10 Web Predictions for 2017

By Craig Buckler
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Each year, Craig Buckler makes 10 predictions about the year to come, and gives himself a score for the previous year. Read on to see how he performed in 2016, and what he predicts for the web in 2017!

Ten web predictions for 2017

I’ve listed predictions for several years, and I’m generally proved wrong, but here goes …

The 2016 Results

I scored 3.5 out of 10 in 2015, so let’s see how my 2016 forecasts fared.

1. A Major Corporate Hack Will Occur

This was a dead certainty, and hacking news rolled in from January. It seems unfair to name names, but Yahoo!, the US Department of Justice, Snapchat, Verizon, LinkedIn, Oracle and Dropbox are just the start. Perhaps it would be easier to list which companies were not compromised?

Frustratingly, few attacks are sophisticated. A little care and security expertise would have prevented most. 1 out of 1 — but don’t expect this 100% success rate to last!

2. Static Sites Will Go Mainstream

I predicted static site generators (SSGs) such as Jekyll, Middleman and Metalsmith would become increasingly popular. SSGs produce a fully-cached site which is secure and highly scalable. A large number of WordPress sites would benefit.

It’s difficult to measure adoption because SSGs generate plain HTML and don’t necessarily reveal themselves. Despite some attention, I couldn’t claim they went “mainstream”. SSGs are not eating into WordPress’s market, which now powers 27.3% of the web (and 58.5% of sites running a content management system).

1 out of 2 — this is more familiar!

3. Chrome’s Market Share Will Plateau

This was another obvious forecast; no software can expect exponential user growth forever. I correctly stated Chrome would not reach 60% on desktop devices by the year end. Admittedly, 59% isn’t far off, but I’m taking the point!

2 out of 3!

4. Vivaldi Will Attract Attention

Vivaldi is a powerful new browser worthy of praise. It’s reminiscent of Opera 12 — which is understandable, given it was created by ex-Opera employees.

This prediction was spectacularly vague, but Vivaldi has attracted attention even if some was caused by me. 3 out of 4 — this is going surprisingly well!

5. Apple Must Address Safari’s Shortcomings

Safari has fallen noticeably behind others, despite being the only real web browser on the iPhone and iPad. Apple has committed to a few lackluster annual updates, but Safari lethargy continues to hold back the mobile web.

3 out of 5 — thanks Apple.

6. CSS Grid Layout Will Be Usable

So near yet so far. Grid layout will revolutionize web design, but it’s taken a long time to arrive and remains somewhat experimental. 2017 is far more promising.

3 out of 6 — but at least I have an odds-on prediction for next year!

7. Design Mobilification

Designs have become noticeably simpler and that’s no bad thing, given mobile overtook desktop web access in December 2016. That said, not everyone got the memo, and swathes of the web remain a horrible bloated experience.

Half a point seems fair — 3.5 out of 7.

8. Average Page Weight Will Fall

I was being hopelessly optimistic, but thought increased attention on performance would have some effect. Average page weight increased 10% during 2016 and stands at 2,479KB. It seems we’re still obsessed with meaningless high-resolution photographs, underused social media integration and intrusive advertising.

3.5 out of 8 — will page weight ever fall?

9. WebAssembly Will Be a Niche Technology

WebAssembly was big news in 2015. It reduces the JavaScript payload size by compiling source to a simpler, faster-processing bytecode packaged in a compact binary file. There are some early previews, but the technology is some way from stability and widespread adoption.

4.5 out of 9 — still half right!

10. The Death of SEO

This was my most controversial prediction. We have entered the third age of SEO:

  1. Between 1995 and the early part of the century, black-hat techniques reigned. SEO was about tricking search engines with keyword repetition and hidden text.
  2. Google killed the hacks with a PageRank algorithm which used hyperlinks to rate relevancy. That led to an explosion of automated web page farms with the sole purpose of linking to target sites.
  3. Google’s algorithms were refined to thwart these methods and, during the past few years, the only guaranteed solution was to write good content others want to read.

