The Internet is the ultimate equalizer. Low barriers to entry mean heavy competition for your clients in the online marketplace, and even the most established corporations will suffer if they don’t invest in digital marketing and web presence.
Companies that fail to keep up are seeing their market shares eaten by competitors and upstarts. The divide will continue to grow between firms that focus on offering seamless digital experiences to customers and prospects and those that are noticeably absent from the conversation.
To ensure that your clients aren’t left behind, here are six web development trends to watch that will define website design in 2016.
Agile Development Processes
The traditional approach to website development is often known as the “waterfall model.”
You start by establishing your business requirements, move on to design, then development, and finally testing. It’s a trickle-down approach, but is it really effective in the fast-paced world of web development today?
No. As websites become more like software, they are harder to budget for. Clients are more digitally savvy than ever, and they want to be involved in the design, development, and testing processes, looking to influence decisions and provide feedback. Agile processes are the solution.
Agile involves ongoing, iterative design and development with flexible deadlines. Agile design processes include agile UX and lean UX. Each stage of the waterfall is built in and repeated, making agile a more responsive approach that prioritizes collaboration among all your stakeholders and offers guidance on project features and functionality.
We all know that people expect websites to work well across all devices. But did you know that by the end of 2019, Cisco predicts, there will be nearly 1.5 mobile devices for every human on Earth?
Already, 1.4 billion Android devices are in circulation, and nearly 100 million iPhones are used in the U.S. alone. With 12 existing models of iPhone and a further 11 iPad models, not to mention the variations on the Android, providing a universal experience to users is no small task for designers and developers.
Taking on that task is essential, though. Poor user experience leaves consumers feeling that a brand does not care about its users. With more than 90 percent of Internet users set to access content through their phones by 2017, your business just can’t afford to take that risk.
To increase user engagement, more websites are adopting infinite scroll. This technique works particularly well on mobile devices, where clicking “next” to continue browsing material is a hassle. Scrolling is more intuitive, and it drives added user engagement with your website content.
When you require users to click to move to the next page, you run the risk of losing them. Infinite scroll keeps users engaged by reducing wait time and makes storytelling easier, too.
Search as an Integral Part of Website Interactions
As sites continue to become aggregators of content and as search technologies continue to improve, you can expect to see more websites where search is not only a central part of user experience, but also a useful tool in discovering content.
This means you need to build HTML and XML site maps that allow search engines to index your site and to use tags correctly to ensure that it’s easy for users to find your content.
Some of my own clients are already doing great work in this area of user experience, including law firms with content-heavy websites, such as Bryan Cave and Winston & Strawn, and fashion bloggers like Tommy Ton.
The Disappearing Divide Between the Physical and the Web
As the Internet of Things moves from idea to reality, the number of websites and web applications that link to physical devices are only going to increase. Some devices are already ubiquitous. Fitbit sold nearly 11 million devices in 2014 alone, and it remained a top seller in 2015.
In 2016, more devices — such as those that offer helpful reminders (Ditto), improve household safety (Nest and Roost), and even help to break bad habits (Pavlok) — will follow suit.
Buildings are getting into the game too, with The Tower at PNC Plaza hosting The Beacon, a dynamic, data-driven media installation that interprets information drawn from building systems in a physical media canvas and as a website. The divide has been well and truly bridged.
Geotargeted Content and Functionality
Geolocation technology has improved dramatically over the years, and Google Local has demonstrated its value. Content marketers are following suit to personalize content and user experience with geographical targeting.
Of course, the technology isn’t cheap — staying on the edge never is — but as capabilities improve, you can expect hyperlocal content to proliferate, particularly when it comes to mobile apps that have access to more granular data.
These six trends are set to dominate the web development landscape of 2016, and if you haven’t adopted them already, now is the time to start. Don’t fall behind your competitors. Look to optimize user experience and give your customers and clients exactly what they want.