attention to trigger a specific action or behavior on their part. Movement is essential for engagement, which is why motion design is becoming more and more common with each passing minute.

4. Single-page Apps (SPAs)

The concept of what is a website and what does it look like has changed a lot over the years. But one of the most dramatic changes we’ve seen during the last years is the radical departure from the idea that a website is a group of pages. The traditional approach to websites is that there is a homepage with a menu and buttons that provide access to linked pages within the same domain. That notion is what we’re leaving somewhat behind with single-page apps (SPAs)

A SPA is a web app or website that dynamically rewrites the current web page with new data depending on the user interactions. It does that instead of having the browser load entire new pages each time a user taps on a button or selects an item on a menu. The idea behind that is to increase the browsing speed while providing a streamlined user experience.

SPAs are nothing new, mind you, but lately, we’ve seen them gain a lot of popularity as they show a strong performance for mobile devices, reducing the waiting times for users to get feedback after an interaction. It’s only natural that more and more websites will jump on board the SPAs wagon, especially starting in 2021.

5. Serverless Architecture

Serverless architecture is based on serverless computing, which is a service provided by a cloud computing company that offers to run the server while dynamically managing the allocation of its resources. In other words, hiring a serverless computing company implies that the host company takes care of the infrastructure and its maintenance while the web developers only worry about the things that they want to host there.

In that context, web developers that use serverless architecture can enjoy a high-performing infrastructure that maximizes their scalability and relieves them from support efforts. Basically, this means that web engineers only have to worry about web development projects themselves rather than worrying about technical stuff related to the servers.

This reduces the time needed to complete a web development project while also slashing the associated costs, something that any software development company can find attractive. Both of those benefits are the main reason why companies are already adopting serverless architectures for their web apps and why they’ll keep on doing so — even beyond 2021.

6. RAIL Model

Finally, we have the RAIL model, a concept that has been among us for quite some time but that’s just getting traction. RAIL is an acronym for Response, Animation, Idle, and Load, the model’s critical components that guarantee a faster loading time for all pages while increasing the site’s overall performance.

Response means that each input generates an immediate response (which should take less than 100 milliseconds). Animation is included through dragging and scrolling. Idle implies that critical elements are loaded during the initial load while the rest are idly waiting to be loaded. Finally, Load is all about loading the main page elements of a page in the first second.

As you can see, the RAIL model emphasizes instant feedback, quick loading of all elements, and smooth transitions and animations that make the user feel engaged right away. Thus, it’s easy to see why so many web developers are adopting the model — because today’s users demand high speeds and performance, something that RAIL can provide them.

To Wrap It Up

All of the trends we’ve mentioned above are just a few of the many that will surely make their way into the devices of web developers everywhere. But since these 6 trends already have significant penetration in today’s web development teams, it’s safe to say that their adoption will keep increasing to the point where they’ll become all the rage across development agencies, nearshore software outsourcing companies, and freelance developers alike.

It remains to be seen how these trends will end up looking and how they will evolve, especially considering the ever-changing demands of users and the fluctuating nature of user experiences in the world of the web. Yet, adopting them now and throughout 2021 will prove instrumental for any web developer trying to give their web project an edge.

I’m a tech writer, IT enthusiast, and business development manager living in Miami.