This is the time of year CEOs and CTO's dust off their crystal balls and attempts to peer into the always-misty future of technology. In lieu of a crystal ball, here’s a distillation of the most informed speculation on where websites are going in 2019, courtesy of the forward-looking folks at Drupal.
Mobile is King
2017 was the tipping point in web usage. It was the year that mobile users finally accounted for the majority of website traffic: 50.3%. This trend is significant because it is leading Google to change its approach to indexing. Before this, website indexing was based on desktop usage first, mobile usage second, because desktop usage predominated. Now, with a mobile-first approach, the responsiveness of websites to mobile-users will be crucial in maintaining search result rankings.
Companies will no longer be able to get away with sub-par versions of their websites for mobile users. The design must be mobile-friendly.
The Rise of the (Chatting) Machines
Customers want a real-time customer service response. They don’t appear to care too much if they’re talking to a Chatbot. Chatbots will take on an increasingly significant role in customer service, drastically reducing staffing costs as they do so
AMP it Up
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) will be a crucial part of the adaptation to the new mobile-first world. Though there’s some criticism of AMPs for reducing functionality, there’s no doubt that they reduce load times dramatically. AMPs deliver a median load time of 0.7 seconds, as opposed to a non-AMP load time median of 22 seconds. People are in a hurry, and developers will make AMPs work in response.
“Computer? I’m Hungry.”
Voice-search is becoming increasingly popular. One telling statistic: 55% of teens use voice-search daily, as opposed to 44% of adults. The future belongs to voice-search. It won’t be enough to allow your site to be found by voice-search. You’ll need to enable navigation within your site by voice. Luckily, both Google Chrome and Firefox support voice-search-recognition API.
We Are Now Goldfish
This statistic might seem a bit depressing, but it’s a new reality. In 2000, the average human attention span was 12 seconds. In 2013, it was 8 seconds. A goldfish can stay focused for 9 seconds. In practical terms, this means you’d be better be using Motion UI to captivate and excite visitors to websites because static imagery will make them swim away.
Put AI on Guard for Thee
The round-the-clock nature of cyber-threats will require sentinels who don’t take bathroom breaks or family days. Up till now, cybersecurity has mostly been reactive, limiting damage and rebuilding firewalls after an attack has already occurred. But the increasing cost of security breaches will require a more proactive response from learning machines in 2019. Prevention will become the gold standard in security.
This Website Belongs to Timmy
Much of the history of the internet has been a story of democratization and empowerment. The rise of Ambient Design promises to continue this trend. The new Apple Mojave OS features desktop backgrounds that change throughout the day, a promising intro to a possibly broader trend. Learning AI will allow customization of websites based on user interaction, giving each customer a unique experience.
A corollary trend is the emergence of Freeform Design. The development of new, more accessible web-design tools will allow people with different perspectives to design sites. The sameness of so much website imagery will be challenged with modern artistic sensibilities.
Privacy Takes Priority
GDPR legislation was a landmark event in the history of the web. It heralds a new era in which those who collect user information will increasingly be held accountable for what happens to that information. Public trust has been damaged by incidents such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal. If you’ve become accustomed to collecting vast amounts of personal information from users, now might be the time to ask yourself why. Do you need a birthdate or a telephone number? Invasion of privacy will be tolerated less by consumers, and there will be more government oversight.
Welcome the Woke Web
The concern with diversity and bias in the wider society will not bypass websites. Developers and now carefully examining the question of bias in algorithms, with the aim of developing more inclusive content. Traditionally, algorithms have tended to push those considered "outside the mainstream" to the edge, while catering to the majority. The focus now is on creating many “mainstreams” and tailoring content to them individually. A more inclusive model will allow for the development of omnichannel content to increase a website's range of appeal.
Tell Us a Story
The big trend in modern marketing is brand development. This includes oblique approaches, not necessarily centred on a product, which engage consumers and humanize the brand. Storytelling is central to this approach. Making "heroes" of a product and the people who produce it will be a commonly used tactic in 2019. This will require high-quality writing and supporting imagery. The end result will be a more meaningful and emotionally engaging experience.
Smart Offices and API-First
Increasingly, websites will be just the publically-visible portion of an integrated digitally-controlled environment. The emergence of smart devices using Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology, integrated with mainframe computing and mobile devices, will necessitate an API-first approach. Companies like Drupal, which offer API-first solutions, will become the first and last resort in creating the true smart office.
Exhausted by the Pace of Change? Well, There’s Some Bad News…
The tech seers may emphasize some trends over others, but there's one thing they all agree on: the pace of change will not slow down. IoT, AI, and the untapped potential of mobile devices will guarantee years of challenges and opportunities for companies and their technical staff. But the potential to do more things in less time, at lower cost, is one that no company can ignore.
It’s only going to get more interesting. Curse, or blessing? A little column ‘A,’ a little column ‘B.’