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3 Big Predictions for Web Design in 2010

3 predictions for web design and development 2010

The last decade has brought in a complete evolution in web design and user experience. From proliferation in browser usage to the wide adoption of standards-based web development and code.

  • Location Based Services With the growth of smart phones and internet enabled feature-phones, location based services will explode this year. The massive growth will result from the growing popularity of social media applications, but more so from service-oriented applications. What smart phones and location-aware phones offer users are safe ways to identify themselves and their locations and to quickly locate people or services convenient to their position without using a text entry interface. Businesses, services and other providers can use this information to make relevant communications in real-time response.From the perspective of a marketer, a location-driven application or service can be used to inform customers to potential offers or relevant information about who they are or how easily they can be reached. This can range from locating a pharmacy in the area that stocks a special prescription or a discount latte for the caffeine-addict in your circle of friends.Comfort with these new services will come from social media adoption of location services. There are already some fantastic applications and tools in the space: FourSquare and Gowalla are the most popular. These companies encourage users to “check-in” and offer status rewards for frequent visits and also exploring new areas. Both of these services (and their like), post status updates to larger social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The more places you go, the higher your ranking in the network goes. You can also follow your friends and vice-verse. This allows you to find friends around you and meet-up.For web designers, location services create a huge opportunity for customized interfaces that are relevant to a user’s location and activity. It can also allow users to tailor an interface to their needs and tasks. By identifying a user in a cold region, you can present a cold-weather theme or contextual advertising for snow-boots or a coat. The possibilities are endless and extend the options for a personalized experience beyond what cookies and referring URL data can provide. Location services can extend beyond the phone or gps device with support in the new HTML 5 spec for location or “geolocation” services.
  • HTML 5 The end of 2009 brought with it a lot of buzz about HTML 5, a new standard in web development architecture. It’s not some terribly new animal in regards to implementation. It does offer some new exciting features and capabilities (including several ways to present video and audio within the HTML structure without use of a browser plug-in like flash) and solves some presentation issues that had been left behind by the previously vague “transition” standards. It’s most powerful capability is how it allows offline capabilities for developers. Essentially, there is a data-set that can be stored locally in the browser to preserve anything from e-mails and documents to button states. Given the widespread adoption of mobile devices and the use of laptops, this solves a lot of practical problems that developer have had in preserving sessions and states from websites to full cloud-based applications.HTML also gives designers and developers some standard structural elements to work with <header>, <nav> and <footer> to name a few. Most developers and designers who employ best practices already make use of this common nomenclature, but spec support for these objects make ubiquitous support across platforms and devices moving forward easy*. Driving progress are some much needed API features like geolocation, canvas drawing and improved forms. These features will enable location-based features (as noted above), the ability to render complex illustrations, charts and motion graphics without flash or javascript and help facilitate a better and more functional user experience respectively.I don’t expect to see a wide-spread adoption of HTML 5 in the first part of this year. I do expect to see developers and designers using this technology on their own sites and those that are leveraging the HTML 5 specs to offer an enhanced user experience and cutting edge capabilities. I hope to have my own website converted to meet the new spec shortly and begin to use it for consumer-facing client sites.
  • IE6 Will Die (Standards based browser will prevail) Internet Explorer 6 was originally developed in 2001. It was a decent browser when it was new. It had several short-comings: not complete support for CSS or DOM, but it was serviceable for its day. In the past 9 years, the web has changed completely and recognizing this, Microsoft has introduced several offerings that recognize the needs of modern users. IE 6 has held strong. IE 6 is still the dominant browser for enterprise. As someone who still designs and develops interfaces for people working for large institutions and businesses, this has been a persistent problem. 2010 Will be the year of change. The Microsoft sunsetting of Windows XP and the persistent security issues with IE 6 combined with the cost of supporting the increased expense of web application and site designers building support for this aging browser will require that companies invest in evolving their initiatives to a standards-based model.As someone who has worked with large clients, I realize that expecting organizations to invest what will be significant costs into redesigning and developing applications to work in browser other than IE 6 is idealistic, I also realize that there is opportunity. The opportunity is in creating an opportunity for organizations, big and small, to be platform agnostic. Rather than having a large group of employees work with a specific operating system and browser, employers who invest in a standards-based solution can offer a solution that will grow and be more extensible. In some cases, this can allow employees and customers to interface with their infrastructure at home or even on mobile devices. There are further advantages such as support for the more secure 64 bit versions of the windows products and the growing mac audience, but the argument of longevity and extensibility is strong enough to not look past the next 12 months to make an upgrade and say goodbye to IE 6.

I’m looking forward to 2010. Web design and development move very quickly and a year is a very long time. I would like to think of myself as a student of life and the opportunity to participate in the challenge that this industry presents is inspiring. I hope this year is as exciting as the last.

Apps Are The New Content

mobile_contentMobile applications are quickly becoming a dominant vehicle for marketing. Any brand that is communicating with an audience and relying on the web as a vector, needs to begin to leverage this new channel. In the same way that web-pages became a requirement to communicate with an audience in the mid-nineties, applications and widgets are the new “cost-of-entry” for having an exchange with consumers.

