Welcome to 2020! It’s the start of a new year and a new decade, which means everyone’s renewed sense of optimism and year-end resolutions are still going strong (we won’t talk about what usually happens to those best intentions in February).

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Likewise, the UI team at DEG has been keeping its collective eye on the latest trends and best practices for front-end development, and we’re ready to embark on our goals and aspirations for the coming year.

This is an exciting time for UI developers and, by extension, anyone launching a UI-centric project in 2020. The JavaScript “framework fatigue” of a few years back has for the most part stabilized, with the majority of developers now firmly entrenched within the React ecosystem.

But while the frameworks with which we write our code may have crystalized, innovative content-driven workflows and an endless supply of new interactive mediums are poised to disrupt the traditional development paradigms that developers and marketers have relied upon for decades.

It’s a tumultuous time, but we’re ready for the challenge. With that in mind, we’ve compiled five resolutions the DEG UI team will be focused on in 2020.

Resolution #1: Use our head(less)

If you’re still relying on a monolithic, single-channel content management system (CMS) to power your website, you’re missing out. The biggest development trend of last year was definitely headless architecture, and it shows no signs of slowing down in 2020.

Headless publishing platforms decouple content from the presentational layer of a traditional CMS. This means your marketing content can be much more easily repurposed and redistributed across practically any channel or medium. Need to power multiple sites with the same content? No problem. Trying to power that new Alexa voice skill you’re needing? Child’s play. With a headless architecture, a single source of content can drive all of your cross-platform experiences.

At DEG, we’re in the process of evaluating several API-first, content-publishing platforms. We’re particularly excited about Sitecore’s headless offering, known as Sitecore JavaScript Services (JSS), which streamlines the UI-development workflow and optimizes site performance via server-side rendered (SSR), React-based applications. As Brian Graves, DEG’s manager of engineering, explained in his blog post, JSS isn’t the solutions for every Sitecore project, but it’s an impressive tool for when a headless architecture is appropriate.

Resolution #2: Stick to our (performance) diets

Front-end development seemed to be a self-imposed diet in 2019. Optimization and performance were hot topics, with many top tech blogs and companies focusing on performance checklists and tooling to help everyday developers slim down their work. Meanwhile, out on the leading-edge, analytics-based asset prerendering and AI-driven JavaScript bundling promise to push web performance far past anywhere it’s been before.

Even Bootstrap—the notoriously bloated UI framework aimed at lowering the front-end barrier to entry—announced that it’s ditching the also-notorious jQuery dependency in an upcoming release. When it comes to industry focus on just how important UI performance really is, hell hasn’t frozen over yet, but it’s definitely jacket weather down there right now.

Despite all of this work, the battle of the UI bulge rages on. According to HTTP Archive, overall median page weight for desktop views has increased from about 1.4 MB to about 1.8 MB in the last three years. These heavy weights and high-time-to-interactive numbers are largely driven by the near ubiquitous use of JavaScript frameworks such as React for building single-page applications (SPAs)—whether they’re needed or not.

At DEG, we approach our craft with an eye on keeping our work as lean as possible and creating and working from a performance audit is a standard part of our development process. Don’t get us wrong—we love React (particularly when it’s the basis for a kick-ass headless SSR architecture). But we also believe in applying these tools only when the problem at hand warrants the additional performance overhead and development time that can come with using them.

Resolution #3: Take some trips to the SPA (and the PWA)

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In mid-2018, DEG UI Team Lead Ryan Heap and I trumpeted Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, as the eventual usurper of native apps’ throne (particularly in combination with SPAs). We weren’t wrong, although we may have been a little premature.

A lot of the underlying tech that makes up a PWA—such as offline asset caching and home-screen installation—has already become the default in most websites built today. However, some features, such as push notifications, have been held up by a lack of support on iOS devices.

We’ll be waiting for iOS’s full support with bated breath, but in the meantime, we’ll continue to progressively enhance the sites and SPAs we build with PWA features that push the boundaries of web technologies.

Resolution #4: Stop exploring Explorer

Front-end developers have been trying to force into reality the demise of the much-maligned Internet Explorer for well over a decade, and although there have been several false starts, all signs point to 2020 as the year it finally begins to happen.

According to StatCounter, browser market share for Internet Explorer was down to 1.66% globally, and 2.73% in the United States, as of November 2019. On the UI side, this doesn’t mean we build websites to not work at all on outdated browsers, but it does mean we can provide base-level experiences for them, and layer on much more robust, feature-rich experiences for the modern browsers used by the vast majority of our clients’ users.

2019 was also the year that Microsoft’s modern browser, Edge, was rebuilt on top of the open-source Chromium project, bringing it much more in line feature-wise with Chrome and Safari. This move also allowed for the porting of Edge to the Mac, which is still in beta.

It may still be some time before IE11 disappears completely. But many, many fingers are crossed that 2020 is the year we can start pretending like it already has!

Resolution #5: Have less screen time

Fifteen years ago, most people would’ve defined a “user interface” as what they see and interact with on their desktop computer’s screen. Of course, that notion was flipped on its ear in 2007 with the release of the first iPhone, and again in 2010 with the release of the iPad.

In 2020, that definition continues to evolve—and it may not even involve traditional computer screens at all.

Voice-enabled smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home, at first considered somewhat of a novelty, have become mainstays in modern homes. In her 2018 assessment of voice skills, Lisa Graves, DEG’s associate director of loyalty, pointed out that the more than 50% of all search would be completed by voice in 2020, with more than 47 million owners of the devices in the U.S. alone.

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But let’s not stop with voice. Augmented-, virtual-, and mixed-reality devices and platforms continue to expand their reach. Regardless of the medium, DEG’s UI team will continue to explore new ways for customers to interface with the technology around them.

What are your 2020 UI resolutions?

We’d love to hear what you’re focusing on this year. Share your resolutions in the comments below.

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