7 trends to watch in development.

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We have a few predictions for what lies ahead in development in 2017. In no particular order, here are seven trends some of our developers are keeping an eye on:

Progressive Web Apps.

2017 could be the year where Google really start to make headway with Progressive Web Apps (or PWAs for short). Google has recently announced further support by making PWAs fully integrate into the Android shell once they have been installed on the phone. 

For the uninitiated, PWAs are Google's attempts at making apps easier to install and use essentially bypassing the difficult app store process, which has historically been the biggest barrier to entry for mobile applications. What also makes them great is they give app users the ability to use the app when they're offline and also offer push notifications. 

Support for iOS Safari is still patchy with people speculating that Apple may even try beating their own path for a similar technology, but don't let that stop you. The PWA functionality is unobtrusive and non breaking, so is definitely worthy of consideration.

Andy Dover _ Technical Lead.

AI and Machine Learning
Anything that causes such a stir in the space of a year like AI did in 2016 deserves a mention as something which will become a hot trend. The big players like Google, Facebook, Microsoft et al have firmly embedded their machine learning capabilities into the tech bubble and are offering developers handy tools to integrate them into every day life. While this is a blatant play by each of them to win the race to accumulate the most data, it offers a great opportunity for the rest of us to start integrating small snippets of intelligence into our digital offerings. 

It doesn't have to be anything grandiose either, we won't be trying to sell you Skynet just yet, although perhaps sprinkling some intelligence in search results or listings wouldn't go amiss – especially if it exponentially improves the user's experience of your application.

Andy Dover _ Technical Lead.

Natural Language Processing
Voice recognition isn't a new technology; people have been using dictation software for almost 20 years now. However, advances in low power yet highly capable processors combined with new techniques in artifical intelligence software structures are allowing natural language to be understood intelligently by affordable consumer-level devices and services (e.g. the Amazon Echo). 

The ability to discern and remember conversational context is allowing voice to become a viable user interface, causing many to declare 2017 as the year of the voice interface. Additionally, the concept of 'skills' allows NLP-based products to connect with a myriad of existing software and service APIs, bringing a new way of interacting with tools that you've already been using for years.

Duncan Rumbold _ Senior Developer.


Service Workers
A service worker is a script that your browser runs in the background, allowing you to have features that don’t require a web page or user interaction, for example, push notifications are a common use currently for Service workers. Service workers have both advantages and disadvantages in my eyes regarding push notifications. 

Some advantages are that you get to create an online web app, where you can set up push notifications as you would normally with a mobile device app, but does not have the same drawback of having to download an app. Though, these push notifications aren’t restricted to a mobile device and can be used on a desktop machine as well. 

A disadvantage for sure is, for people like me who don’t enjoy push notifications from Apps, these get enabled and currently it isn’t easy to get rid of the push notifications coming through, but this can be achieved with a quick google search.

George Malanichev_ Developer.

Static website generators.

The idea of static website generators is quite old (see the changelog history for git's Jekyll for example), however I found it on a blog entry of the 8 web dev trends to look out for in 2017. My point here is that web dev trends, as with all trends in general, are either determined by the majority of people saying let's do something, or a magazine saying it's going to be big -- neither of which are a good indication of what is good or right. There is a trend at the moment to look for trends. Look out for this trend in 2017.

Jim Perry _ Senior Developer.


Rise of the Javascript CMS.

Over the last few years, we've been swamped with all manner of Javascript frameworks, tools and libraries. At the same time, a lot of the server-side code and logic that runs a CMS is being replaced with APIs that are accessed using our new-found sorcery.

Some of these frameworks seem very bold and confident despite their lack of longevity; Simpla touts itself as 'the future of the CMS' while Hatch promises a 'CMS without the meh'. However it remains to be seen how these fresh-faced young upstarts will rank against their stalwart server-side seniors. Don't worry back-end devs, PHP won't go away overnight. We can only hope the same isn't true for .NET.

As Node.js, Express and MongoDB form an increasingly tighter alliance and attract a more mature community we're sure to see many more CMS frameworks built on top of them emerge and evolve in 2017. KeystoneJS is probably the main one to watch this year.

If we want to get any actual work done in 2017 we must be wary of being seduced by the torrent of new technologies heading our way and for the most part stick to the ones we know and love. Why should we care about Vue or MobX when we already have Angular and React? There's little point in making 100 flavours of crisps when most people just want ready salted.

Graeme Thornber _ Developer.


Containerisation and PaaS.

Tools like Docker, Kubernetes and others took the DevOps world by storm when they entered the market, promising to keep each application on a server in it's own container with it's own set of dependencies. This was an opportunity to give developers and sysadmins a massive chunk of breathing space when they deployed, not having to worry about the risk of taking down other sites with incorrect versions or memory issues being leaked from other applications. 

The technology is relatively simple, each application essentially has it's own miniature file system and versions of software it needs to run, instead of multiple applications sharing the same resources. Such simplicity has since made rise to multiple PaaS providers, notably Heroku and Elastic Beanstalk on Amazon. 2017 will continue to see the rise of these, as more people realise that it's makes sense from a time, security and safety perspective to have all of these things on a managed service in their own containers.

Andy Dover _ Technical Lead.