The popularity of mobile applications are fueled by many factors, the most influential being the success of the Apple iPhone and the Apple AppStore. To compete with Apple, BlackBerry and Google have introduced similar solutions to market and sell applications for their mobile devices. There is little competition for Apple in the US market, but the competition in the mobile space has fueled innovation and a huge spike in the download and use of mobile applications. The market is hungry for applications with more than a billion apps sold in iTunes‘ application store alone.

The need for brands to allow access to their services and brands to users on the go is clear. Facebook alone has over 4 million visits a day from mobile device users. The BlackBerry application outlet reports that their most popular applications allow access to broadband based video entertainment (YouTube and Vimeo) as well as social media connection apps. When surveyed, people report that they use their mobile devices as a supplement to desktop-based interaction and while waiting for appointment, in transit or between meetings. A user’s search for interaction during these time periods and the intimacy of the device itself, give a strength to communication that has no parallel in other media. The advantage comes with several hurdles: App creators must respect the level of intimacy that is given and not waste a user’s time or be overtly promotional. Creators must also realize that they are competing for attention with friends and family members as all mobile platforms support and promote integration with FaceBook, MySpace, and a wide range of IM and chat applications. Apps must be engaging and offer an obvious offering for the opportunity to exist on a user’s mobile device. Third, and most importantly, the app must be cool. There are several examples, LastFM’s listening and music search application, or Allrecipe’s app to determine how to turn at-the-ready ingredients into an entree or the most ostentatious: I AM RICH app, sold in the Apple AppStore for $999.00. The viral aspect of an application that people are excited about will eclipse any media campaign to promote an app.

To have residence on a user’s mobile device is a commitment from the user and a level of brand engagement that is beyond comparison in the online space. Provided that the application is reliable and well constructed, having the intimate connection with users on a mobile device will shortly become the next milestone in brand identity. Companies hoping to promote themselves should not forgo their current effort or drop their current marketing successes for a new app-centric marketing model, but rather look for ways to drive traffic or have exchanges with their customers on the platforms they are using to run their lives with. Just as the web has matured since the first branded homepages, so should the integration of brands on mobile platforms.

Palm Pre at CES

Palm PreThis week, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Palm unveiled it’s Phoenix: the Pre. A new OS available on new, very beautiful hardware, and is intended to compete in the marketplace against the industry champion: iPhone and the deeply entrenched RIM BlackBerry. Although this is the story of an underdog, Palm ruled the handheld market for almost 10 years. The Palm Pro, the Palm III, Palm V-these handhelds created the PDA market. MicroSoft challenged them, but they had stayed competitive for a very long run. Even after faltering during a few years ago, Palm released the Treo — their bullet-proof smart phone platform that was THE device for 2 years.

Recently, Palm had lost it’s luster. The Treo was not updated for far too long, and faded. The iPhone was the nail in the coffin for Palm. Even with a tremendous investment in R&D and a very strong product (the Palm Foleo which was pre-cursor to the NetBook thin-client model) Palm was swinging and missing in the portable market.

When rumors of Palm’s new products leaked, there were few pundits left to wait expectantly. The market had changed and is heavily favoring the media-savvy iPhone and new, BlackBerry based smartphones. What adds more to the complex formula of wireless devices is the bell-curve of adoption. Young people and students are quickly adapting to mobile devices and using them as “thin-clients” to run their lives, communicate with one another, play media, surf the web and, of course, make calls. Parents are using their phones to co-ordinate schedules, plan events and as photo-albums. Business people are using these mobile do-it-alls as remote offices, sales platforms and road-warrior grade entertainment devices.

The announcement of Pre is a rally cry to all of Palm’s fans who may have wandered. The CES demonstration shows a product, if it is delivering on the promise made, that can bring Palm back into the marketplace. With Apple-style aesthetics and the capabilities of the new “Web OS”, I think Palm has a home-run product. From my experience with the treo, MicroSoft Exchange support would have to be greatly improved over previous implementations for inclusion in corporate tech fleets. The included GPS and ability to have multiple applications running in conjunction with one another make it a hands-down winner over the iPhone (pricing estimates have the Palm Pre at $200 with a Sprint Wireless Plan).

At this price-point, Palm will also be competing with the newly announced Android OS based G1. The G1 has the advantage of being open-source and has the advantage of a head-start. If Palm can capitalize on it’s now-dormant development community, they have a shot at robbing the G1 of their place behind the iPhone in the mobile computing market. The Palm development community was previously very strong and responsible for Palm’s longevity (and success of the Treo). It will be interesting to see if Palm can attract the same commitment to their new OS and provide the same support to the new development community that will be required to make the Pre the come-back story of 2009.

As a Palm fan, I’m excited to see them back in the mix.

About Cullmann

Chris Cullmann is a Creative Director and Online Strategist. He works for Ogilvy CommonHealth Interactive Marketing, a digital agency dedicated to healthcare marketing. His professional and personal portfolio includes interactive websites, viral and social media, and online education applications. His portfolio and observations about the design and marketing industry can be found at www.cullmanndesign.com

The opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or those who I am professionally connected.

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