Deri Jones thinkTribe’s CEO takes a look at a few of the challenges and trends that could impact web/app development and digital performance in the coming year.
1. Progressive Web Apps
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) use web technologies to deliver the smooth user experience (UX) and performance advantages of native apps but without the development and maintenance drawbacks. Having the appearance and interaction of an app, users can add an icon to their home screen, choose to receive push notifications and even work offline, if desired. PWAs are fast, discoverable by search engines and responsive.
We predict that PWAs will be a significant trend in 2018 but the rapid growth of the PWA market has brought its own problems, not least that developers with the right experience to capitalise on this emerging technology are thin on the ground. Performance-wise, because PWAs pre-cache pages in the browser, it’s difficult to work out exactly when a page is loaded, which, in turn makes it tricky to measure user experience. Realistic load testing can help to resolve this issue. thinkTribe recently tested Debenhams’ new mobile PWA on the Mobify platform prior to the holiday peak and continues to monitor user journeys to optimise the UX.
2. Increased API reliance in the age of mobile and IoT
Once an acronym used to describe a low-level programming code interface, the term ‘API’ is now attributed to any simple interface provided over HTTP: usually REST interfaces providing data using the JSON (or XML) data format and HTTP commands like PUT, GET, POST, and DELETE.
The prevalence of mobile devices has led to a much greater reliance on a bigger range of APIs, which is further exacerbated by the increase in device types resulting from the Internet of Things (IoT), whereby each device is powered by APIs. As every API needs to be precisely created, managed, monitored and secured, the implementation and testing process has become at the same time more critical and more complex. Again, using an independent third-party performance partner to test and/or monitor APIs will deliver a degree of assurance while freeing up valuable resources.
3. Adopting a Microservices Architecture
Rather than adhering to the traditional ‘monolithic’ approach to software development, many companies are instead adopting an agile ‘microservices’ model that splits the process into smaller task components. It makes for a more resilient process and one that can be easily scaled and hosted in cloud instances.
However, because the UX of the app is a step removed from the development process, there is a bigger risk of misfiring when it comes to designing a website that matches up to users’ needs, with additional ‘architecture’ teams being required to bridge this gap.
4. Digital Transformation, shift left and maintaining UX
Digital transformation (DT) has been one of the hot topics of 2017. DT leaders are being recruited to manage transformation, while software automation is becoming more prevalent as the move to ‘shift left’ and use CICD principles as part of an agile process to meet ‘release often, release early’ paradigms gather strength.
DT can spark significant changes in the way companies do business but it’s important to retain sight of the need to deliver a smooth UX throughout. One of the dangers of automating the testing process is that more complex issues can slip through the QA net, which is why it’s more important than ever to employ a range of testing methodologies. Automated testing will need refactoring as technology develops, and ‘shift right’ tools such as RUM and synthetic monitoring can be used in live environments to catch and fix problems that may arise from faster, earlier releases. Tribe’s synthetic monitoring service can be used at any point in the release cycle including during staging to help identify issues as soon as possible.
5. Real-time Personalisation & AI
With advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine-learning technologies, deeper levels of personalisation are emerging. AI is enabling brands to not only personalise content and automate the delivery of tailored messages to the right people but also to analyse behavioural data and demographic data to better provision targeted content.
As with other fast-evolving technologies, there’s a paucity of AI-specific development expertise in the market. Add to this the more general anxiety over greater automation with its commensurate loss of control and it becomes clear that much more has to be done to fine-tune personalisation, including realistic performance testing in a live environment.
6. Mobile UX and mobile first
As sales from mobile continue to outstrip desktop by an increasing margin – and Google prioritise mobile-first indexing – ‘mobile-first’ is the smart choice for most forward-thinking businesses.
However, ensuring a smooth UX across different devices and operating systems is a constant challenge. We’ve seen instances of RWD not behaving consistently on all devices or operating systems, potentially damaging conversions and preventing customers from completing transactions. Monitoring the mobile experience with genuine iOS and Android browsers is the only way to be sure you’re delivering seamless, device-independent UX and performance.
If you’d like to learn how thinkTribe could help your business by load testing and/or monitoring your online resources from simple APIs to the most complex applications and websites on desktop and mobile devices, drop us a line.