The field of web development is changing as development tools evolve, and as increasingly tech-savvy users develop more complex needs and expectations. In 2021, web development trends are all about responsiveness, and giving website owners the power to easily manage their website and their customers.

The basic building blocks of web development — programming languages like HTML, CSS, and PHP — remain consistent. But nowadays, developers are using these programming languages in cleverer, more streamlined ways, as well as employing more plugins and integrations to develop responsive websites.

At Yardstick, we develop a website to our clients’ specifications, beginning with a basic sitemap and design files. Developing a complete website that not only looks and acts the way the client wants it to, but is simple enough for the client to manage independently, is a bit like putting together a complex puzzle.

When we’re developing a website, we always want to look at it from the client’s point of view. We consider the client’s level of technical experience and expertise, and make design decisions based not only on the experience for users on the front-end, but for the business users who are updating and managing content on the website’s back-end.

Though the exact tools and techniques used to develop a website vary widely depending on the needs of the client and the look and feel of the site, there are a few popular items that we’re seeing more of.

  1. Animations

    Animations are a web design feature that has been gaining popularity in the past few years. Used as an enhancement to content layout, animation done well can elevate the user experience.

    Animations for front-end web development are now available as part of frameworks like UIKit, which we use at Yardstick. Since the website is so often a user’s first interaction with a business, and with users growing more experienced and web literate by the year, business owners are recognizing the need for their website to be more than informative. Clients are looking for a website that creates an immersive and engaging experience for users, and leaves a memorable first impression in a space where there’s often hundreds of similar business websites clamouring for attention.

  2. Mobile-First Development

    Responsive development has always been important, but it’s becoming even more crucial with the rise in numbers of mobile-first and even mobile-exclusive users. Globally speaking, mobile users make up the majority of website users in general, so a website that is not responsive to multiple devices will quickly fade into obscurity.

    Mobile-first development is something that, a decade ago, might have been considered nice to have, but now and heading into the future it is a necessity.

  3. Back-End Builders

    How we design a website is heavily influenced by not only what the client is looking for, but how tech-literate the client is. A website can do a variety of things, but complicated functionality also demands more from the website manager, and a business owner with no technical experience may have difficulty managing a website with a back-end that relies on raw code. So it’s important to balance what the client is asking for on the front-end with what level of technicality they can manage on the back-end.

    A builder is a tool that can be applied to the back-end of a website. A builder replaces a basic HTML text editor with a building-block interface, allowing website managers to drag and drop design elements and content onto a page visually, rather than having to deal with any raw code.

    Back-end builders have been around for years, but as little as 5 years ago they were not as widely used by web developers because they tended to be restrictive in what kinds of functionality they would allow for. Builders themselves, in recent years, have developed to the point of being a very useful tool for developers and website owners alike.

    We still have to write code in order to customize the builder, but it makes the experience a lot less technical for the end user, while also giving them more control over the presentation of the content and pages of their site.

  4. WordPress and CMS

    At Yardstick Services, we develop in WordPress, and that’s partly because of the continually growing popularity of WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS).

    Five or 10 years ago many websites would have been composed of separate pages of hand-typed HTML placed into their own folder structure. A CMS would only be used when a site had a vast amount of data and pages.

    WordPress was around at the time, but its functionality and ease of use has exponentially increased. And these days, using a CMS is pretty much essential. This isn’t something new to web development, but it has become far more common. Though there is always some argument about this, and each developer has their own preferences, we feel that WordPress has emerged as the undisputed leader of the content management race.

  5. Ecommerce Considerations

    Ecommerce websites demand extra considerations in web development. When we’re working with an ecommerce site developed in WordPress we tend toward Woocommerce — this is a robust series of plugins that allows for both advanced functionality and the security that is required in processing credit card and banking information.

    There are lots of different ways you can develop an ecommerce site, but it’s important to consider the level of integration with the CMS, and how much heavy lifting is going to be done by a third-party versus the site that’s under your control.

  6. Chatbot Integration

    Many business clients these days are keen to have a chatbot widget on their website to allow customers to ask questions and find the information they need in a more personalized way. If you’ve browsed the web at all in the past few years you’ve probably come across a website with an instant-messaging field that pops up on the front page, or something similar. Chatbots may be managed by real customer service staff, or they may be AI-powered, analyzing the user’s inputs to deliver pre-written responses from a database of possible answers.

    At Yardstick, we focus on WordPress development, so when a client asks for a chatbot we can integrate an existing chatbot program into a site via a plugin or a third-party service provider. We don’t necessarily build the chatbot, but we build the website to allow for the technology to be easily integrated. This is a common practice for many web developers.

In Summary

Web development trends in 2021 are all about mobile-first, engaging visuals, and ease of use. When developing a website, we always have the client in the forefront of our minds. It’s important to develop a website that accommodates the client’s needs and abilities on both the front-end and the back-end.

Who is this client and what are their technical capabilities? What functionality do they require in their site? How are they planning to manage and update their website content? Asking these and similar questions is an important step in planning a website that is as simple to use for the owner as it is for the front-end user.

Is your website in need of an update? Do you have big ideas for a new business website? Contact Yardstick Services to discuss your options today.