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Development and Design Trends In eCommerce

Development and Design Trends In eCommerce

Headless, composable, API-first, Remix, UI or UX-driven design, etc. Tracking development and design trends in eCommerce is both tough and rewarding at the same time.

Getting on board with trends means you are adapting to tech changes and clients' expectations. When you say it like this, it sounds simple, right?

At the beginning of last year, we talked about eCommerce Trends To Watch For In 2022. Let’s step out of the business perspective now and talk about dev and design trends that kept eCommerce going in 2022. And the ones you can expect to be trendy in the future.

What Was Trendy Last Year?

Multi-page Apps (MPA)📱

If you’ve debated developing a native mobile app recently, advocates for any of three basic types of web applications Multi-page apps, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), and Single-page Apps (SPAs) were probably loud with pros minimizing cons, right? While they all have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, the decision of which to use depends on the specific requirements of the project and the use case.

Single-page App (SPA) is a web app where a single HTML page is loaded, on which content is then dynamically updated (usually through HTML5 and AJAX/Fetch) without reloading the page. SPAs load quickly. Their popularity with users is increased by their capability to be used offline, e.g., Google Docs. Social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter are single-page apps.

SPA is (kind of) Admin and UI, not a front-facing choice. What we mean by that is when SEO is not in the game, like for admin areas, dashboards, logged-in pages, etc., going the SPA way is an awesome way to go. The main drawback to keep in mind is a slower launch. Due to client-side rendering, SPAs launch slower than other app types. But after the first render, it all works fast.

Progressive Web App (PWA) is a hybrid of a website and an app. PWAs enable you to offer that app-like experience to the website through the user's web browser rather than requiring them to download your app (you can download it if you want, but you don't have to).

Because of that, PWAs are more affordable to develop and maintain, yet they work pretty much in the same way native mobile apps or single-page applications (SPAs) do. They come with push notifications, service workers, take up less storage, are faster to launch and quick to install, and have the ability to be used offline.

In eCommerce, rapid changes, dynamic content, and SEO optimizations are more important than ticking the PWA boxes mentioned above. On top of that, there are still a lot of hardware and software platforms that do not support all PWA functionalities. These reasons make using PWAs in eCommerce a serious challenge.

This brings us to the third type.

Multi-page App (MPA) is a web application that runs on multiple pages and, thus, multiple HTML files. MPAs work pretty much as any website, which (kind of) is usually taken as a drawback. However, modern frameworks such as Remix, Next.js, and Astro all make MPAs first-class citizens well worth the effort.

Indeed you can see those new generations of frameworks as Progressive Server Side Rendering. That is the perfect combination between SSR and SPA:

  • First load is Server Side Generated: providing all the benefits of SSR and speed
  • The rest of the navigation works like a well-optimized SPA. Load (and preload if you're a pro) the resources for the next page and only that to achieve maximum speed.

Serverless Architecture

Serverless architecture relies on cloud technology for building and running services without having to provide, manage or upgrade your own servers. Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are some of the most popular providers of cloud tech needed for serverless architecture.

Similarly to other trends mentioned on this list, serverless architecture is also more affordable when compared to the traditional web development flow, and it helps companies seriously reduce their time-to-market. Because the company itself doesn’t have any physical servers, serverless architecture is easier to scale and maintain.

With the market predicted to almost triple by 2025 and considering that 99% of companies use at least one cloud, serverless architecture shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

API-First Development

One of the biggest success factors for a web app today is its ability to integrate with other tools. And there is no better connectivity enabler for web apps than an API.

It enables higher speeds and multitasking. It’s quicker to develop with a broader range of applications, and it’s fairly affordable.

Somewhat the life force behind web apps, API-first development is and will most likely stay one of the biggest web development trends.

Computing at the Edge

Milliseconds matter. This is true for search engine positioning but even more for eCommerce, where speed means value. Edge Computing enables performing data processing and analysis at the edge of the world. You could see that as a CDN for computing instead of caching and serving. Most edge computing services are also CDNs, actually.

Computing at the Edge

The goal of this approach is to avoid sending data to a central location (usually called the origin) for processing in order to reduce latency (the ping or RTT Round Trip Time for our readers coming from gaming)

Usually used for real-time applications, eCommerce, and web, in general, will benefit from Edge computing regarding:

  • Stock updates
  • Shipping
  • User Accounts (purchase history, reports, etc.)
  • Personalization

It has to be mentioned that for eCommerce (transactional) the biggest challenge with edge computing is about data consistency. Maintaining consistency across all the components of your architecture is hard, and you will have to make some trade-offs (like speed over consistency for some features).

Build and Testing Tools

In the realm of build and testing tools, we saw Vite shining as it managed to get into the hearts of many developers. With its super-fast dev server, hot module reloads, and optimized builds, it has become the tool with the highest developer satisfaction, according to the Jamstack 2022 survey. Vite got adopted by some major frameworks such as Astro, Nuxt, and SvelteKit, and even Remix is considering using it going forward. Vite has had only two significant updates this year, showcasing what constitutes a satisfying developer experience.

