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Web Development Trends and Predictions for 2014

Websites are often the first thing a prospective customer looks at and with competition becoming ever fiercer, more and more brands are improving their sites. But just what will happen in 2014?

Mobile and Responsive Design

We are all aware that more and more people around the globe are going mobile. With 91% of all people on earth owning a mobile phone and 1.2 billion people accessing the web from their mobile devices, having an online presence has never been so important.

With 3 Mobile introducing a zero roaming charge when overseas in certain countries, we predict that other networks will follow the same pattern, fuelling more online usage on 3G and 4G networks and encouraging people to use more data.

So how does your site look on your mobile device? 57% of mobile phone users say they wouldn’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website. Responsive websites are becoming more and more common and no doubt we will see more sites going mobile in 2014 but we must all be careful not to over complicate things and limit sites’ functionality. If you take a look at Google, for example, from your mobile device and search for something, you will notice that you can only go forward and back to the page immediately before or after. What if I wanted to skip to page 8? I’d have to click the forward arrow 8 times which could be a little frustrating – even the big guys get it wrong sometimes!

So make mobile a priority in your marketing plan this year and let us know if we can help.

Multi-Faceted Web Pages

Websites are like a clothing brand – certain styles go in and out of fashion and you need to be seen to follow the latest design trends.

Web designers are always conscious of making the best use of screen real estate and like to use functions that allow you to re-use the same screen space many times over. Carousels (link to blog post) or rotating/scrolling images, tabbed content, accordions and mega menus have been around for a while now and have been adopted by many leading brands. We predict we will see more of these in 2014 along with what we call ‘multi-faceted’ pages – big screens, infographics and short, attention grabbing copy. By presenting your content in this way you can see different pieces of content in the same space on your web page. Which approach would work best for your site this year?

Themes

The idea of themes has been around for quite some time in computing. It was probably originally used in operating systems like Windows and Linux in order to help standardise the user interface. More recently however, themes have emerged in the web space where they appear more like templates for web designs. Off the shelf themes are available for a wide range of systems including Wordpress, Dot Net Nuke, Drupal and Joomla (where they are called Templates) to name but a few.

So what is a theme in the context of a website?

Basically it is a set of web pages constructed in HTML/CSS in which the various pages conform to and are consistent with a theme.   A web developer can take these pages and use them as a basis for a website design.  Very often the pages are tailored around a particular environment, hence the reason why there are themes for Drupal or Wordpress.  Many such themes are available to download for free, while others carry a modest charge.

Themes are a useful shortcut for producing a web design quickly and effectively and agencies are using them more and more as a way to shorten delivery times and deliver functionality quickly and easily.  The use of themes by web agencies is becoming even more prevalent with the advent of responsive designs for use on mobile sites.  The reason is quite simple; an agency can lay its hands on a theme for little or no cost which already works across a wide range of mobile devices and browser types.  There is no need, as with custom designs, to test every possible combination.

Even where the theme is substantially altered, say to change colours or fonts, they often represent a useful starting point for a new site build.

So we predict that in the year ahead we are likely to see an increasing use of themes by digital agencies and an increasing number of themes available for them to use. We’ll wait and see what happens!

Personal Management

We have all seen sites such as Netflix and Amazon tailor their user experience with data they capture to personalise their web content. You may have received recommendations from Amazon about which books you might like or movie suggestions from Netflix, all based on your past activities on their site or purchases you have made. They marry up their web Content Management System with their marketing platform and provide users with useful information and targeted, personalised content. This whole process falls under the heading of Persona Management and can involve linking data from back end systems such as CRM systems and ecommerce systems to the website.

There has been a steady increase in the use of personalised content over the recent past and we predict that we will see far more of this in 2014.

Would you like repeat visitors to your site, more conversions and happier customers? If so, persona management might be what you need.

Multivariate Testing (MVT)

Multivariate testing – also known as A/B testing or split testing – is a technique used to test design or web content hypotheses to enable you to judge which version is most effective.  The basic idea is to create two or more different versions of a web page – perhaps using different colours, different wording or different page layout – and then using web analytics to measure the success for each version. The version which produces the best results can they be deployed in the site going forward.

Ektron supports MVT out of the box which can test the response of users to page variants based on the number of users who click through to a target page. Here at Green River Media we have developed useful extensions to this basic MVT functionality to use other more sophisticated success criteria such as the amount of revenue generated.

We recommend MVT as a great research tool and will help optimise a site’s effectiveness. We are sure more organisations will adopt this approach in 2014.