10 Web Predictions for 2013

By Craig Buckler
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Happy New Year! 2013 has arrived and, while we may not have hover boards or day trips to the moon, technology and the web is evolving faster than ever. My 2012 predictions were a little off but no matter. The spirits are communicating with me. So is the beer and wine…

1. Browser usage patterns will steady

Do you care whether visitors use Chrome, IE, Firefox, Safari or Opera? You shouldn’t. We’ve reached a point where there’s little difference between the top five browsers. They all support the core HTML5 technologies, they’re all fast and they’re all stable. Why switch?

Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped developers doing silly things such as using webkit vendor prefixes in preference to all others. If you find yourself posting “this site works best with…” messages, get a grip and fix your code. Browser compatibility is better than it’s ever been.

2. Browser choice will become more limited

Unfortunately, choosing your preferred browser is becoming a thing of the past. Vendors are jumping on the iOS bandwagon and dictating what you can install on your device:

  • Apple force you to use Safari on the iPhone and iPad. The iOS version of Chrome is a Safari skin. Opera is equivalent to the Mini version used on feature phones; it won’t run JavaScript directly on the device.
  • Microsoft grants higher OS privileges to IE on Windows RT and Windows Phone. Other vendors cannot get on the same playing field; competing will be difficult.
  • You can guess which browsers are provided with Chrome OS and Firefox OS.

3. IE11 (or 10.1) will be released

Microsoft’s historical 2-year browser release schedule has always been a joke but it’s no longer funny. IE10 was the first version to implement automated browser updates so I hope the company has plans to use it. Let’s also hope the gold release of IE10+ arrives on Windows 7 within a few months; we cannot wait for the world to upgrade to Windows 8…

4. A big Windows 8 update will arrive

Speaking of which, SP1 will bring back many of the business PC-friendly features Microsoft stripped from the OS. I wouldn’t be surprised to see less reliance on the gesture nonsense and a smaller Metro/whatever-its-name screen which looks suspiciously like a Start button.

5. Node.js will become a disruptive technology

This one’s a gamble. Server languages such as Ruby and Python may be popular among developers, but they’re niche technologies compared to PHP, .NET or even Java. The same can be said for Node.js, but it has several advantages in its favor:

  1. It uses JavaScript which web developers already understand.
  2. Development tools, sites and resources are rapidly becoming available.
  3. It’s trendy and backed by some large industry players.

While it will take time for Node.js to become entrenched in business applications, it has a far better chance of worldwide success.

6. 2013 is the year of Responsive Web Design

OK, so I thought RWD would become a mainstream technology in 2012 but I predict several important sites will adopt the techniques in 2013. Moving from fixed to (more) fluid layouts is difficult concept for designers to grasp, but tools are becoming available.

RWD may not be perfect, but it’s a cost-effective way to make your site work on a variety of devices. If you’re not offering the service to clients now, be prepared to lose some business.

7. A responsive image standard will be decided

One of the major RWD stumbling blocks is images. While you can scale an image for any screen size, it would be more efficient to send smaller images to smaller devices. Or — more specifically — use smaller images on devices where bandwidth is limited.

It’s possible to implement responsive image solutions using CSS media queries or JavaScript, but a browser-based HTML-only option would be useful. There are several proposals which, hopefully, will converge toward a W3C draft specification by the end of the year.

That said, do you really need that 1Mb bandwidth-hogging image? Perhaps it’s time to find a designer who understands the web!

8. Touch screen devices will come of age

Touch screen devices are not as ubiquitous as you’d expect. You may see them everywhere, but that’s because you’re hobnobbing with others in the technology industry. 2013 will be the year your parents replace their creaking Windows 98 PC with a new tablet.

However, I’m not predicting the death of the PC. A real keyboard, mouse and monitors will remain essential for anyone doing real work. But does your boss need a 27-inch iMac to answer three emails per day?

9. The native vs web app debate will continue

One observation stunned me in 2012; companies are blinded by native smartphone apps. Dumb assumptions include:

  1. Everyone uses their smartphone to do everything
    Modern smart phones are great for quick messaging, taking photos and keeping you amused, but that doesn’t mean people use one to write a novel or calculate their annual tax bill. Context is everything.
  2. It’s easier to develop and release native apps
    Writing a native app is no easier than writing an application on Windows, Mac OS or Linux. If anything, it’s more difficult given the limited hardware resources, clunkier development tools and wider range of devices and target operating systems.
  3. Native apps are easy to monetize
    Really? For every flourishing native app, there are hundreds which make little if no money. Consider Rovio: they developed many titles but were close to bankruptcy before the success of Angry Birds.

