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Websites: The myths, truths and predictions for this year and next

Blog | 20 Dec, 2016

Written by Ben Schofield, Nick Edmonds, and Marc Firth

2016 was a big year for web design. In an ever-changing digital landscape we have evolved principles, explored new platforms and pushed the boundaries of creativity to make our website solutions better than ever.  

 

We’ve got the best of the best to take a look back at the myths, truths and what’s hot to look out for in 2017.

 

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Changing role of UX in Web Design

The importance of Digital Guidelines

Google Material Design

Node Js Vs. Traditional Stack

 

 

Changing Role of UX in Web Design

Firstly, we take a look back at the ever-changing role of UX in web design and developments.  We’re more than just people who design wireframes- but what do we mean by that?

 

Myths- what was predicted last year?

 

Usability tests have long challenged the so-called three-click rule or two tap rule. Contrary to popular belief, people don’t leave your site or app if they’re unable to find the desired information in 3 clicks or taps. In fact, the number of necessary clicks affects neither user satisfaction, nor success rate. That’s right; fewer clicks don’t make users happier and aren’t necessarily perceived as faster.

What counts here is ease of navigation, the constant scent of information along the user’s path. If you don’t make the user think about the clicks, they won’t mind having a few extra clicks.

 

Truths – what were we right about?

A/B testing is just a small part of what we do

Across a few projects in 2016 there has been excited talk in meetings about how A/B testing can solve all user experience issues. A/B testing only specifies that you need to test new designs against each other. It can’t be used to create solutions for the user. Some companies have mistakenly relied on A/B testing as a quick and easy way to develop their user experience.

Nothing about A/B testing determines what you’re going to test. A/B testing multiple crappy experiences does, in fact, lead to a final crappy experience.

The best way to come up with great products is to go out and observe users and discover any issues they face, and then use good UX design processes to help solve them.  A/B testing can be powerful but only within the full complement of UX disciplines.

 

What didn’t we see coming?

 

Jellyfish loves to hire people with the right skills, the ability to work together and the eye to produce and present great work. As the UX team at Jellyfish grows, we endeavor to find the best people to join us.

Demand across the industry is growing at an unprecedented rate in 2016 and what has become apparent is that a lot of people coming forward as candidates view wireframe and prototype creation as “UX”.  This makes it inherently difficult to hire someone successfully into a generic UX role, they must be extremely versatile and adaptable with skills covering a variety of disciplines (see diagram). The best of the best UX designers are out there but we continue to keep our ears to the ground to find them.        

2016 has seen a lot of new work and clients for the UX team and thanks to our efforts, moving into 2017 we will have a growing and talented team to continue that work. 

 

What do we think we should look out for next year?

 

There are lots of new tools to look out for in 2017, some of these are detailed below.

Pixate, a platform for creating and sharing complex interface designs, was shut down… On the bright side, the company had been bought and merged into the Google family.

At the same time, another company “Relative Wave” - Form (software for building quick and native prototypes across multiple devices), was also brought into the Google Material studio.

Both teams had some great ideas, and with the help of Google, they’ll be able to bring those ideas to the design community at scale. When the new incarnation of the software appears, it could be a fantastic tool for all UX and Creative designers.

It is a very exciting prospect just for the fact that Google products usually offer great team collaboration, ease of use, a broad range of tools, integration with other Google products, mobile integration, and flexibility.

The first stage of this Google vision can be found at https://material.io/stage/

We will watch it’s development closely in the new year as they will be giving the established Axure, Invasion and Framer a run for their money.

 

The importance of Digital Guidelines

As the shift from more traditional formats to online continues, there has never been a greater need for brands to take a digital-first approach. And as digital designers, we need to constantly reevaluate what it means for a brand to be successful in this digital space.

 

Myths- what was predicted last year?

 

Historically, brand guidelines had been designed to be a physical, printed document that expressed the personality of the brand. More recently, the reality was that these documents, although designed for print, were never actually printed.

There was also a tendency to look at the actual elements of the brand identity with this print based mindset – this is your flat logo, here it is in mono, use this typeface at 38pt. But a brand’s identity has to work so much harder in the digital space, across a range of smart devices with varying screen sizes and resolutions.

