There is likely not a single industry that the events of 2020 didn’t change in some way, and tech is no exception. The Covid-19 pandemic drastically impacted the way humans work, the speed with which companies have had to adapt to new circumstances, and the responsiveness expected by customers. In fact, even in the face of economic downturn and uncertainty, tech has enabled agile businesses to grow by adopting new business models and leveraging development to help deliver them. Medical centers now use healthcare applications to deliver virtual care, and food delivery and shopping applications have seen an increase of 100 to 200% since the beginning of 2020.

Moving into 2021, we’ll see nimble, simplified, and quick responses to evolving user needs as application use and development continues to scale. Here are some of the top application development trends to watch this year that will make this possible.

1. Jamstack gains traction

An emerging trend in development architecture, Jamstack offers significant advantages for developers and users alike. The “JAM” in Jamstack stands for client-side JavaScript, API, and Markup. Rather than relying on the expense and complexity of dynamic servers, Jamstack serves static pages and assets from a CDN and relies on the “thriving API economy” to essentially outsource complex functionality. This separation provides improved speed of development along with improved performance and scalability of web applications and websites that leverage it.

According to Jamstack, “The core principles of pre-rendering and decoupling enable sites and applications to be delivered with greater confidence and resilience than ever before.” This decoupling translates into significant benefits such as greater security, more agile scaling, faster performance, less maintenance, and an overall better developer experience. For companies, building with Jamstack can potentially help save on development costs while delivering a faster experience. And with less maintenance to worry about, you’ll be encumbered with less technical debt over time.

2. “Low-code” or “No-code” as a standard first step

No-code and low-code development platforms (LCAP) such as Appian, Mendix, Microsoft and more are revolutionizing the way that business users and developers within enterprises are building lightweight, early-stage applications. Gartner predicts that by 2023, over 50% of medium to large enterprises will have adopted an LCAP as one of their strategic application platforms. Allowing business users to skirt around common development hurdles such as high cost, investment of time, and lack of coding expertise, the low-code/no-code movement has opened up application development to a much wider audience. In a landscape where business leaders need to adapt quickly to change, being able to tweak and maintain an application without extensive developer assistance can provide a clear business advantage. Low-code/no-code solutions can also be helpful in proof-of-concept or prototype stages of development by providing stakeholders with a functioning application to provide feedback and guidance on, which can prove highly informative when moving into custom development stages of an application.

That said, no-code application development isn’t perfect in every scenario, and it’s not without its drawbacks. First, while no-code platforms offer a variety of templates, integrations, and functionality, you are still limited to what they offer. The moment your use cases dictate a feature that their components don’t cover, you may have to seek an alternate solution. And most no-code platforms don’t provide source code—which means an upgrade to a custom solution means you’re back to square one. Having a good understanding of what your requirements are can help determine if you can swing a no-code solution or if you need a more customized approach.

3. Collaboration platforms become more integrated and essential

In the midst of the pandemic, many companies quickly adapted to supporting employees remotely. In large part their ability to do so relied on successfully using collaboration platforms for chat and video, as well as project management, customer management, and more. In 2020, collaborating via systems was no longer simply best practice but a necessity for functioning across a distributed workforce.  

With CRM platform Salesforce’s recent acquisition of Slack, 2021 shows no signs of slowing down on digitally enabled collaboration as a key application development trend. Expect to see more and better integrations across collaborative tools. Companies will also choose to invest more heavily in these platforms, especially teams that are considering adopting remote work policies in the long term. Collaborative tools will help businesses optimize their productivity, and we anticipate these platforms comprising a larger portion of enterprise tech spending as we enter into the next phase of the “new normal”.

4. Containers and microservices continue to dominate app development

Decoupling is one of the benefits of Jamstack, but independent components aren’t isolated to Jamstack’s specific architecture. Containerization and microservices—dividing application architecture into discrete, independent “containers” of service proxies—are together one of the most significant changes in application development over the past decade. With microservices, development teams can easily update one component of an app without posing risks to the others. A microservices framework distributes application architecture, which provides inherent benefits such as easier upgrades and modernizations over time, continuous deployment, and less/no system-wide downtime.

Microservices and containers have become the “gold standard” for app development, replacing monolithic legacy systems with lightweight yet high-performance environments. Container frameworks such as Docker and Kubernetes continue to mature, while new service mesh providers such as Istio, Linkerd, Envoy and more make microservice management easier. This helps reduce comprehensive enterprise use of a complex, ever-growing collection of microservices. The cost savings is substantial over time; companies that invest in modern architecture spend significantly less on maintenance and troubleshooting and can make improvements and additions to their application quickly and easily.

While 2021’s development trends lean toward faster, better, and simpler, the development landscape itself can seem complex, especially after the rollercoaster of the previous year. For more than 20 years, MercuryWorks has supported and guided our customers through the process of building fast, beautiful, and powerful business applications. Consistently delivering top-quality software and service, our team is here to help.

Interested in learning how MercuryWorks can help you take advantage of these trends in your custom application development?