Vitest is a tool that was built on top of Vite and became popular in 2022. It seems like this one has a single major goal, and that is to replace the old and slow test runner Jest. Vitest is using Vite's performant dev server to run the tests, which makes the whole test suite run very fast. It is definitely worth trying if you want to speed up your test runs.

Playwright is another big player in the area of testing, and it managed to become the number-one replacement for Cypress last year. A few things got us hooked on Playwright, and these are the built-in support for the three major browsers - Chromium, Firefox, and WebKit; the good and extensible API; and the support for isolated components testing. Thus it becomes the to-go library to use for your end-2-end and unit testing.

In the recently published State of JS 2022, Playwright usage grew significantly, with a percentage very close to the top testing tools.

The Framework/Web Stack

Frontend, backend, and full-stack frameworks are as trendy as ever in the web development world. New ones pop up daily, old favorites are slowly getting forgotten, and some dark horses are finally gaining the popularity they deserve.

We’ve gone into these frameworks in detail in the modern web development article, but it doesn’t hurt to mention that the most popular frameworks today include React, Vue, and Angular, for frontend development, Django (Python) and Express (Node) for backend, and LAMP/LEMP (that includes Event Loops too now), MEAN/MERN/MEVN as the most popular full-stack frameworks.

Have a look at Front-end frameworks and libraries in the State of JS 2022 survey results.

Front-end frameworks and libraries in the State of JS 2022 survey

From the design perspective, a couple of trends have stood out this year.

Load Time and Page Speed

If it wasn't clear before in 2022, it became more than obvious that website performance has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. We talked a lot about page speed and performance in 2022. So much so that we ended up showing in Google for a lot of permanence-related keywords.

💰ROI Calculator

Don't just take our word for it. Check our Page Speed ROI Calculator and see the revenue faster pages may generate for your online store.

Designers are opting out of code, font and image optimization, and smart content loading, i.e., allowing web pages to load only what is needed (in screen) when it’s needed.

Dark Mode🌒

Have you completely moved over to dark mode? If yes, then you’re perfectly aware of how popular it has become in the last few years.

In fact, 80% of users prefer to use dark mode whenever possible!

With that in mind, it’s easy to see that web apps will have to provide dark mode to their users to keep up with the times. Do you think that it will become the default UI design at some point?

Looking beyond simple light/dark mode, we seem to be heading towards customizable viewing experiences. While we don't think it’ll be widely adopted this year, it is something to keep an eye on in the future for sure.

Voice Search / Voice to Code

Over a decade old (I know, right?! 👴), voice search is becoming a staple of every household today, with 55% of all households predicted to own a voice assistant by 2022.

Google, Amazon, Apple, and Samsung -- all major companies have one, while over 40% of the US population uses voice search features. So, what does this mean for web development?

Optimization for voice search is an important factor of the SEO strategy, especially as the number of voice search users keeps climbing.

Then there is a growing interest in voice-to-code solutions. In November 2022, GitHub teased the world with its new Copilot feature that lets developers code with their voice. Imagine that.

3D Illustrations and Micro Animations

Visually, more and more brands are opting out for 3D illustrations and/or micro animations. Both trends have been here for a couple of years, but it looks like only now are there proper solutions to complex problems of 3D images and animation that aim at delivering amazing experiences with reasonable performance results.

Have You Heard of Thumb-Friendly Mobile Navigation?

Sounds kind of odd, but that’s been a real thing for some time. You see, the way we use our phones, the thumb movement we do when scrolling through the website or an app, requires you to think about where to position navigation, buttons, important text/images/video, etc., and the space your thumb can reach is limited.

The Future. 2023 and Onwards

The future of web development is bright but incredibly hard to pin down with so many moving parts. That being said, some things are fairly obvious. So let’s call it the Age of Cloud, APIs, and Decoupled / Headless Architecture.

In recent times we’ve seen that cloud infrastructure is becoming increasingly popular, which will only continue in the future. As it stands today, cloud spending accounts for half of all IT spending.

And where there is cloud infrastructure, there flourish APIs.

The traditional or monolithic website architecture, where the backend and front are directly connected and depend on each other, imposes major constraints and challenges on the team's ability to deliver compelling consumer experiences through customized design and UX on different devices or sales channels.

Incredibly agile, affordable, easy to scale, and with a fast time-to-market, APIs enable great strides in web development and open up a whole new world of possibilities - including better use of the decoupled / headless architecture versatility.

Might be more complex to develop, but it sure helps to fulfill the full potential of your business.

On the design side, minimal design with a high focus on quality rather than quantity of images and/or videos seems to be all the rage now and will continue to be. And the use of micro animations to improve user experience and give customers a more dynamic view of their products for ecommerce websites.

We’d love to hear what you think would be trends to watch for in web development and design during 2023. Share your feedback in Crystallize community Slack.