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Goodbye 2014 – Our Year in Review

December 31, 2014
By Team Hello

Wow! What a year it’s been. In both the tech sector at large, and the online marketing industry in particular, 2014 was full of shake-ups and surprises.

It’s easy to say that any year was full of change, but it’s been especially true for us that the past twelve months contained more curveballs than usual. Let’s look at some examples of 2014’s clear trends, and talk a bit about where we’re looking for opportunities in the coming year, because these issues affect more than just web design businesses like ours.

This has been a big year for web design companies and the value of having a strong team

Lots of bigger businesses have in-house web teams. There’s value in bringing on employees rather than contracting out to a firm like ours, when the work is large and consistent enough. This year, however, Capital One – a bank many people may be familiar with – didn’t just hire a web team, they bought leading web firm Adaptive Path in a move that surprised many web professionals.

Why is this important? Because it’s a sign of the year’s changes, and what we can expect in the future. Adaptive Path was one of the pioneers in Web 2.0 design – the set of features and expectations we’ve come to take largely for granted as part of the internet today. Everything from interactive websites, to social networking, to the visual vocabulary of shiny buttons and subtle gradients marked Web 2.0 design as a reliable staple for websites.

But that’s shifting. What’s replacing it? Theories such as Google’s Material Design – with its movement toward semi-flat shapes, bold colours and a striking clarity of purpose and function. There’s also a much bigger focus on background media – such as the video we included in our client Michael J. Scott’s website.

Where a sense of flashy detail used to be the sign of a good design, intelligent minimalism is now the clear winner. With internet connections getting faster, and media becoming more efficient, it’s more important than ever to focus on creating a reliable experience in every environment possible – from desktop to tablet to smartphone.

We’re also seeing some shake-ups in unexpected places – like search.

This one’s trickier because search tends toward the technical – however, consider the following;

Google’s made its usual waves (they publish more changes, more often than anyone else) this year – but the message for 2014 has been more clear than past years: With the removal of their Authorship feature, a decrease in focus on social search, and the launch of many more “Knowledge box” products both within usual search results, and on Android through Google Now, it’s obvious that Google’s interested in bringing all of their products under their own control.

Initially nobody thought much of it when Facebook dropped Bing for its internal search engine – but we’re now seeing the outcome of that change with the social media giant indexing something like a trillion posts in order to create a better contextual understanding of our histories there.

What do these examples mean? Search – as with many other online ventures – is beginning to show a pattern of consolidation. Bigger enterprises are getting better at doing things for themselves, rather than simply employing third-party tools to get things done on their behalf.

Many top stories in tech this year have been focused on security.

It started in April with the massive Heartbleed bug, and hasn’t stopped yet. We were still hearing news about the enormous hack Sony’s been struggling to conquer right up until last week’s Christmas Day online opening of its movie The Interview which, in a stunning turn of events, was a mostly-online affair which is in the middle of proving once again that online business makes money.

Some of the year’s biggest tech security stories haven’t even been about stolen information, either. We’re also seeing how an imperfect approach to personal – and business security – is affecting social businesses.

In the past months, Uber (a ride-sharing platform based on smartphone apps which has tried to overturn the taxi industry) has faced numerous lawsuits – and even criminal charges – because of a few poorly handled incidents involving the security of its riders and drivers. While that story’s still developing, it’s worthy of note here because it concerns the public’s understanding of technology, apps, and online services – something we’re deeply committed to.

Where do we go from here?

It’s difficult to make predictions about the future, even with far more information than we’re writing here. However, we can make some guesses as to what we’ll see in the coming year, for web design and tech at large.

When looking at design, some trends are worth following. In the coming year, we’re going to be talking a lot more with our clients about how design trends need to keep pace with user expectations. Without users who appreciate and understand your website, your value on the internet is sorely limited.

Not every site ages at the same pace – but all websites do age. When was the last time your design changed? Is all your information up to date? Does the site fit in with your current offline brand strategies? Is there more you could be doing to provide useful information to your customers through the web properties you control? These are important questions – ones which should be looked at regularly.

Your online presence in search will also continue to change – likely in ways you cannot control. As search entities get smarter, our strategies change – SEO and online marketing are moving targets and, just like design, keeping up with the expectations surrounding them is an important part of success.

If your website is still using tactics that are dangerously outdated – such as clouds of links in the site’s footer, overly bloated keyword text, or grabbing links from low-value directories that could be seen as spam-ridden, chances are you’re harming your business potential. This year may be a good time for a complete audit of your online marketing practices, and an update to the current standards for those practices.

For Technology, the recent focus on consolidation (for tech companies), as well as safety and privacy (for users, or even corporate employees) suggests that 2015 will be good year to reconsider the safety of your platform.

Are you collecting email addresses or processing orders online? Do you have an adequate user privacy policy or Terms of Services page on your website? Does the text of your site properly outline what your users are expected to do with that website? All of these things will become more important questions down the road.

All of this comes back to something we’ve talked about before; knowing where your information is, who’s using it, and for what purpose, is as important to businesses on the web as it is to individuals.

We’re here to help. If you have any questions about our predictions – or if you want to talk about keeping current for the new year – please get in touch.

Goodbye 2014 - Our Year In Review 1
Source: Hello BLOG