It’s that time of year again where experts around the world provide you with their predictions on what we’ll be looking at in the upcoming year.
Web developers offer their opinions on what will happen in design. Search experts tell you what’s likely to happen in the world of SEO and PPC. And social media gurus explain what trends are likely to take place on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
But we thought we’d take a slightly different angle. As a one-stop shop for all things digital, we thought it would also make sense to be your one-stop shop for web design, social media and digital marketing trends for 2016.
So don’t worry about having to find this information on three different websites; we’ve gathered it all together for you, right here, in one place.
Web design trends in 2016
Offering more immediate information
As Google’s algorithm becomes increasingly more intelligent, it has begun showing more answers to a user’s query within the actual search results:
Obviously, Google itself is not the original source for this information. Instead it is taking the content directly from websites within its index and using it to provide more immediate answers. Subsequently, the websites aren’t always getting the click-throughs they deserve. In 2016, some businesses may attempt to combat this, using more original design in order to reduce a user’s journey to information.
Google has already announced that a ranking boost could be applied to a business if their app indexing APIs are used. This won’t apply across the globe as not every business will require an app, but for those that do, we’re likely to see tactics emerging to push apps into more prominent positions in the search results.
Accelerated mobile pages
We already know mobile is big; Google even introduced a ranking boost for mobile optimised websites last April. And whilst, arguably, this didn’t have the big effect that everyone was anticipating (after all, it was named “Mobilegeddon” in the run up), Google has indicated mobile will become even more important, particularly pages that load quickly on mobile devices – aka, accelerated mobile pages.
As a method of speeding up the mobile web in general, this will be extremely welcomed by Google and mobile users alike.
What makes a website stand out from the crowd? Originality. As businesses strive to stand apart from their competitors, the need for their brand imagery to also look different will get stronger. Methods, such as using video backgrounds and animation as part of web design, will become increasingly popular.
One example is parallax scrolling – as can be seen here – in which further animation is triggered as a user scrolls down the page. Not only is this original, it will also help to increase brand awareness through word of mouth.
This is more likely to apply to companies with larger budgets available to implement original design. But with the growth of fibre broadband and use of mobile devices as 4G grows, we’re more likely to see business websites that start tongues wagging.
Creative hover states
As design is stripped back to its simpler form, we’re seeing more use of creative hover states (creative animation that’s used whenever a mouse hovers over an area that’s meant to be clicked). This is something that we saw more of in 2015 and, as the year goes on, its rise in popularity is likely to grow with flourishes in this area.
With the shift to mobile ever increasing, together with a desire to be original, we’re likely to see many more websites stripping back to original, simplistic designs. Content will be much more centred making it easily accessible on a variety of screen sizes.
A company’s main message will be found above the fold on the website, with more of the content listed further below.
Iconography will be used more to replace traditional text links, reducing overall content on a page and helping websites to appear more “to the point”.
High quality photography
Images can make or break a website. Poor quality photography can immediately deter visitors, whereas high quality imagery can automatically capture a person’s attention.
Businesses will choose to use high quality, vivid imagery to convey messages as part of their website’s overall design.
Social media trends in 2016
The need for current, “as we speak” news is getting stronger and stronger amongst social media users. Many people take to Twitter to find out what’s going on in the world by looking at what’s trending. This will only continue, but in the form of video content.
Many platforms are available for businesses to upload video content, but many users are now interested on what’s going on, literally, right now. Because of this, we’re likely to see an increase in live streaming.
We’re already seeing a rise in the use of live streaming apps, such as Periscope and Meerkat. But now, some of the more popular platforms are jumping on the bandwagon.
Facebook will soon allow users to live stream directly from their app into the news feed. This feature will enable businesses all over the world to promote their content in real-time such as providing a behind-the-scenes insight into daily runnings, announcing new products, or offering special promotions for viewers.
Social in-app features
Twitter Moments, Facebook Instant Articles and Snapchat Discover help to increase engagement with users and are just a few of the tactics being used by social media platforms in an attempt to encourage lengthier in-app experiences. Features like these will inevitably continue as the platforms release more and more to increase engagement and compete with one another.
Twitter’s make or break
Many experts out there are debating the future of Twitter. Famously, it hasn’t made anywhere near as much money as expected, so 2016 could be the year we finally find out its fate.
Many are convinced of its impending downfall, but on the flipside, its recent partnership with Google – tweets being indexed and subsequently appearing in the search results for more real-time information – could change everything for the platform. Will Google eventually buy out Twitter to keep it going? Only time will tell…
We already know that video content works wonders and we’ve touched on it briefly above when discussing live streaming. But with its easy-to-digest format, most users will continue to favour video content over written articles.
It does, however, mean that companies must become more creative with their video content in order to capture larger audiences. With Facebook launching 360 video (where users can manipulate their screens to view videos from different angles) and live photos (where a user’s camera automatically captures 1.5 seconds of video before and after pressing the shutter), businesses will have more opportunity to produce watchable content.
Ecommerce in social
As mentioned above, the social media platforms are ultimately trying to encourage users to stay in their apps as long as possible. Pinterest, for instance, has added ‘Buy it’ buttons providing people with the ability to purchase items directly from their app. Chances are more platforms will enable this feature allowing businesses to integrate their social marketing efforts with online shopping.
This is something the bigger brands have been doing for a while; using their social media platforms to provide support and customer service. Smaller brands will begin to see the benefit of this in 2016, providing their customers with another means of contact, as well as helping to develop current – and new – relationships with a larger online audience.
Digital marketing trends in 2016
In-app and in-search
Similarly to the social media platforms, Google is trying to keep users within their app and/or search results for as long as possible. We’ve already seen a glimpse of how they intend to do this when they provide “in-search” answers. Not only that, their integration with Twitter and indexation of tweets will see them providing more real-time information which will be particularly useful for users wanting updates on live news.
Shift to paid search
Because of the above and the fact that Google are providing more and more answers in the search results, publishers and website owners may find it increasingly harder to increase their website traffic; after all, if Google is using these external websites’ content to provide the answers, people will no longer need to click through to the original source. As such, this may mean many businesses decide to alter their marketing efforts, choosing to promote themselves through paid search instead.
Google has already told us they will be releasing a new version of their Penguin algorithm in the New Year. But this one is slightly different than others; this will be a real-time algorithm. In a nutshell, this means that, as soon as the Penguin algorithm detects spam that goes against their guidelines, they can penalise a website there and then. Similarly, if they deem that a website has removed all spam, Penguin may also return said website to its original ranking position before the penalty was put in place.
Online activity is increasingly being carried out on mobile devices and slowly overtaking desktop search. Because of this, the need to speed up the search process for users should be prioritised. Mobile optimised websites are already extremely important; pages that will easily allow people to conduct searches with their fingers and thumbs. But pages that allow for voice search will speed up this process even more.
Google is continually announcing that they are improving on this particular area of their search algorithm, adding more and more languages and voice recognition technology to their systems.
And those are our predictions for this year. This list, however is by no means definitive. At the end of the day, we can only wait to see what the search engines and social media platforms will throw at us in the coming year. How businesses choose to react will effectively set the trends in motion.
If we were to offer advice on where your business should focus its efforts this year, we would strongly suggest looking at mobile - ensuring your website loads as quickly as possible - and producing original, real-time, visual content for your target audience that will keep them coming back for more.