Since its inception, the web has been steadily becoming a bigger part of our lives, both privately and in commerce. Mobile devices have only accelerated that – millions of users use the web to shop for products or keep in touch over social media. Web development is more crucial than ever, and some of the changes through the coming year are both practical and fascinating.

1. Virtual reality

VR has been primarily associated with gaming. Now, it’s value in many other areas is becoming appreciated. Products like Google View and Mobile VR Station for iOS devices are transforming smartphones into VR devices. More sites are featuring 360-degree video that lets you explore wonders like the Grand Canyon without getting out of your chair. VR is the next step in video. Companies like Mozilla are developing APIs to incorporate VR into web sites. Expect VR technologies to appear more often in the online experience.

2. AI

Any discussion of computing turns to artificial intelligence. It may seem like this boils down to just more complex algorithms. As Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants continue to innovate and evolve their software solutions, machine-learning is an important consideration for website developers. For example, The Grid is an online website creator that generates pages to your specifications – and learns from your input.

3. Internet of Things

The internet of things (IoT) is a growing number of “smart” devices that are connected over via Wi-Fi. This allows devices as varied as coffee makers and entire buildings to gather data via sensors and share it with applications on remote computers. This data can be used to improve products and marketing, monitor for performance or malfunctions, or track warranties. Most of these devices and apps can also work via smartphones to control features or view data. Solutions like BugLabs and open source platforms such as AllJoyn are opening the door for developers to write their own IoT software.

4. Web tools

New design tools available include Rails 5. This Ruby on Rails product makes it much easier for website developers to create websites with modern features. Scheduled for release in 2015, it didn’t actually appear until summer of last year, but was worth the wait and will make an impact with site developers. Rails 5 includes some new features such as updated Turbolinks for faster page loading, merging more Ruby APIs, and Action Cable as a way to use web sockets in real-time to create capabilities like pushing updates to clients.

5. Static site generators

One of the latest trends in web development are applications that create websites from plain text files, not databases or PHP files. Generators like Jekyll allow web applications to retrieve these text files as needed and render them as web pages, but as yet offer little user interaction. However, this does offer time and memory advantages over HTML or PHP coding. This can give developers a lot of flexibility and ease of content delivery. As better generators and APIs appear, this is likely to be a more common design option.

6. JavaScript framework

We also recently saw the release of Angular 2 from Google. This is a frontend scripting framework that takes advantage of JavaScript ES6 capabilities. It’s been reengineered with a more modular architecture. This allows for increased complexity with procedures like iterative generators, array mapping helpers, default functions, and more. Google intends to release new updates every 6 months, so more developers are likely to being learning and using this powerful software.

7. Package managers

Applications like Yarn make it much easier to configure and manage frontend JavaScript. Developers can easily install, update, or uninstall JavaScript code at various points in larger applications. It manages this by interacting with a library of registered modules, including tracking the various dependencies these code blocks may have. While other package managers like NPM and Bower led the way, Yarn is a new solution springing from collaboration between Google, Facebook, and others. Yarn was designed to deliver improvements in security, performance, and versioning on many developer platforms.

8. Scrolling pages

There has been some debate about longer vs shorter pages, but it’s really up to the developer and the purpose of the site. Longer pages are more mobile-friendly. Mobile device users prefer to simply scroll to what they want instead of using links. Scrolling also help in the flow of storyline themes used by many marketers. The proliferation of mobile users and sophisticated marketing gives longer pages the edge for displaying content in a way that that will appeal to them.

9. The micro-experience

One of the latest web development trends involves self-contained flows. For instance, movement over one area may generate a registration form, a visual tour in another, or a list of special offers in a third. The idea is that they will have a simple message to get the user’s attention and then expand, both visually and functionally, into larger applications as the user clicks through. This can help to capture attention while at the same time making other navigation options simpler. This is an increasingly common improvement over the “sales funnel” by creating more focus on a particular interest.

Familiarity with web development future trends are essential. All applications must change eventually. But utilizing the latest tools and techniques makes sites not only easier to manage, but more engaging to today’s visitors.