At the recent Vancouver meetup event, we invited five leading industry experts to give us an insider's look at the hottest trends that will have an impact in 2017 and beyond. Here's what we learned.
Web Design That Demands Attention
A major design trend is going back to basics with more minimal website designs. When designing a website, developers must consider a growing amount of factors, and ease of use on multiple devices is one of the most important. Elaborate website designs can complicate customer flow and user experiences.
Usability experts are recommending that we avoid using this navigation style at desktop resolutions for the following reasons:
- Among desktop sessions, hidden menus are utilized just 27% of the time
- It increases perceived task difficulty by 21%
- Slows average task time by 39% on desktops and 15% on mobile devices
Industry experts are calling for a reduction in the use of parallax scrolling because it increases load speeds and creates challenges for peak organic search engine rankings.
Reducing User Options
Seven used to be the magic number for main navigation items and now it’s 3 to 4. Mega footers are also on their way out with a dramatic reduction of links at the bottom of pages. Bombarding webpages with upsells, product suggestions and various secondary links decreases conversions as they overload the user.
Experts agree that the fastest way to success is through testing. Major decisions are no longer made based on the opinion of the development group or the highest paid person in the room. From card sorting, usability labs and now Google Optimize for A/B and multi-variate testing, several tools and techniques are available to take the guesswork out of the equation.
It was common to build a website and then leave it for years before re-doing it again. As the website is most companies’ top marketing tool, the new standard after launching a website is to continuously measure, make recommendations for improvement (hypothesize), implement improvements and then test to ensure improvements provide a ROI.
Website speed is a critical factor for usability, conversion optimization and a high Google ranking. This should be a top priority when developing or enhancing your website.
Death of Apps
On average, people have 27 apps on their phones, but the majority of times they use just four. For a mobile app to be successful, it must provide both value and a unique offering.
Ecommerce for Guaranteed ROI
Customers expect old-school customer service with the now-ness of online mediums when shopping. They want to order any product, anywhere, at any time and on any device, and then for that product to be delivered immediately to anywhere they desire. Obviously this is very difficult to do.
Most ecommerce experts obsess over customer data to improve their sales, customer retention and customer satisfaction. Opportunities are plentiful for tracking your customers as they engage with your website, social media, online ratings and reviews, remarketing, chatbots and more.
Consistent Brand Experience
Experts agree that a consistent brand experience across all digital channels is a must-have. This is a difficult task considering the many different devices and channels that must be supported.
From remarketing to reorganizing your navigation menu items for your target audiences, personalization produces results. When evaluating your customer journeys, look for opportunities to present the exact information that they want and when they want it. The tools for making this happen are now more readily available and AI will have a profound effect on personalization shortly.
Future Trend: Conversational Commerce
Messaging apps have outpaced social networks when it comes to where we spend our time. These tools are rapidly developing ecommerce interfaces and soon will be able to handle a complete transaction without the need for external platforms. Look to Amazon Echo and Google Home to understand how users will speak to their devices for a complete ecommerce experience, from product enquiry to purchase confirmation.
Future Trend: Marketing to Devices
Funny as it sounds, but as our devices get smarter they will be making purchasing decisions for us. That will make for some interesting marketing discussions as we try and persuade machines to choose us or our products over the competition.
The Next Wave of CSS
Web developers need to think with a “mobile first” attitude for optimal site performance and ecommerce conversions.
Three main trends in front-end development stand at the forefront in 2017, and they are:
First released as part of CSS3, the Flexbox is already a reliable layout mode. Designers can manipulate a webpage component’s elements, such as size, so that it best fits on any screen or display device.
Benefits of the CSS Flexbox
- Auto-adjusts items to fill free space on a screen, or contracts them to prevent overflow
- Optimized for one-dimensional layouts
- Ideal for component applications and websites with small layouts
Introduced as a supplement to CSS Preprocessors with desktop-browser integration as early as 2014, CSS Variables are only now starting to take off in 2017 thanks to recent mobile-browser integration.
Benefits of CSS Variables
- More customization options—developers can tailor elements such as colours and component sizes within any selector they choose
- Less repetitive CSS code and easier maintenance requirements for large projects.
The Future: CSS Grid
The CSS Grid is a new layout model that resolves many previous limitations for controlling the sizing and positioning of website components. Now developers can construct dramatic visual layouts for mobile websites without the pain of altering markup language.
As of now it’s only partially supported in a small handful of browsers, but experts predict it will quickly become an industry standard for web development by 2018.
Benefits of the CSS Grid
- Conducive to explicit overlapping of elements on a website
- Optimized for two-dimensional layouts
- Ideal for complex websites with large layouts
Companies now realize there are risks in having too many choices for services. Watch as more brands decide to limit their focus to drive performance by doing a few things very well instead of a lot of things with underwhelming results. This trend works well for Facebook and Google as over 48% of all internet sessions involve interactions with one of those two brands.
As of May 2016, Google stated that over 20% of mobile queries are voice searches, which means that over 10% of all searches are voice based. It’s time to start optimizing your website for this key trend.
You would hope that Facebook and Google would be opening up their domains by sharing data and allowing other applications to interact with them, but the exact opposite is happening. For example, Facebook launched two algorithm updates in 2015 penalizing pages for promoting content organically. As well, Google’s 2011 update (expanded in 2013) encrypted keyword data to encourage marketers to shift more towards AdWords. Look for more of this to happen in the future as both Facebook and Google continue to aggressively monetize their offerings.
Social is Driving ROI
The debate is over: companies can and should successfully get an ROI with their investment in social to gauge if they are doing it right.
Era of the Image
By 2021, about 50% of all online searches will occur via images and other non-text forms. Make sure to increase your emphasis on visual content, from attention-grabbing images displayed prominently with blog posts to conveying information using graphics. Just as importantly, mine these visuals with data so that search algorithms can properly interpret them.
B2B has always lagged behind its more innovative B2C cousin. Some have made the excuse that B2B digital marketing is different, which is correct. However, watch successful B2B companies implement B2C tactics as their customers are expecting a similar experience.
Chatbots are a piece of software that you chat with to get things done or to be entertained; Siri is the most well-known example. Their future success is heavily dependent on new advances in AI technology. Soon a single Chatbot could be your personal assistant. When you ask it what the weather will be like today it knows that you are flying to San Francisco in the afternoon from Vancouver, and tells you the weather for both cities.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Look for VR use to rapidly expand in media, education and training, video games, engineering, architecture & urban design, tourism, retail and marketing.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The power of AI is in its opportunity for mass personalization. Some say it will be the next big user interface (UI). B2C consumers and B2B clients view personalization, immediacy and intelligent engagements as key requirements when interacting with brands. AI in the future will be able to deliver exactly that.
This industry is constantly growing and is now very broad. Focus on obtaining a wider knowledge to understand the big picture to complement your area of specialization. It’s very difficult to know everything, so specialization is still integral.
How to Create Highly Effective Websites for 2017
Get the inside view from our panel of experts in web strategy, design and technology as they share the best processes, tools and techniques for creating highly effective websites. You’ll get the insiders’ secrets on:
- The latest web strategies and methods
- How to plan, write, organize and manage content
- Best coding techniques for 2017
- Tips and tools to make the job easier
Feb 23, 2017
5:30-6 p.m. (networking, snack and drinks)
6-8 p.m. (panel presentation and Q&A)
CodeCore (142 W. Hastings St., Vancouver)
Sponsored by Graphically Speaking and hosted by CodeCore.