That’s it. There are a few technical tricks such as placing keywords in prominent tags, creating a sitemap and monitoring user behavior, but even those have become less relevant. The explosion of fake news on social media is the SEO industry response: you can’t easily fool Google, but users are another matter …

The days of offering SEO as an expensive secret sauce for your website are over. Few people will agree with me, but I’m still awarding myself half a point. 5 out of 10 — not too shabby!

10 Web Predictions for 2017

2017 Web Predictions

Here’s what you came for. I take no responsibility for any financial or esteem losses made by those following these predictions!

1. Mobile Will Continue to Outpace Desktop Usage

Mobile and desktop web use reached 50:50 parity in December 2016. It took longer than many predicted, but mobile growth will not stop. The primary reason: mobiles have become a disruptive technology in places where the PC revolution never took place. Billions of people in Asia and Africa are trading on smartphones in ways which are implausible in the Western world.

Mobile access will be close to 60% by the end of 2017.

2. Mobile-First Becomes Mobile-Only

Is there any point designing a desktop experience when the majority of your users access from a mobile device? Responsive Web Design will remain an essential skill, but the desktop experience need not be wildly different. Simplicity will lead to greater performance and a better user experience — but I doubt page weight will fall.

3. Grid Layout Will be Usable — Really!

Ironically, CSS Grid Layout will become widely supported at a time fewer sites adopt complex desktop designs.

4. The Rise of Progressive Web Apps

If you learn one technology in 2017, make sure it’s Progressive Web Apps. PWAs can transform your site or application within a few hours to offer the benefits of both web and native apps:

  • simple URL deployment, discovery and installation
  • a home screen icon but few device resources required
  • fast-launching with a custom splash screen
  • snappy sandboxed execution
  • local and cloud-based storage with synchronization
  • offline functionality.

There’s no guarantee Apple will implement PWA technology, but it won’t matter: your app will work in Safari without the benefits of offline execution.

For more information, see Dev.Opera’s Progressive Web Apps: The definitive collection of resources and Google’s PWA Guides.

5. The Demise of Native Apps

If the web can emulate native, is there any point in creating OS-specific applications? AppStores won’t die overnight, but many companies will migrate to Progressive Web Apps. Your app can finally contain whatever nudity and swearing you desire without Apple and Google demanding 30% of your profits!

6. Virtual Reality Will be a Niche Technology

Virtual Reality is a hot topic with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vine, Sony Playstation and numerous cardboard smartphone adapters vying for attention. WebVR is an experimental JavaScript API that provides access to these devices via a browser.

VR is exciting, but it remains too impractical and immersive to become a daily experience. Some games will be transformed, but the gaming and — ahem — adult entertainment industries will be the primary adopters of VR technology. Few will strap on a headset to view virtual products on your website.

7. … but Augmented Reality Will Fare Better

Augmented Reality is a more exciting prospect. The overlaying of information on smartphone displays has become essential for travelers and Pokemon Go obsessives. In-car systems and Microsoft Hololens will be available during 2017, and I expect Google to revive their Glass project if those products are successful.

8. The Browser Market Will Remain Static

Chrome has won. Usage won’t change significantly during 2017, and competitors will continue to struggle. Firefox should remain above 10%, and many IE users will switch to Edge as they upgrade Windows. Safari is being propped up by iPhone and iPad sales, but Apple’s future fortunes are less certain.

Don’t expect to see twelve Browser Trends articles this year.

9. Your Framework Will Be Superseded

It doesn’t matter what framework you’re using: something better will arrive in 2017. In the fast-paced JavaScript world, Angular received most attention in 2015, React took over in 2016, and 2017 looks promising for Vue.js and Svelte.

The majority of frameworks dictate a way of working based on today’s web challenges; they don’t necessarily align with the requirements you’ll have tomorrow. Use a framework, by all means, but recognize that it can never be the optimum solution for all tasks, and its lifespan is limited.

10. Encryption is the New Ad-Blocking

Ad-blocking technologies were available in the late 1990s, but reached a mainstream, non-technical audience a few years ago. Demand for encryption software and services will undergo a similar transformation, following increased hacking activity and the public’s mistrust of government and large corporations.

