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Top trends impacting app development

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The world of app development is in a constant state of change, with coders having to learn and relearn their craft on an ongoing basis.
But the emergence of exciting new possibilities in the Internet of Things (IoT) and user interface fields is stepping up the pace of change for coders and opening doors to innovations that can’t yet be imagined.
This is according to Daniel Griffin, developer, consultant and Digital Technology Coders Curriculum lead at Digital Skills Academy in Ireland.

User interfaces reinvented
“A key change emerging in the app development space is around user experiences. Until a few years ago, responsive design was a top priority in app development. Now, while it is still important, there is a lot of movement in the types of user experiences we are seeing. New user interfaces like voice and Virtual Reality are starting to impact graphical interfaces and are forcing the developer landscape to branch into very specialised new areas with a focus on newer skills needed for working with platforms like Alexa.”
Virtual reality is coming strongly to the fore too, Griffin notes. “The developer community is excited about the potential for VR. I personally have a background in VR, having worked as a Second Life developer and just completed my Masters in Digital Education looking at online gaming worlds and their potential to influence collaborative working across cross-functional teams. I believe there is huge potential for VR in future.”
As an emerging trend, VR development is still finding its feet, he says. “The interfaces are still up in the air, many different platforms are coming out and there are no real set standards. With many different programming languages in use, it could be easy to back the wrong (language) horse at this stage, before the VR environment stabilises,” he says.
“VR development is not as easy as throwing html code together, so more effort and a lot of boilerplate code is required before you see something worthwhile. But as it becomes more mainstream, frameworks are emerging to make it a lot easier.”

Massive IoT growth
The rapid uptake of IoT will present huge growth opportunities, says Griffin. “IoT could eclipse the Web; and there are massive amounts of code to be written in this space. There are two layers to IoT development — the interfaces and dashboards for human to device communications, and then there’s the device to device communications across networks, for which new skills will need to be learnt.”
Griffin expects IoT to gain its greatest momentum in the consumer sphere first, but says its growth will quickly snowball across multiple sectors. “There are probably many applications for IoT we haven’t even begun to imagine yet,” he says.

Ad blockers, bots and realtime comms
Other developments impacting the developer space are ad blockers and real time communications changes, says Griffin.
“An interesting change is being driven by ad blockers, which is affecting app monetisation options. This will force app developers to be more creative about monetising apps. Unfortunately, developers are traditionally terrible at monetising our work. We have a bit of a ‘Field of Dreams’ attitude, thinking that if we just build it, everything will be ok. But of course, an app that isn’t shepherded and properly monetised will just disappear.”
Embedded intelligence and bots have arrived, also driving change in approached to app development, Griffin notes. “We are also seeing changes in real-time communications apps and peer to peer video streaming and sharing. This means new approaches and opportunities for developers.”
App containerisation is another trend emerging to impact the development world, he says. “Docker’s app containerisation, for example, wraps the entire app in a virtual machine with its libraries and operating system bundled in, making deployment faster and more cost effective.”

Keeping up with change
The increased pace of change in the app development sphere means developers must step up their efforts to stay abreast of emerging technologies, says Griffin. “App development has always been a lifelong learning process, but now, if you don’t update your knowledge every six months, you’ll be out of date within a year. It’s important to keep studying, stay curious, and keep toying with new things,” he says.
Digital Skills Academy, an international advanced digital skills training provider, continually refreshes its curriculum to stay abreast of changes in the developer environment. “We monitor trends and talk to employers to identify the coming skills demands, and every interation of our programme is made with these changing trends in mind,” Griffin says.
Digital Skills Academy, which expanded into South Africa in 2015 and is fast gaining acclaim as the leading provider of online degree and CPD programmes for working professionals.