5 Front-End Development Trends for 2022
There are some things that are guaranteed in January: renewed attempts to develop a gym habit, intentions to reduce alcohol consumption and, of course, an avalanche of blog posts making predictions for the coming year. This time, I’ve been given custody of the Browser crystal ball.
I’ve approached the creation of this list of front-end development trends with a little trepidation — most change is incremental, and the observations here are all patterns that are already happening and will likely still ring true in 2023. You could take a look at our 2021 front-end predictions, and they would still be completely valid.
Nevertheless, here are some thoughts on five front-end development trends coming our way in 2022.
React retains its royal status
Back in February 2021, I wrote a post about how React is king, is the framework of choice for front-end developers. I suggested that it was going to be around for some time, despite suggestions that a trendier framework might come along and take its place. A major reason for this is React’s adaptability and utility — it can be used to build single-page web applications, native mobile apps and websites — which makes it a very useful framework to know.
I expect React will continue to reign in 2022; the latest Stack Overflow Developer Survey held in the middle of 2021 confirmed React as the most “wanted” framework across the development community, as well as the fourth most loved. It was also the single most-used web framework.
Another reason I’m bullish on React is that I expect to see it continue to develop and improve over the next twelve months. The most frequent complaint levelled at the framework is that it can slow down a site and make it too large (though, as ever, this has been a source of debate, causing Twitter storms across the front-end community). In response to this, I think we’ll soon see React Server Components come out of Beta, which will help make websites smaller and faster, further buttressing the popularity of the platform.
Next.JS continues to impress
Next.js is a versatile and hugely popular framework for React that also drives improvements across load times, as well as SEO and reducing potential security issues. You can use it to build websites using JAMStack, develop online applications or even create a basic API.
As well as being a fan of Next.JS, I also admire Vercel — the company behind the framework. Vercel has a cloud platform that reduces a lot of pain around deployments, meaning that as a front-end developer, I can just plug in my GitHub repository and it will deploy my site automatically without needing to set up a server.
In 2022, I expect one of the most potent front-end development trends will be that Next.JS and Vercel continue to go from strength to strength. Powered by the $250 million of funding the company acquired in 2021 I’m excited to see what they can achieve in the coming year. They’ve already put some of the cash to use expanding their ecosystem by acquiring Turborepo, and with a significant war chest to invest in promoting and developing Next.JS too, I can see the case for more and more digital development projects buying into their technology stack.
Serverless architecture continues to help front-enders deliver smaller projects
As a general point, the money pouring into services dedicated to front-end development is good news for the profession. Companies like Vercel are focusing on the needs of the front-end community, and making life easier through better tooling and features. One way this is happening is through the use of the serverless approach, which reduces the need for back-end work. For example, using a serverless API means that a front-end developer does not need to rely on back-end resources that can swell project budgets and extend the time to market.
On larger projects, you will very likely need both dedicated front-end and back-end resources, but serverless architecture can be valuable for smaller projects with limited budgets where marketing teams are seeking custom features and integrations for their website.
A serverless API can help front-enders carry out more work independently. There are a number of interesting options here: Vercel has a good serverless API already available, and DigitalOcean just acquired Nimbella — a serverless start-up — so we can expect more serverless options to appear during 2022.
Headless CMSs mature and grow in popularity
Headless publishing as a concept has been around for years, but has perhaps not yet hit the mainstream as some predicted. However, during that time, headless CMS platforms have been maturing. Offerings like Contentful, Prismic and Sanity have now reached a level of stability that makes them increasingly viable options for digital teams to consider. The tooling is now very good, and front-end developers will enjoy how simple it is to work with these platforms. More traditional and monolithic digital experience platforms like Sitecore have taken notice, and are also now pushing their headless CMS capabilities.
Perhaps most significantly, some of the headless CMS providers have received huge funding rounds in order to drive growth — Contentful picked up $80m in 2020 and $175m in 2021. There’s a lot of money being thrown into the space, and the resulting investment and marketing muscle should see headless CMSs mature and grow in popularity throughout 2022.
We need to continue the debate on diversity and wellbeing
There has been a huge emphasis on the value of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) in the past few years in general. As a profession, I think we’re all aware that software development needs to do better in promoting diversity and inclusivity. If the 80,000+ developers who completed the 2021 Stack Overflow development survey are representative of the developer community as a whole, we’ve definitely got more work to do. 91% identify as male, for example. In terms of race and ethnicity across the profession, there are also some eyebrow-raising facts — only 3.4% of respondents describe themselves as being black or of African descent. It may be wishful thinking, but one of my hopes for the front-end development trends of 2022 is that the community finds better ways to discuss how we can improve D&I across the profession.
Another issue receiving a lot of attention across the business world is employee wellbeing, especially in light of the pandemic. The Stack Overflow survey asked respondents about their mental health, and of the 16,000 who responded, 10% said they had an anxiety disorder, 9% had a mood or emotional disorder and 9% had a concentration or memory disorder. Employee wellbeing is a real issue across the profession, and in 2022, I hope we can turn a corner in learning how we can better support each other.
2022 is set to be another exciting year to be a front-end developer. There are a growing number of platforms and frameworks that continue to make our life easier and extend the options available for front-enders. However, we must continue to ensure the front-end community is more inclusive and supportive.