Code That’s Trending: What You Should Be Learning In 2017

Only a little over two decades ago, the biggest technological innovation was IBM’s one-gigabyte hard drive (retailing at a mere $3,000) and the introduction of Windows 95.

To say that tech has changed in the last 20 years is an understatement.

But what will technology look like 20 years from now? Will the war between iOS and Android be redundant? Will fully functioning robots finally be a thing?

It’s hard to say for sure, but the reality for those who work in technology – in this case, programming and coding – things will most certainly change. In fact, things have already started to shift in 2017.

For coders looking to take advantage of some of the new tech, languages, frameworks, and programming strategies out there, here are a few key places to start.

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Preprocessors

CSS preprocessors – like LESS and SASS – have been around for awhile now, but devs have finally been catching on to their real potential in the last few years, and their popularity will most likely continue to grow over the coming year.

In the past, full language stacks were all the rage, and coders would spend hours building everything from scratch. But then someone figured out that you could build on the work of others by using CSS to extend basic functionality, and preprocessors were born.

Preprocessors can take a chosen language and use it as the foundation for larger projects. Some of the other advantages include:

  1. Modularization for your styles
  2. Reduced redundancy with variables and mixins
  3. Code reuse across multiple projects
  4. Nested, Smart styles

Of course, if you’ve never worked with preprocessors before, know that there is a bit of a learning curve. Because they have their own syntax, you’ll most likely need to choose a single preprocessor to learn first and then move on to the others from there. If you have a good foundation in JavaScript and CSS, you’ll have a solid head start.

JavaScript MV* frameworks

JavaScript frameworks are another underutilized area of development that may see more playing time in the coming year.

Consider these frameworks – called MV* frameworks (model-view-wildcard) as a sort of “next step” to working with vanilla JavaScript files (plain .js libraries sans jQuery).

Popular frameworks include Kendo, Sencha, jQuery Mobile, AngularJS, Ember, Backbone, and Meteor JS, though there are more. Part of their job is to handle some of the more complicated processes of HTML5 Web Apps and to help developers work across different platforms, like desktop to mobile.

Since Web Apps using HTML5 and cross-platform development are both on the rise in the tech world, it makes sense for developers to point their ears in that direction as well.

Single-Page Web Apps

As long as you’re learning how to work with JavaScript frameworks, you may as well learn more about the intricacies of Single-Page Web Apps (SPAs) too.

While SPAs still lag behind traditional web pages in terms of popularity, their use has been growing over the past several years.

An SLA is essentially a single, responsive landing page that works just like an app. The front end of the page pulls from a much larger database filled with content without the developer needing to add markups to every piece of data, so the page stays regularly updated with minimal effort.

They’re also much faster than traditional pages, as the HTML, CSS, and scripts only load once throughout the lifespan of the application. Only data is transmitted back and forth, so bandwidth is reduced and page speed is increased.

Considering how much time and energy is spent by developers creating, updating, and maintaining web pages, you can probably see why SLAs are catching on.

SVG + JavaScript on Canvas

Many tech prophets have been proclaiming the Death of Flash for a while now, so it’s no surprise that it’s on the outs. But Flash has been an integral part of web development for a long time now, and many devs love the look and function of it.

The answer is HTML5 Canvas, which uses SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and JavaScript as building blocks to create a better animation.

Developers can essentially “draw” elements using JavaScript code instead of going through the rigorous process of creating animations using Flash.

This process is significantly better for mobile animations, as many devices require scalable graphics to function properly on small screens (and SVG is known for scalability).

With mobile animation on the up-and-up, developers will need to find better ways to create animation that works on a variety of different devices both large and small. So far, SVG and JavaScript on canvas is the best solution.

Machine Learning

When we say “machine learning” we don’t necessarily mean robots taking over the world like The Matrix. Machine learning in web development refers to Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms that give programs the ability to learn without being programmed.

Machine learning is incorporated in flashy, headline-grabbing technology like Google’s self-driving car, but it can also handle tasks like tracking activity in one application and relaying that to a different one (say, what you watched on Netflix to what you buy on Amazon).

As of right now, machine learning is still relatively in its infancy. Tools using machine learning run the gamut from performing simple computing tasks all the way up to problem solving tech like Amazon’s Echo or even Apple’s Siri.

As the demand for this sort of “smart technology” continues to grow, so will the demand for developers who understand how to use it properly.

Basically, if you want to make sure your job is relevant in the next 20 years, familiarize yourself with machine learning and you’ll most likely never be out of a job.

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Final Thoughts

Of course, not all the trends listed here are for the faint of heart, and a modicum of knowledge in any will require some effort and dedication to learning. But that doesn’t mean that these trends are outside the reach of the beginner coder.

The key to successfully following the latest tech trends is to start with the basics: learn JavaScript, learn HTML, learn how to build a website.

Once you’ve mastered the “vanilla” levels of coding, you can move on to something with a little more flavor. And who knows, maybe someday you’ll be the one inventing the latest and greatest technology trend on the market.

 

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