September 4, 2017

The web is an ever-changing landscape, with new technologies, tools and practices emerging every day.

The change is constant and fast, and it’s not until you look back at where we were 10 years ago that you see how far web technologies have matured.

These changes have mostly been for the better; more standardisation, better web browsers and devices, faster internet connections and better tools for directly measuring the effectiveness of a website.

On the other hand, hackers and other malicious parties are now more organised, sophisticated and widespread than ever before.

A decade has brought far too many changes to cover in one article, but here are my top picks for the biggest changes to the job of a web developer over the past 10 years:

Better browsers

We’re spending less time fixing browser display bugs.

Ten years ago, developers and designers spent a lot of our time dealing with different behaviours between popular web browsers when rendering the same web page. What looked fine in Firefox might (and probably did) look horribly broken in Internet Explorer 7.

Even different versions of the same browser would present different issues, so it was a real challenge to get a website looking good everywhere.

We still deal with this issue to some extent today, but web browsers have collectively gotten a lot better at consistently rendering web pages.

It also helps that many popular browsers now use an ‘evergreen’ model where they self-update rather than waiting for users to download new versions.

That seems like a simple idea, but it means a lot more people using the same (latest) version of the browser at all times, which provides an easier target for developers and designers.

WordPress

We’re working a lot more with WordPress.

WordPress started out as a simple blogging platform, one of many systems allowing non-technical users to publish content online.

Over the years it has matured into a full-featured content management system and by far the most popular website platform in the world, running 28.5% of all websites as of August 2017.

For reference, second place is Joomla with a market share of 3.3%.

Mogul has been working with WordPress since way back, so we have a lot of experience in all aspects of designing, building, customising and managing WordPress sites.

Software as a service

Why reinvent the wheel when you can just use Google Wheel™?

There are a lot of great online services around today, solving particular problems in effective ways. Email, file storage, videos, maps, e-commerce, community management – whatever the problem, someone – often Google – has a good product for that.

Many of these solutions provide APIs which allow developers to connect them to their own solutions or to one another, which leads to some powerful combinations.

For example, if your application needs to display data on a map, you can either spend a lot of time and resources building and maintaining your own mapping solution, or you can connect up Google Maps via their APIs and display data in a world standard mapping application – one your users are already familiar with.

Mogul has worked with a lot of third-party APIs – Youtube, Google Maps, NZ Post, Facebook, Twitter, Paypal, Dropbox, Shopify and Amazon S3 to name a few, and we’ve even created our own APIs for some projects.

This kind of work is becoming increasingly common as we see certain online products and services becoming the de facto standard solutions in their area.

Mobile

The mobile explosion (Samsung jokes aside) has opened up interesting new challenges and possibilities for the web. Designers and developers can no longer assume the end user is sitting at a desk with a mouse, keyboard and wide screen.

It’s not just about smaller screens either. A touch screen is a completely different way of interacting with an application to a keyboard and mouse, so it has to be considered right from the earliest stages of design.

Into the future

The future of the internet is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t look as though websites, as we know them, are going away in a big hurry.

If anything, they are still increasing in sophistication, with companies and organisations engaged in a continuous process of refinement and analysis to meet their target audiences online.

Whether it’s a basic site, a new online store, a web app or ongoing SEO, Mogul can help you make the best of your online presence.

  Chris Webb – Senior Developer