The thing just is: The list didn’t change that much because the technologies I predicted to be important in 2019 were still important in 2020 for example. And they still are in 2021.
So I rather take a different approach for this year: Instead of focusing on individual technologies, I want to explore some bigger changes I see happening in the web development world.
So here are my three most important trends I identified for 2021:
- More focus on the user & less complexity for “complexity’s sake” (jump to article paragraph)
- More companies and workflows are moving to the web (jump to article paragraph)
- Lifelong learning is more important than ever before (jump to article paragraph)
This list does not have any particular order and of course you might not agree. Or you might also have some other important trends you’re seeing. Please share them!
Leave some feedback with the button at the beginning of the article or - even better - by commenting below the video which belongs to this article.
So let’s dive in!
# More Focus On The User & Less Complexity (Kind Of…)
Web development, especially frontend web development gained quite some complexity over the last years.
Whilst getting started as a web developer thankfully is still fairly easy (also check out my web development learning path), growing as a web developer and working on real projects definitely came with more and more complexity.
We got more libraries than ever, more ways of writing our (frontend) code etc. There are more patterns evolving and more alternatives for existing technologies (React vs Angular vs Vue, REST vs GraphQL, SQL vs NoSQL)
This can be overwhelming! And it can lead to suboptimal code or overly complicated solutions.
But most importantly, I argue that we kind of forgot about the actual goal of web development: Building great websites (with great user experiences) for our users / visitors.
Our users don’t care whether you’re using React, they don’t care whether you use functional components with hooks or class-based components. They don’t care about whether you use a REST API or a GraphQL API.
Of course you might go for a certain solution because it allows you to build a smoother and better user experience but it’s also easy to dive into “tech wars” on Twitter and solving simple problems with complex solutions. I feel like that’s been the case over the last years.
So I predict that we’ll re-focus in 2021 (and beyond).
Focus on the end user, on the visitor.
Try to keep things more simple. Move code to the server-side if it makes more sense there. Avoid highly complex client-side solutions if some server-side code allows us to get rid of a problem entirely.
The recent announcement of React Server-Side Components fits into that picture.
I feel like the time of 10 new JS frameworks per year might be coming to an end and that might be a good thing (it does not mean, that existing frameworks are going anywhere though).
One important note though: Focusing on the user and hence trying to not overcomplicating things does not mean that there won’t be difficult or complex areas anymore.
Focusing on the user also means that we want to optimize performance, optimize images on our website, build responsive web pages and so on. These are all complex tasks - just as deciding whether to go with a client-side only library and codebase or adding server-side code.
I just feel like we’re now going to focus on these things and topics instead of trying to build ever-more complex (client-side) web applications just for the sake of it.
Ultimately, we’ll have to combine all skills which we have to build great websites!
# More Companies & Workflows Are Moving To The Web
Another key trend that already started in 2020 is that more companies, use-cases, businesses and aspect of our life are going to move into the web and become available online. And it’s not just offering services or goods to customers online - it’s also about digitalizing internal processes and services. It’s about the entire value chain.
This has also been discussed and evaluated in greater depth in articles and reports like these two:
Of course, this has been ongoing for years but the virus that hit us in 2020 definitely sped up that development and forced companies to explore digital strategies they might not have considered before.
There definitely are a lot of businesses which had to develop an online strategy within a few months that never intended to go online before.
And this trend will continue.
Not only will the virus not magically disappear in 2021 (although, we’ll hopefully be able to regain a more normal life) but companies will need to re-invent themselves as digital companies to stay competitive. The virus might’ve been the spark many companies and businesses needed in order to move online.
Of course, with such a drastic shift come a lot of challenges.
That, on the other hand, will be opportunities for web developers - after all there will be plenty of potential customers who need websites, advisory, online services and much more.
I don’t think that this surge will end very soon - instead, we’ll probably have a “second wave” after the initial move from offline to online. Because optimizing an online business, scaling it and keeping it up and running will be yet another challenge for companies.
# Lifelong Learning Is Important!
But no, that’s not why this trend is on the list. I create that content because I really love sharing content and spreading knowledge.
But lifelong learning is a megatrend.
It’s not really that new. And you could argue that ongoing learning and self-improvement always mattered. And you would be right!
But, again, with the events we saw in 2020, it became obvious to everyone in the world, that you need to evolve your skills.
That’s related to the second trend in this article: With more businesses moving online, the entire workforce also needs to be able to follow along. And that means that you need to be able to evolve your skills and acquire new skills.
It does not mean, that everyone needs to learn web development - not at all!
But whatever your passion and job is about: You can’t afford to stop learning.
As a web developer, you want to stay updated with trends, new technologies, new patterns and best practices and you also might want to acquire new skills like backend development as a frontend developer for example.
If you’re working in a fashion outlet, you might need to learn how to advise customers via videochats.
Learning never stops because our world and our progress never stops - if anything, innovation just seems to accelerate.