Web Predictions for Designers, Developers & Agencies for 2011

Comments Gone Wild:
Look to see that blog comments, reviews and ratings are more like the actual content. In a day-and-age where people rely so heavily on user-opinion, look to see the comments not be hidden 2k pixels below the fold but more a hybridization of the actual content. Watch articles simply become conversational seeds for much larger articles. (Bloggers get ready to tend your crops!)

"Weblet" (Web/Tablet) Design:

2011 may simply be the rise of the utilitarian website as we know it.  Wire-framing scenarios will be driving module componentry that will expand and contract to both standard monitors and tablet interfaces. Within these models, watch for a resurrection of the website "widget" to be replaced by a ratio-filling module for whatever purpose seems suited for a given section of the page.

Time To Get Griddy:
Watch designing by "The Grid System" become even more prominent for not simply designing websites, but applications, mobile websites and tablet-ready apps. The grid system for apps like Pulse, most iPad applications and others are essential for using both horizontal and vertical space appropriately.

All Your Base Belongs To Mobile-Readiness:
If you really think that your brand can wait a couple years before they need a mobile-ready website and associated mobile application, then you might be the fool after your competition acquires all your connections. The age of ubiquitous content is upon us. That being said, so is the platform agnostic mentality of all of the people that "expect" your brand should be where they use most. This mass coverage may not be within your spending consideration for 2011, but socially savvy brands are going to own the space and everyone else will pay twice as much to get caught up.

To further the point here you can't just repurpose email newsletter content into an app and push 'special mobile-only content.' People will assess a brand's strength around what their branded app brings to and fits within their lifestyle. Kraft dominated this space early on as a culinary portal, and Nike with their many fitness associated apps that allow you to track and create running paths and categorize your fitness progress.

A brand cannot just be a connective metaphor to your product or service, you need to be smart, related ideas. I don't know if that means John Deer needs to create the Farmer Planner 9000™ but your audience will be waiting for something – and fast.

Online Education, Training & Cross Fertilization:
The time for online education to streamline itself and not feel like an upset but the expectation is upon us. Full Sail University, a multi-tiered program directed at the entertainment, media, and arts industry has seen its online student population grow faster in the past three years then the thirty it's been in existence. But this stems beyond the private sector, as we will see more and more digital curriculum be common place in public and student funded programs alike.

Watch this type of content play itself out in all types of inner-office ways as well. Ten years ago or so the boom was on the LAN systems, then taken over by intranets and extranets. This more open platform will offer more education to a broader audience for employees, vendors and consultants alike to understand training, processes, SOP's and innovation. Watch more offices and brands look to agencies for content creation that might not see the public sector. Small flexible shops that look to scoop major agencies will do so if they can create an abundance of content that will be served up in a learning environment. This will be both repurposeable and modular for those smaller shops to create long-term relationships to keep content within brand and conceptual voice.

Watch for savvier companies to aggressively use the crowd sourcing models internally. From the backbone of the above mentioned educational platforms can spawn a sea of small efficient conversational labs and think tanks.

Clustering:
Too much stuff, not enough places to put it. Sounds like life itself does it not? Well in the social and digital world it's no different. From each year comes at least one to two types of technologies that you adopt into your fold. But the fatigue of using them all might be their downfall OR the genesis of companies that 'cluster' technologies using their API. You've seen it start many years ago with apps like Ping.fm and TweetDeck and Seesmic, but the time is rapidly approaching where more apps will find room to co-exist within the same space if they hope to keep market share.

Privatizing Mobile Credit Card Processing:
I jokingly tweeted when I saw the SquareUp product in person that "Oh, finally yard sales and drug dealers can take credit cards!" Well let's face it, when Southwest Airlines refuses cash to buy an in-flight beer there's something up. Your currency is your card, just face the truth people, we'll all have flying cars soon. That being said, watch as twenty "me too" companies follow and privatize more ways for people to pay with plastic. God help us all.

HTML5 & Standardization:
As the makers of "Angry Birds" can tell you, the mobile (and soon tablet) community fail when it comes to standardization. The browsers have failed for years but are starting the slow ascent to standardization where it seems to count. Unless you're IE, but that's another story entirely and only filled with profanity and loathing. That being said, watch 2011 as the insistence on HTML5 comes into play on the web, on iPad apps and all future iterations of your mobile applications. It's fastly becoming the development language of choice online and it's making headway with developers as the platform to use.

Proximity Meets Coupon Madness:
2010 Has been the year of the "Groupon" but like all good things someone had to buy them up, and dumb them down. We'll see if they can stand the maddening gauntlet-o-greed that occurs after acquisition and maintain a product that on the surface appears to be sound. So, look to 2011 to be the year of "The Deal." This should make every shopping lover that I know happy, as we take to the streets and sell digital couponing, check-in deals and proximity sales initiatives ad nueseum. Look for more apps, more rewards programs and ideally more clustering applications like the new Visa IPhone app that does a lot of the dirty work for you.

Near Field Communications:
Never heard of it? Me either, until I started this post and my research.

Wiki defines it as "Near Field Communication or NFC, is a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology which enables the exchange of data between devices over about a 10 centimeter (around 4 inches) distance."

Think of it like the app "Bump" on steroids. Many Asian retail markets have been using this technology for years. Approach a vending machine and your cell-phone becomes your payment connection. Thereby letting you purchase your product using your cellular platform as its invoicing criteria. It will also read RFID, Bluetooth pairing and others allowing advertisers to push more messenging to your cellphone as you pass outdoor and related NFC hotspots. Lastly, it will synch itself as your digital profile allowing you to access any number of personal connections such as:

  • Electronic ticketing
  • Electronic money
  • Travel cards
  • Identity documents
  • Mobile commerce
  • Electronic keys

Extending Print & Outdoor With Scan-Tags & QR Codes:
And much like last year, keep a keen out for savvier agencies to look to Microsoft Scan Tags and QR Codes to boost traditional media efforts and connect them to further digital extensions.