5 web trends to prepare for in 2018
In 2017 we saw advances in responsive web design, improving customer experience for mobile users. Big images became popular again, helping to establish the new-style 'hero layout' and there was a renewed focus on creating clean, simple websites.
Behind the scenes, search-engine optimisation specialists adapted their practices to ensure their clients' sites remained on side with Google by embracing social media, mobile device compatibility and local customisation.
So what is in store for 2018? We've picked out five of the most likely trends to go mainstream sometime over the next 12 months.
1. A new concept of reality
For a long time, the viability of virtual reality (VR) as a mainstream technology has been questioned. That question is likely to be answered in 2018.
As things stand, VR is still more closely associated with gaming than anything else but projects such as Facebook Spaces will ensure that this will soon change with VR moving into the social media arena.
The availability of relatively inexpensive VR options such as Google Daydream, with headsets available for under £100, will also play its part in taking VR into the mainstream or, as the Gartner Hype Cycle terms it, on to the 'slope of enlightenment.'
If VR has so-far struggled to shake off its gaming links, the same cannot be said of augmented reality (AR). Apple's new iPhone X comes with a built-in chip designed specifically for AR applications and the company wasted no time in highlighting the many uses AR can be put to.
In contrast to VR, AR does not replace the surrounding reality. Instead, it superimposes visual information over the real world with the results viewed through a smartphone or tablet.
From cartoon characters jumping out of your drinks can or emerging through your bedroom wall to furniture which can be virtually placed around your home before you buy it, the potential for businesses to use AR in their digital marketing is clear to see.
The capability of AR and VR to meet end users' demands for immersive experiences will only increase as technologies such as physical environment mapping and depth-sensing cameral lenses improve. 2018 is set to be an amazing year for both technologies.
2. Smart robot assistants
Rather than remaining trapped at home within a standalone device or PC, AI is likely to become increasingly mobile and cross-platform, following us wherever we go and acting on our instructions.
Advances in machine learning also opens up the possibility of AI programs talking to one another over the IoT and becoming better at what they do.
Businesses are already seeing the cost-saving and customer service benefits of AI by integrating chatbots with messaging platforms (e.g. Facebook Messenger).
Generation Z, in particular, prefer to communicate instantly using such apps and it is becoming easier than ever (via intelligent chatbot extension programs such as Botsify and Chatfuel) to set up chatbots on a business Facebook page.
3. Powerful web apps
Investing in native mobile applications and keeping them updated can be costly and resource intensive. Worst of all, there is always the potential that your carefully built app will become irrelevant as trends and technologies change.
Businesses are realising that it is often much more cost-effective to create web applications which can do much of what a native app could but without the costly development process.
As well as bespoke web applications which continue to offer great value for specific processes, off the shelf products are also becoming more robust and feature rich. From comprehensive platforms such as WooCommerce, which can convert a standard WordPress site into an e-commerce site, to specialised plug-ins for dedicated functions (calendars, calculators, ticket bookings, etc.), the use of powerful web apps is likely to spread in 2018.
4. The return of real photography
The final two trends to take note of in 2018, especially if you are building a new website, involve the visual elements of user experience.
They both spring from the same motivation: the desire to engage with creative, authentic content rather than dull, recycled material. Stock photograph providers are likely to suffer with studies revealing that they are a real turn off for web users.
As a result, 2018 is likely to see web designers working more closely with photographers to create unique visuals which can be downloaded or at least viewed through a screen magnifier.
5. Inventive illustrations
Some businesses will follow the lead of the likes of Slack and Dropbox by dispensing with photography altogether in favour of illustrations. In addition to maximising the potential for creative expression, illustrations can lead to strong brand recognition due to their originality.
There are sure to be other exciting developments that have yet to make the industry radar while some of the most promising technologies may yet flatter to deceive. However, one thing you can be sure of is that Eyes Down will be keeping a close watch on all new developments and trends and ensuring our websites are always at the cutting edge.
If you have an exciting project planned for 2018, please get in touch to find out how we can support your digital vision.