Web Development is now App Development

2000 to 2010

2001: Wikipedia launches.
2003: MySpace and LinkedIn.
2004: Facebook.
2005: YouTube.
2006: Twitter.
2007: the iPhone.
2008: Google Chrome.
2009: Android and HTC Magic.
2010: Instagram, the iPad, and “Thoughts on Flash”.

2010 to 2018

Major releases over time.

Building a Video Player Then and Now

Let’s use the old JW Player as an example. JW Player was a flash plugin you could use to embed a video on your site. It was self contained, had built in controls and the appearance was configurable. We didn’t care if it wasn’t response or accessible. Our requirements were simple and using the plugin was simple.

Design to Development

Perhaps the last critical piece is that for most sites in 2008, other than the endless task of troubleshooting browser issues, HTML/CSS/JS were the domain of people with a design background. It was quirky, technical, typesetting. Serious programming was done in server side languages or within embeds (whether Flash, Java, ActiveX, etc.) by engineers or programmers with engineering or programming backgrounds.

Requirements in 2008 vs 2018

Let’s take a moment to look at websites as they looked in 2008 compared to now.

Time.com in 2008 (via Archive.org) and 2018.
Amazon.com in 2008 (via Archive.org) and 2018.
Lastly, Youtube.com in 2008 (via Archive.org) and 2018.

Here we are

In 2018, we have to worry about mobile, responsiveness, accessibility, and integration to do similar things to what we did in 2008. Here’s the kicker — we’re doing a lot more complicated stuff now than we did in 2008. We weren’t using autoplaying videos as edge to edge backgrounds on homepages. We weren’t concerned with emulating weight and momentum when you drag elements around.

Conclusion

A pessimistic designer working through these times may end up frustrated; tasks they could do before without programming are now require programming. At the same time, I rejoice. Especially with PWAs, webapps are ubiquitous and powerful. Technology and browser support are rarely what limits us now; it’s just time and money.

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Kevin Hamer

Kevin Hamer

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The Principal Engineer at Imarc, Erratic Author on Medium. Writing about web development and being a better web developer.