Digital Strategy | Opinion

Three Digital Trends for 2018

Three major trends to look out for in 2018 that you should act on before your competitors do.

16 January 2018 ( words)
Henry France Henry France

Design for immediacy, influence of voice and accessibility - three key trends for 2018.

You see lots of these ‘Next big trends!’ articles being bandied about, and they’re not always that accurate. There have been plenty of past digital ‘trends’ that have proved to be false dawns - some that have just not had the infrastructure or consumer appetite to really take off. However, by using real world data and paying attention to industry announcements from previous months, it’s possible to make informed guesses about what is likely to be important in the digital marketing industry over the coming year. Here are the 3 that we think are the ones to look out for in 2018.

Speed

Google’s own ‘need for mobile speed’ paper shows that in today’s world, there is no room for delay. Users are not going to hang around for websites - increasingly, we expect instant response. The key stat in this paper for me concerns the distinct lack of patience for a page to load:

“53% of visits are likely to be abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load”.

Good site speed is critical for user experience, so Google obviously have their own tool for monitoring site speed. What’s interesting about this tool is that it has shifted from a desktop/mobile combination to only being concerned about mobile speed.

If that isn’t a huge loud hint from Google that you should be prioritising your mobile offering more than desktop then maybe the constant mentioning of the ‘Mobile First Index’ and how Google will be as open as possible about the change should be enough for you to prioritise this above all else (especially in ecommerce).

With 2017 finally being the ‘year of mobile’ in which many sites saw mobile traffic overtake desktop and represent more than 50% of all traffic, brands should be prioritising speed as one of the KPI's of a sites performance, as it's directly linked to user retention, ranking and customer satisfaction. 

The immediacy that people expect their queries and desires to be answered is becoming increasingly critical to success through both old and newly emerging channels.

Voice

And now, an even faster way of getting answers to questions has entered the market - voice search. What started as a bit of a novelty has grown massively in recent months, and that only looks set to continue. ComScore estimate that over 30 million homes now have a voice assistant like Alexa, Cortana or Google Home, and that 50% OF ALL SEARCHES will be executed via voice by 2020. You only need to look at what is going on at CES 2018 and see how many brands working on voice assistance features to see how important this has become.

Brands should view this as both an opportunity and a risk: optimising for voice (and by extension, getting into the knowledge graph) means that you are guaranteed more exposure, but conversely risks impacting your traffic as a user can now have a query answered without even visiting your site.

It will be interesting to see the strategies and tactics that develop to tackle this. As someone who loves the speed and convenience voice search brings, I for one am really looking forward to see how this unfolds in 2018.

Accessibility 

One of the key features of voice control is the extra layer of accessibility it brings to the internet. Which brings us on nicely to our third and final trend – accessibility. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, put in place to make the web open and accessible for all, have been around since 2008 -but there is an important new version coming.

WCAG 2.1 will bring a wide new range of recommendations for sites with the specific aim of making the web more accessible to people with disabilities. Disabilities such as poor vision and speech impairment will be catered for much better: we have already seen this start to happen with YouTube offering free transcriptions of your audio files. Whilst no means perfect, it’s an indication that this is becoming more important to Google and indicates a standard they believe should be mandatory.

Meanwhile, the demographics of people using the web grows ever more diverse. According to the Office for National Statistics:

“Internet use by retired adults has increased by almost 22 percentage points since 2011 to 61% in 2017.”

This number is only going to increase as the current generations age and 2018 will see more and more smaller brands offer assistance to those with disabilities. There is plenty a brand can do to identify areas of a site that may need to be improved. Start off by running your site through the W3C validation tool to identify some easy fixes and then try looking at your site with a screen reader and go through the experience of a user with these disabilities to see how easy it is to navigate and consume content.

Summary

So, lots to look out for this year! These trends should see the standards of web development, design and marketing increase but if you are short in any of these areas, expect to see your web presence diminish as competitors take advantage. If you wish to talk about any of these areas further, get in touch on social media, email or phone.

Henry France

Author: Henry France