It is well known that web development has been the favorite subject for computer geeks worldwide in this century. But daily growth and new techniques have made it even more amazing to explore and experiment with. In this article, we will write about contemporary web development challenges and their solutions.
What is web development?
Web development is the work involved in developing a website for the Internet (World Wide Web) or an intranet (a private network). Web development can range from the development of a simple single static page with plain text to complex web-based internet applications (web applications), e-businesses, and social networking services. A more comprehensive list of tasks that web development generally refers to may include web engineering, web design, web content development, customer liaison, client/server-side scripting, configuring a web server, and network security and development of e-commerce.
This represents only one stage of the business vision that leads to a functional website that casual visitors can visit. Acquiring a developed website does not automatically lead to fulfilling the set goals (e.g., selling products or services and earning money).
What are the new challenges in web development?
Using WebAssembly Technology
WebAssembly is used to solve this issue. This technology makes it possible to write code using any programming language. It compiles to bytecode, which is subsequently run using the browser.
Using WebAssembly technology allows you to get several undeniable advantages:
- freedom of choice of language for programming;
- exclusion of the use of equipment of a particular type;
- speed of code entry;
- a high level of application or portal security.
Thanks to WebAssembly, we will get an increased speed of computation-heavy applications and an improved overall user experience.
Working with serverless architecture
The serverless architecture uses cloud environments: that is, the server is still there, but it does not belong to the owner of the site or application but is used by someone else upon request. As soon as a trigger event occurs, the serverless functionality is launched – operations are performed in the desired sequence (their set depends on the users’ actions). Then the serverless platform works out many ready-made algorithms and rules, makes the necessary calculations, and gives the result. After that, the functionality collapses and waits for a new request. Serverless architecture is especially relevant when you need to optimize the cost of resources and development time.
The “serverless” approach implies two types of architecture:
- BaaS (backend as a service) – applications in which most of the server part is stored in the cloud. Standard functionality in this model is usually provided in the form of SDK or API gateways, and all the necessary actions are performed in the cloud. At the same time, the responsibility for maintaining the software and infrastructure lies with the provider of the BaaS solution.
- FaaS (functionality as a service) is a third-party platform for developing, running, and managing functionality that runs parts of its code based on event triggers (the desired functionality called on demand). The approach is perfect for implementing microservices.
Advantages of the serverless architecture:
- rapid deployment of applications, since you do not need to worry about the architecture and infrastructure – write your code;
- cost reduction: no more wasting resources on maintaining servers and databases, product launches are faster and cheaper, and there is no need to keep spare capacity – you only pay for what you use;
- simple scaling: if the usual “physical” server is no longer enough, adding another one or moving to a more powerful one is another task, but there are no such problems with a serverless architecture;
- the data is relatively “safe” – they are not as afraid of various kinds of attacks as in the case of the traditional server approach to creating sites and applications.
Disadvantages of the serverless architecture:
- difficult migrating of current solutions to a serverless architecture;
- potentially expensive, although resource savings are mentioned among the benefits;
- Insufficiently high speed of code execution and poor adaptability of existing solutions for tasks of processing large amounts of data.
Due to the growing popularity of serverless applications, containers are also relevant: the studies say that in 2022 more than 75% of organizations worldwide will be using containerized applications.
A container is a software package that contains all the dependencies: code, runtime, configuration, and system libraries. Containers are almost a panacea for web systems: they are lightweight, elegant, and can operate at a sufficient level of abstraction (that is, independently of other processes). They also reduce the cost of developing and running applications.
Using One Page or SPA
Classic sites (also called MPA – Multi Page Application) update the page every time data is changed, or new information is loaded, and when you go to another section, they load a new one.
SPA (Single Page Application) works differently: upon request, all the necessary code is loaded in the browser at once, but only the fragment the user needs is shown. When he wants to go to another page, the browser takes this data from the loaded code and quickly displays it without any page refresh. If necessary, the browser will additionally ask you to load dynamic content from the server onto the page.
SPAs have been used for a long time: for example, the Gmail mail service, the Facebook social network, the GitHub service for hosting IT projects and their joint development, and the Meduza news site are arranged. But it seems that they have only begun to advise seriously to take a closer look at SPA to make the pages of blogs and catalogs easier, faster, and more convenient for the end user (especially on mobile phones).
Simplifying site navigation enables developers to place one type of information on a particular page. This provides users with comfort in working with sites and the ability to search for the necessary data source.
Most often, the SPA concept is used by online stores to create informational blogs, product cards, and catalogs. It is also used by news services to distinguish between news. This design technique achieves the main advantages:
- no complex navigation or extensive menu;
- speed — yes, at the stage of initial loading, you will have to wait a bit, but then you can quickly switch between the content of the site and stick on it for hours (therefore, this approach is often used by news portals and blogs, real estate search sites and mail services);
- user-friendly – able to quickly and efficiently familiarize users with the content of the site;
- SPA website design is better adapted to mobile devices;
- conditional independence from the Internet – if you managed to load the page while there is a connection, you can continue to work offline.
- difficulties with SEO: search robots are looking for individual pages, and here all the content is presented on one page – they don’t like this, so they have to conjure with server rendering;
- complexity in development (as for any other technology, for which you have to relearn and use new concepts);
- an increase in the load on the browser (you have to download a large amount of data at once).
SSG – Static Site Generators
According to the classics, most sites and applications work like this:
- the user follows the link;
- the browser sends a request to the server;
- the server executes the code and finds out what content needs to be shown to the user;
- the server unloads the necessary content from the database into the page template;
- the server renders the resulting HTML code and sends it to the browser;
- the user sees the desired content on the page at his request.
Static site generators (SSGs) work differently. They create static HTML pages based on a template or components and use a separate source for content.
- simplified technology stack for serving static pages;
- better performance – pages are pre-generated;
- security – minimizing dynamic content due to pre-rendering equals more excellent resistance to attacks.
Traditional content management systems (CMS) use a content management framework that combines a front-end and a back-end. The content is associated with a specific technology and architecture within this CMS. But such a monolithic approach in today’s web environments proves cumbersome.
Headless CMS solve this problem: they provide only a server part (backend) for content management via API. Due to this, you can use one backend at once to manage the content of several products: several sites at once or a site plus applications. This also makes it possible to automate the distribution of content through all the necessary channels at the same time. The critical task of such CMS is to store and deliver content, and how it will look for the user depends on the developer’s actions.
- optimization of development resources;
- unlimited possibilities for structuring and delivering content to the user;
- centralized content management across multiple channels;
- flexibility – content is adjusted to each channel.
- there is no adaptation for the Russian market (existing engines do not provide modules for integration with the necessary Russian services – they will have to be written manually);
- complexity – a sufficient level of professionalism of the developer is needed;
- are justified only on large projects, where a set of different user interaction interfaces is initially assumed.
Development with JAMstack
The increasing popularity of JAMstack is a logical consequence of the already mentioned trends toward serverless architecture, static site generators, and Headless CMS. The term JAMstack was introduced by Netlify founders Matt Bijlmann and Chris Bach back in 2015 – the solution, as you can see, is not very new. But it is only now becoming more and more popular.
The essence of the approach is this:
- the front-end is separated from the back-end and databases and deployed via the CDN (Content Delivery Network, content delivery network) – due to this, sites and applications work faster;
Whichever career you choose, all of these web development technologies contain a lot of valuable knowledge for anyone who wants to learn. Sure, web development, testing, and implementation can involve repetitive tasks, but it can be nice if you’re tech-savvy. The features you see on your favorite website would not be possible without the help of talented front-end and back-end web developers.