It's that time of year again! As we head towards Christmas we dust off our crystal balls and look at where the industry is heading. Every year brings exciting change and the emergence of new trends that help agencies like us find innovative solutions for our clients.
Read on for predictions across various aspects of digital, from design to tech and everything in between.
Thomas Rumbold - Head of operations
Companies like Tesla and Google have aggressively pushed forward autonomous driving technologies in 2015, with a number of developments already commercially released. I think that we’ll continue to see large strides in this area - not least because of the amazing safety record of even the early instances of these technologies. There are legal, ethical and commercial implications in fully automating driving, which means that it’s going to be a long time before we see the technology on a large scale, but it’s an exceptionally competitive race to the first viable autonomous vehicle, because it has massive implications for both consumer and business driving applications.
AI-driven voice technology
Acquisition of companies like VocalIQ by Apple is a strong statement of intent by the company to put the world’s best minds on revolutionising the way that voice technology is used. The driver behind this movement is using machine learning and AI technology to make voice technology representative of real, human conversation - and I think we’ll begin to see smarter, self-learning and more capable versions of voice activated hardware and software in all areas of consumer technology.
Fewer streaming services
The acquisition of Rdio by Pandora is a good example of how competitive the streaming media space is - and particularly how important it is to operate at huge scale to make them viable businesses. Services without enormous user bases just can’t turn the revenue they need to keep the doors open - and despite some of the great innovation in the space, user acquisition is key. I think we’ll see the less popular streaming services across video and music absorbed by larger entities or close entirely, creating more of an oligopoly than we’ve seen so far.
Sensor technology and IoT
Cheaper and cheaper sensor manufacturing means that we’re going to start seeing a more pro-active approach by consumer electronics companies to get involved in the Internet of Things. We’ll see more players in the consumer IoT space, but until we’ve got some proper application of such an enormous amount of passive data, it’s unlikely to revolutionise anybody’s day-to-day in the short term.
James Dellar - Creative Director
Focus on the user
In 2016 we will see a greater focus on user-centric design. We assume that every website and application is focused towards assisting the user, but sometimes the company/creative team don’t fully understand the user's needs and build digital destinations focused on how they expect a user to interact with their brand/service.
Companies will spend more time listening to clients and users to gain a better understanding of how to streamline their service. A great example of user-centric design at work is Virgin Airways - after conducting market research they discovered that the majority of passengers fold up their boarding pass. The result: an overhaul of the boarding pass format to a booklet format (see below).
Websites will take the same approach. Does a user need everything your site can offer at all times or do they need what is relevant at the time (Google Now is a great example)? I think that this mentality will change the way that content is shared, products are marketed, and brand relationships will evolve.
George Hadfield - Senior designer
Instigated in the design industry by Pinterest, we’re seeing card layouts on the web becoming more and more common. They’re ideal for displaying short glimpses of content which makes them easy to scan and digest - Users tend to seek information quickly and cards serve users perfectly for this purpose. Card layouts tend to reshape and stack almost perfectly, so the increasing demand for responsive websites makes cards layouts a popular choice amongst today’s web designers.
Chiara - Designer
Enhanced rich media
In terms of web design I believe we will see bolder, brighter, more vibrant colours used instead of the more safe and tested palettes of flat design that we’ve grown so comfortable with. It may be a slow takeover at first, limited to hover effects and primary hero areas/call to actions, but it will progressively expand to inform the whole design. On top of this I think it’s safe to say that HD hero imagery/background videos will have to share the spotlight with a slow but steady increase of carefully crafted illustrations and attention–grabbing cinemagraphs.
Finally, a bonus prediction: I think that there’s a lot of truth in what people have been saying lately regarding an imminent change in the workflow of digital designers. The design process will move from the conventional artboard of industry standard softwares to the space within the browser window in order to focus on interactions instead of layout and elevate team collaborative design to an unprecedented level. Just look at Figma (https://www.figma.com/) and its bold tag line: “Design, meet the internet. Finally you can do design work online, the way it should have been all along.”
Daniel Samuels - Lead developer
Recently there has been a strong movement towards fancy single-page applications using technologies such as React, Vue and AngularJS. However there is an inherent trade-off with these technologies in that you typically lose the ability to cache the content of pages. This means that a client has to request the data for each page on each page load, and it can sometimes be tricky to cache this data. What we may start seeing in 2016 is a movement back towards static, highly-cachable pages to improve perceived load speeds. The performance implications of client-side rendering tends to be more noticable on lower-performance devices such as mobile devices -- we have to remember that not everyone is using the latest and greatest hardware.
Docker and Vagrant have had a great year in 2015, they're being lauded as the solution to various deployment and maintenance problems that developers face, and are considered a worthy solution. However, there's not a huge ecosystem around the services at the moment -- especially outside of the 'core' for each tool. I think 2016 will see a large amount of growth in these ecosystems and we'll start to see articles on Docker best practices, "top tips" for Vagrant usage, as well as tutorials on configuring them for use with common languages and frameworks.
James Foley - Developer
There are now plenty of frameworks to choose from which allow you to quickly put together a single page application, and combining those with simple effects such as SVG animations the end result is both visually appealing and rapid on all devices.
I predict that in 2016 we'll start seeing a lot of sites choosing a JS front end framework to base their site on going down the single page app route to give the user a much smoother and cleaner experience.
Dan Gamble - Front end developer
PostCSS will really start to take off after starting to gathering quite a bit of momentum towards the end of 2015. As more people discover that Sass and PostCSS can go hand in hand, without a need for any changes to workflow, more people will experience the benefits that PostCSS has to offer without a huge initial overhaul. Best practise is to switch over fully but what this offers is a good transitional solution.
I think VueJS will probably be one of the most talked about JS frontend frameworks for 2016. It hit it’s 1.0 release near the end of 2015 and is rapidly rising in stars on Github. Amazingly it’s done almost exclusively by one person (Evan You) with a very impressive recording of closing most of his Github issues (around 2000) in around 10 hours - truly incredible for a one man solo mission.
James Richman - CEO and Co-Founder of 1stWebDesigner
"I'd say in 2016 cinemagraphs will gain their popularity in web design as much as micro interaction animations started gaining popularity this 2015. Originally introduced by visual graphics artist Kevin Burg and his partner (photographer Jamie Beck) cinemagraphs are like the sweet middle of the road. They are certainly better than videos since they don't eat up as much bandwidth, and at the same time they’re much "deeper" than still images. They provide something more than just a simple shot, they give depth, mystique and a soothing experience for the user. Technically cinemagraphs are a clever combination of high quality photographs and looping video."
Read our digital marketing predictions here.