What's the next big thing in web, app, etc. development?
July 29, 2014 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I run a small web development consultancy, but we're being commoditized and priced out of business. What should we morph into?

We're 6 years old, and have done most of our work developing Django-based corporate websites. Business isn't what it used to be, so I've started us on the path to developing mobile apps for clients, as the market doesn't seem to be so saturated. Reading a bit, though (for example.), I fear that the app market might be already be down the road to commoditization as well. What new market niche, technology, service or product might be the next consultancy opportunity, the way websites where a decade ago and apps where a few years after that?
posted by signal to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
If your agency's claim to fame is that you do the hot new thing, you're always going to be on the edge of obsolescence. If you can change the conversation to an angle where you help customers solve problems and develop technology strategy, you can develop stronger relationships with clients that aren't just about making a website or a mobile app.
posted by chrchr at 12:47 PM on July 29, 2014 [18 favorites]

Apps are still a good margin business to be in if you're building them for other people. Whether or not people are going to be making as much money selling apps isn't quite the question. The vast majority of people who do business online of any sort will likely need app versions of their main interactions sooner or later. Those will be the price of doing business with an increasingly-mobile customer/audience base and being good at that will be valuable for a while. Ultimately, though, I would expect it to take more or less the same arc as the web and in 10 years be commoditized.

The other strategy is to pick a tighter niche. My partner works in a non-profit context, and they seem to have a totally separate world of vendors for services and they're frequently not that great. But those vendors subsist on solving problems in a specific domain and that seems to insulate them to a certain degree from having go always be doing the latest/greatest thing. Corporate websites might not be high margin any more, but I'm sure there are other niches where there is still good work to be done.
posted by heresiarch at 1:11 PM on July 29, 2014

I'd say, based only off my experience and hunches, that the next big thing is "software in a browser," as opposed to websites.

Anyone who wants a "website," in the sense of static content and maybe a blog, is probably going to use a prebuilt template or CMS. There's little reason not to. So at best you'll get work writing a little css and a few hacks for a Wordpress install.

But companies these days need full-on software delivered through a browser*. This requires serious javascript development as well as backend, serious consideration of security and usability, etc. In short, it's serious software development that someone's cousin can't even come close to attempting. And people's needs are so specific there's no way it will ever be replaced by templates or out-of-the-box solutions.

*Along with this they'll probably want either mobile apps with the same functionality, or a website that is responsive and optimized enough to work on mobile devices too.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:33 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oculus Rift, CastAR, Meta, Google Cardboard and Second Life getting a second life. Combine with a Kinect and a Leap so that virtual objects can be manipulated.
posted by Sophont at 2:29 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I reckon it's angular.js especially for shops that can produce clean well abstracted back ends.
posted by singingfish at 2:42 PM on July 29, 2014

I'd say based on the people I know who do web consultancy and my own company's contracting, is that the needs currently are in responsive design and security. drjimmy11 is right: anybody who wants a basic website is just doing a Wordpress, etc. site, but real responsive design is harder to implement, and there seem to be a number of interesting solutions being developed.
posted by General Malaise at 3:33 PM on July 29, 2014

We are a Drupal shop and we can't hire enough developers to keep up with business. But yeah, we are building software in a browser on Drupal, not static web sites.
posted by COD at 4:49 PM on July 29, 2014

A lot of the client focused web development service organizations I know of are re-branding as "your startups technology partner."

Disclaimer: i'm in a geographic region that brands itself as a startup hub so there is a non-trivial population of people with money and ideas.

If you are outside of southern California (I apologize for being too lazy to look) your prices are much, much better than what is nearby for them.
posted by cCranium at 5:14 PM on July 29, 2014

while I disagree with them, folks keep saying hadoop/map-reduce is "the next big thing" ..
posted by k5.user at 7:13 AM on July 30, 2014

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