Web applications may be a better solution for some projects but companies will still want native apps. Perhaps we should all switch to Objective C then take the money and run?

10. Average web page weights will reach 2Mb

I’ve been moaning about page weights for almost three years but no one’s listening (apart from enlightened SitePoint readers, of course!) In fact, my previous predictions consistently underestimate the problem. Perhaps it’ll be 3Mb?

For this reason, I’m starting the Lumbering And Rotund Design awards — or the SitePoint LARDs. Please send your nominations for the most ludicrously bloated pages to me on Twitter @craigbuckler. Let’s see if we can shame a few developers into dieting.

All the best for 2013!

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  • Number 10. That’s your banker right there.

    I’d like to see page sizes getting smaller, but I think the use of so much “outside input” will mean bigger pages and bigger strain.

    Lets tighten our belts people!!!

    Happy New Year

  • With the kind of 3g available in brazil (slow and band restricted) number 10 is the one that I hope you’ve guessed right.

  • Nice predictions. I agree with no.7 and no.10. Success in 2013!

  • I really hope no.7 comes good but we’ll have to see.

  • Christian

    “For this reason, I’m starting the Lumbering And Rotund Design awards — or the SitePoint LARDs.”

    It’s in vogue now for people to create sites where the whole entire site is in one page, with big bands of colors and background images separating the various sections within. At some point in time this fad is likely to fade away, but while it lasts even though the page is a huge overall file size the viewer tends to not see everything at first so it doesn’t matter quite so much. Not that there’s no concern at all…

  • Wyatt Barnett

    For #5 — I think the concept of node.js is here to stay. Concept meaning an event-driven, thin server spitting out more json than HTML without heavy MVC frameworks to deal with as we aren’t serving web pages anymore. Inasmuch as node itself goes, I really haven’t been impressed with javascript on the server side. The callback model leads to really, really ugly code. And I’m not sure how transferrable those client-side javascript skills are to the back end. Kind of like I see many great back-end developers falter at client-side javascript. Just because it is the same syntax don’t mean it is the same language and concepts.

    For #10 — having done a lot of web development and a bit of thick client development I would generally argue that thick client development is easier at the end of the day, even on mobile platforms. You don’t have the hoo ha of jumping through state. Objective-C is suprisingly elegant, especially with iOS 5 or later when you can generally get out of managing memory yourself and get a great json parser built-in.

    • Wyatt Barnett

      Uhm, that #10 should be #9 . . .

  • dave

    I’d like to see more on one page. It’s annoying to have a short article (or any article) split into three or four pages. Why not just put it all on one page?….(except that more advertising can be crammed in..)

  • Joachim

    On #10: Average page size is destined to increase; as long as average bandwidth increases, this doesn’t automatically mean faster(or smaller, simpler) pages; it just clears the road for more content. In fact, I predict that as long as more content is made reasonably possible, more content will be put in place(or new types of content will be invented and used). A touching concern about the user(cost and absolute responsiveness) is of course desirable, but I have no faith in stuff like that.

    • Does it? I don’t think the quantity of content in a page has increased over the years. In the early days of the web, people crammed pages full of information — today is far more focused and designers concentrate on simplicity. It’s reduced if anything; HTML weight has barely changed.

      The increase in page size is primarily caused by higher-quality images, third-party widgets and inefficient coding.

  • LukeQuietus

    #10. I wonder if this issue is due to the increased use of pre-built CMS packages like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla? WordPress especially is becoming a tainted pool (in regards to themes) as every weekend web developer with basic PHP knowledge is cranking out a theme and a large portion of too many are inefficient. People just assume everyone has fiberwire broadband now but that’s not the case. Also, the average user then using the themes for simple blogs or sites doesn’t know any better and doesn’t realise the theme is bloated on the code level. They just “like the look of it”. WordPress is a double-edged sword in some respects. You get everthing you could ever need under the hood, but 75% of users don’t need all of it.