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Digital Year in Review
At this time of the year, it is always good to reflect on what has happened over the past year and see where the tide will be taking us for the year ahead. In this post, I will talk about the developments that have occurred over the past 12 months and how they have shaped the way we use digital technologies to sell, market and operate our businesses.
The one big trend that has continued during 2017 has been the shift to mobile. This single trend has had wide ranging impact on all facets of the online space. It has caused havoc for some businesses and brought opportunities for others. The majority of website usage is now on mobile devices and the shift is continuing. We’ll look at how mobile has not only shaped design of websites, but web development, content management systems (CMS), SEO and online advertising (PPC).
Responsive web design was created to solve the problem of having a website presented in a user-friendly way across a number of devices and screen sizes. Responsive websites are now the default standard for websites. If your website is not responsive, you or your business is considered a dinosaur that will likely go extinct. However, responsive websites was merely a way to accommodate mobile devices. With mobile being the majority, we are seeing a “mobile first” movement whereby websites are designed for mobiles first and the desktop view is secondary. Get more accustomed to seeing the hamburger icon as the menu vs. the traditional menu bar.
Another issue with responsive websites is that they are typically slow loading on mobile devices. This is because responsive sites take the same elements (copy and images) and merely resizes them to fit in a mobile screen. There is no optimisation of the image to fit the small screen and make it faster to download for the slower mobile networks. This has given rise to the use of “adaptive” website techniques.
Adaptive websites are different than responsive websites in that they can change based on a number of factors. For example, different layout or content can be displayed based on geo-location or specific devices (smartphones vs. tablets). This improves loading times and can look great on all devices (vs. on most devices for responsive websites). However, it needs a CMS that supports this technique and involves more work to develop and maintain, which means its more expensive. We’ll likely see the default to be responsive websites with a mix of adaptive techniques thrown in the mix.
CMS or Content Management
With the ever increasing growth of device types and the multitude of devices that customers use these days, there is a growing need for businesses to present its business across numerous channels. With a traditional CMS (content management system), the content (or data) is tied in to how it is presented to deliver the webpage. Take WordPress as an example, it stores content in a database and then pulls it and presents it within the templates to deliver the HTML that is rendered in the browser for the user.
With the rise of mobile apps, there is a growing need to separate the data (content) from the templates (presentation). This has resulted in more developers using “headless” CMS’, where the CMS just stores and manages the data and then the presentation is developed elsewhere and merely calls the data (via API’s) and presents it however it wants. This not only allows for data to be presented in all sorts of channels from a single source, it also allows for the presentation to be independent and more flexible as it is not reliant on the CMS’ presentation capabilities. Headless CMS’ are probably overkill for most small business websites but the larger your organisation and the more ways you need your data to be presented, the better the case for using headless CMS’.
Search Engine Optimisation
Search engine optimisation is also seeing a trend towards mobile. Google has a separate mobile index which uses mobile friendliness and download speed as major factors in its ranking algorithm. It is making Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) a bigger factor and encouraging all sites to implement it. With the increasing trend towards mobile dominance, more and more searches are being performed via mobile devices and mobile optimisation is no longer an after thought but an important tactic in our marketing toolkit.
Online Advertising (Pay Per Click)
Here we have seen the rise of social advertising. One of the favourite activities of mobile users is to browse social networks. With all these eyeballs viewing social feeds and posts, it is no wonder that advertisers are flocking to social media to flaunt their wares. Facebook has been the main winner this year. With its demographic and interest targeting, it provides a very different product to Google and has resulted in strong gains in the online advertising market share. It also helped (Facebook) that Google is highly competitive and returns were starting to diminish. With Facebook being a newer network to advertise on, it took awhile for advertisers to figure out how best to get it to work but that has now matured to the point where the majority of businesses can get started. Thanks to mobile, it has opened up more advertising opportunities for businesses to reach their market.
We’ve highlighted the changes that we’ve seen in the past year. What other changes have you noticed? Let us know with your comments. If you would like to chat further about any of the above and how you can take advantage of them to help your business, call us on (02) 8211 0668 or email us at [email protected].
Co-founder of Cornerstone and web junkie, Michael knows just how to diagnose your online problems and remedy the issue. An online enthusiast who believes in technology as an enabler of growth, Michael worries about all the details so you don't have to.