Developers have been pushing two goals this year: efficiency and customization.
The most popular trends have been those that either streamline the development cycle or offer features tailored to the changing needs of end users.
Mobile technology is beginning to take center stage for developers (you can read about our top mobile trends here) but there are some exciting trends brewing in the general software community, as well.
Here’s a closer look at the ones drawing the most attention:
Consumers have heavy expectations of customer service.
When contacting a company via the in-site messaging service or social media, nearly half expect a response within an hour.
A third want a reply in thirty minutes.
Rather than maintain a twenty-four-hour customer service staff, companies are adopting chatbots and chatbot-enhanced technology to keep customers happy after hours.
Chatbots employ Natural Language Processing (NLP) to let programs understand free form questions and reply in natural speech patterns.
Gartner predicts that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their brand interactions without speaking to a human.
Macy’s has programmed their On Call feature to provide some more custom services: personalized product recommendations, directions to items within a store, and responses to common shopping questions.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS is a cloud-based solution for developing, operating, and managing applications.
PaaS providers supply both hardware and software services to developers, who can log in via a web browser and begin building with a minimum of setup.
Some experts predicted it would fizzle out due to concerns over security risks and lack of developer control, but it’s been enjoying a resurgence in popularity in 2017.
Open source databases like MySQL and MongoDB have long been popular because of the lower price point.
Now software built on other open source technologies is increasingly in demand for other reasons: scalability and innovation.
The exploding collection of available plug-ins lets companies create software that meets their exact needs.
With technology changing at such a rapid pace, agile methodologies are more important than ever.
Agile emphasizes responding to change on an ongoing basis, listening to client feedback, and delivering many small portions of a project as they’re finished rather than holding everything until the end.
This year Agile is being praised for one byproduct of iterative development: security.
Bugs which might cause vulnerabilities in the finished software can be fixed after every mini-deliverable instead of waiting for the end.
Doing so keeps the development timeline short while improving the quality of the final product.
Automation has been edging onto the development scene for a while.
Automated actions are often confused for intelligent software, though unlike AI programs automation doesn’t use past experience to refine its algorithms.
It involves maintaining a list of processes which are triggered by specific conditions.
Some common processes are spam filtering, offering to resolve an error message rather than simply alert to the error, sorting new customers, and sending follow-up emails after a comment or complaint.
Though it lacks the responsive nature of a chatbot, automation does give end users an additional suite of partially customizable features.
Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning
With cloud computing and storage becoming widely affordable, experimenting with artificial intelligence has never been easier.
This year the focus is on using AI to improve the customer experience.
Consumers want personal service around the clock, and AI is a cost-effective way to provide that service regardless of time zone.
Look for AI and ML-powered customer-facing features like online assistants, website design tools, facial recognition, and recommendation engines.
Data is being created at a faster rate than ever before, and companies are looking for solutions to make sense of their data.
Those solutions may be custom software, embedded analytics, testing procedures, or simple process changes.
Whatever the form, data science is becoming an essential part of software development.
Experts predict the drive for customization will continue through the end of the year and beyond, so we can expect more emphasis on features like chatbots, intelligent programs, and automation in the coming months.