We’ve always been pretty good at picking up on digital marketing and web design trends early and incisively. In all fairness, we’re on the money so often because we don’t make wild speculations. This industry—like every other—evolves at a steady rate: It doesn’t lurch in random directions at yearly intervals. Here’s where we think the trends we know exist will take us over the next 12 months.
1. Digital Content Trends in 2014
There is a lot of nonsense flying around claiming that; “in 2014, content won’t be ‘King’ anymore”. But in all fairness it never really was, at least not in a meaningful way… ‘Content is King’ was just a cliché picked up and bandied around willy-nilly by people in the industry. In truth, quality content has always been a basic tenet of good marketing philosophy and it always will be.
However, it could very well pay off to approach content generation in a slightly different way through 2014. Consider these points:
a. Wireframes and Standardised Formats
Content-Managed (CMS) websites, such as WordPress or Magento eCommerce for example, are on the rise. As such, web designers are increasingly finding that they have less and less ‘final’ content to work with when creating designs. Good design should be sympathetic to content and embellish its meaning. Without content to design around, web designers are (traditionally speaking) under-resourced. This is a less-than-perfect process, forcing designers to rely more on general branding than specific visual messages.
However, for this reason, the core value propositions and required formats for each block of content are now considered in much more depth. This way of looking at things seems somewhat restrictive at first glance; but in fact it means any new/updated content can be written and inserted into pre-defined areas without ever upsetting the composition of messages as a whole (aka the ‘value proposition’) on any page.
On top of this, content is now required to be suitable for larger ‘multi-channel’ campaigns (NB people in the industry would phrase that sentiment thusly: ‘customer experiences are now required to be more seamless’.). For example, if you manage an image gallery within your website, it is worth considering where the social icons go (whichever you choose and no matter how often you change them) and also whether the images will have suitable dimensions for social sharing.
b. Branded Content
Traditional ‘promotional’ content can be pictured as fishing bait. When you go fishing, you rely on two main things to succeed… there have to be hungry fish and your bait has to look tastier than the other bait being used in the same pond. Since everyone knows this, there are probably many fish in the world who have better diets than me. There is only so far you can go with the quality of your bait, so your best efforts will often still only put you on a level playing field with other people fishing the same water.
Creating ‘branded content’, on the other hand, is akin to putting on an underwater fish party with ‘no strings attached’ nibbles (see what I did there?), underwater fire-breathers, sexy fish in bikinis and a free bar. The fish might not be hungry, but you can bet they’ll still come along; and if you make it a regular thing or stick around long enough, they’ll probably start bringing their family and friends too. All of a sudden your actual bait on the line, which is idly positioned directly above the party, has a captive audience. It can sit in the background, ready and waiting for a party-goer to get peckish… in their own time.
That’s the key: “in their own time”. Why talk only about yourself (i.e. ‘promotional’ content) when your customers want to see a sky-dive from space or play an online mini-game (i.e. ‘branded’ content)? We’ve already written a pretty exhaustive piece on branded content here.
c. Richer Media
Interactive ‘rich media’ went down in flames with Flash, following their ‘incompatibility’ with Apple devices. In 2013, we saw HTML5 used for some amazing animation and effects. Parallax design, with floating layers moving relative to each other, is the most obvious example, but HTML5 can do a great deal more.
With the growing trend for mini-games, full screen images, single-page websites, text animations and video, you should expect to see a new, even richer media make a comeback in 2014.
2. Mobile Marketing Trends in 2014
Two major things have been happening in this area of digital marketing and they will continue to be important in 2014:
a. Touch & Hover
The ‘:hover‘ functionality, like so much web development code, evolved over time in response to the traditional ways people interact with interfaces: in other words, with the user’s mouse in mind. However, mobile devices (including tablets) are already responsible for more traffic than desktops for many websites, including many of our clients.
The ‘mobile-first’ mentality is nothing new – we talked about it over 12 months ago. In 2014, things will become more refined, capitalising on the wealth of touch-screen usage data now collected. The benefits and pitfalls of ‘hover’. ‘touch’, ‘scroll’ and a wealth of other usability options are now much better understood and should be considered more carefully,
b. Responsive Blindness
We’re very well positioned to comment on responsive web design. We were one of the first UK agencies to have a responsive website and we have stayed ahead of the curve with it ever since. Like so many voices in the industry now, we started out pragmatically proclaiming that “Responsive is Always Better!”. However, we have come to learn over the last couple of years that sometimes it’s not.
There are occasions when dedicated mobile sites can prove more efficient than responsive websites. Firstly, responsive sites can be very code-heavy, meaning mobile users can suffer with slow loading pages. Other times, users will almost certainly be looking for different information entirely when visiting on a mobile device as opposed to a PC. Also, as the idea of tailoring experiences on different devices is taken to extremes, usability can change so much that there is little parity left between the various stylesheets and therefore little point in responsive design.
Responsive design was shunned, but now it is being promoted with the same zeal we once held. In 2014, it’s time to take a balanced view.
3. eCommerce Trends in 2014
Well, there’s a biggy looming on the horizon. Magento are releasing Magento 2.0. This isn’t just an update, this is a re-coded core engine to build on. We can’t wait to get our hands on it. But I won’t get into that now… I’ll save it for another article.
Other than that, mobile eCommerce (m-commerce) and tablet eCommerce (t-commerce) will continue to become more important. Globally, tablets have already overtaken desktop machines in terms of internet usage during evening times. But that’s a whole other article too.
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