  • Browsers will give stronger warnings or deny access to HTTP sites.
  • More users will consider password management tools.
  • More web applications will implement 2-step or passwordless authentication.
  • Encrypted offline and cloud-based storage will be provided, independently of the service supplier.
  • Virtual private network and TOR usage will rise.

Some will consider this a bad thing: those with nothing to hide have no need for encryption. However, having nothing to hide is not the same as revealing everything to everyone. It’s going to be an interesting few years …

Are these predictions correct? Do you foresee other certainties? Happy New Year!

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  • Dev Agrawal

    I guess you will lose a point at the “Mobile-First Becomes Mobile-Only”. Remember – designers had to care about IE even when about 5% used it. You can’t rule out desktop web when it still occupies 40% of the browsing.

    • Craig Buckler

      My prediction is that layouts will become simpler. Many sites have already gone single column with a hamburger menu regardless of available screen space. The desktop experience is identical.

      Desktop layouts rarely worked well on mobile, but mobile layouts work fine on desktop. There is less reason to develop a unique desktop style.

      • Maria Antonietta

        A great read, Craig! Just when Grid is finally coming out of experimental flags the web is likely to be populated with one-column websites, which probably won’t even load very fast. It’s ironic, as you point out :)

      • M S i N Lund

        People who hide navigation behind a hamburger on desktop sites, will be the first to be taken out and shot, when the revolution comes.

      • Dev Agrawal

        And what about large-resolution desktops? Will the hamburger menu look good on a 4k when you can take a good advantage of the large screen size? Websites will very likely be viewed on a screen big enough for mobile layouts to look irritating.

        • Craig Buckler

          Perhaps. But you’re making an assumption that everyone on a large display runs a full-screen browser and the page assets don’t scale according to the dimensions. If you were viewing on a 4K TV, you’d want larger text and fewer unnecessary distractions.

    • You are right @disqus_gdffYQXSzM:disqus, there must be covered everything by designers, even less than 1% is using it. The fact is that there is more and more mobile users, and must be well optimized.

  • Excelent! :)

  • M S i N Lund

    “Watch first” will be a new popular trend in webdesign.

    And we will marvel as all the websites we use daily, one by one are redesigned to look really really really great on 5″ UHD-screens.

    As an added bonus, this will also make them look modern and clean on your new 43″ desktop-screen, as all unnecessary elements are stripped out, and you can focus on the content it self, one letter at a time.

    Finally you can fit 50 web-pages side by side, and still have room for plenty of toolbars.

    • Ralph Mason

      Definitely one to watch. :p

  • Craig Buckler

    Vivaldi usage is still low but the browser’s only been out of beta for eight months or so. It has still been attracting attention … and that was my (vague) prediction!

  • Craig Buckler

    A static site can have any interface you desire – from markdown files to the full WordPress CMS or a combination of sources. How the site is generated is the only difference. SSGs are unlikely to threaten CMSs any time soon but they are receiving renewed interest.

  • bXyJ3vW4SaYfPfh6

    No way grid will ever go mainstream.

    • Ralph Mason

      Well, it will shortly be available in the major browsers, and degrade gracefully in older browsers. So the real question is whether “it doesn’t have to look the same in every browser” will go mainstream.

    • Craig Buckler

      And your reasoning for that? Most sites use some type of grid layout whether it’s floats or flexbox. CSS Grids is the next evolution.

  • Ralph Mason

    There are various options for making staticly generated sites client editable, such as SiteLeaf, CloudCannon and DatoCMS.

  • Mike McLin

    “Critical path” will be the buzzwords of the year for front end web development. Web components (native, Polymer, etc) will take off as more companies start building a common component set to use in various applications. A shift from using a front-end framework like Bootstrap to a web component framework (slowly) begins.

    With the rise of PWA, HTTP2 and build tools like Webpack, I think 2017 is the year of performance. A couple years ago when someone asked “why should I use Angular” the answer would largely revolve around its featureset (automagically would be used at least once). Now when someone asks why should I upgrade the Angular 2, the first answer is always performance. There has been a shift in priorities towards performance for front end devs.