 

What should we look out for in 2017?

 

In 2016, we have started to see more brands move towards digital guidelines. Not only are the guidelines themselves moving online to create a ‘living document’, but the content itself is taking much more of a digital-first approach. Responsive web design has been around for a while – and is here to stay especially with Google now boosting the rankings of sites which optimize their content to mobile devices and users. A brand's identity needs to adapt to these spaces and work within these responsive frameworks and variable sizes.

Brands that are doing this well are creating digital identities that are simple and flexible, that work on a website or scale down to the size of a social icon. So that when the site is optimized for a device the brand is also optimized. We will be seeing much more of this approach moving into 2017.

 

Google Material Design

Although originally launched back in 2014, we have seen a continuing trend in 2016 for the infiltration of Google’s material design language – ‘a set of design principles and guides which (Google) developed to create a more consistent user experience.’

Building on the traits of flat design (simple, bold, graphic), material design introduces more tactile attributes which offer more intuitive feedback to the user and an overall improved UI. Designer Matías Duarte explains ‘unlike real paper, our digital material can expand and reform intelligently. Material has physical surfaces and edges. Seams and shadows provide meaning about what you can touch.’

2017 will likely see more websites adhering to these design principles with designers exploring new ways to bring richer, more engaging experiences to the user. Expect to see more sophisticated micro-animations that add meaning to interactions, bold and graphic interfaces that immerse the user and more layered 3D elements that add a new depth to the UI.

As these UI and UX patterns begin to emerge we are starting to see a more consistently user-friendly web. And if this tried-and-tested design functionality works then it makes sense for brands to use it rather than re-inventing the wheel every time.

You could argue that this more unified online experience will lead to every website looking the same. For brands to stand out against the competition and to make that all import connection with their audience they will need to focus more on creating unique content that represents who they really are. Content should be relevant and genuine and we are likely to see more custom illustrations, icons, and typography, as well as authentic, commissioned photography moving into 2017.

 

Node Js Vs. Traditional Stack

 

As we look at how we build websites at Jellyfish we are more and more interested in frontend development platform developed by Google called NodeJS.

NodeJS is a server-side JavaScript runtime built on Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine. It uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient. 

Myths – what was predicted last year

NodeJS was predicted it would replace the traditional stack on a widespread scale. Additionally, at the time there was a strong debate within the development arena on “Native Apps vs Mobile Web” and which would “win”.

Truths – what were we all right about?

 

From our developers’ perspectives, this time last year there was a lot of hype around NodeJS which led to a period of strong adoption around associated technologies throughout the industry such as Sass, Less, Gulp/Grunt, Web Sockets and AngularJS which was fantastic to see. We adopted a careful filtering of the new technologies which led us to extend our use of Sass across most of our new builds which brought both great efficiencies, and a period of struggle while we attempted to convert old methods to new. We were successful and now find ourselves reaping the benefits of the efficiencies which these technologies provide. We’ve always advocated using “the right tool for the job”. Having a responsive site has become the norm. However, we have noticed an uplift in the amount of requests we are receiving for Native Apps.

 

What didn’t we see coming?

 

The speed at which Web Services such as those provided by Amazon, Google and Microsoft would expand. The toolset has improved so rapidly we’ve found that we can offer a distributed, auto-scaling service to our smaller clients. It’s given us a greater array of tools that are more accessible, reusable, performant and easier to set up via templates. These have allowed us to offer more ESB / micro-service based developments allowing teams to focus on, and targeting of a specific component.

What do we think we should look out for next year?

 

Many of the recent developments have provided increased load on web clients which incurs performance issues. Therefore, it’s likely that we’ll see a greater adoption of more performant technologies such as Web Sockets and compiled (and possibly newer) languages such as Golang. These technologies will reduce the number of full page loads making for a faster web experience by only reloading portions of the page and maintaining a consistent, lightweight connection to the server.

It’s also likely we’ll continue building more custom ESB (Enterprise service bus) solutions for our clients which will lead to a reduction in the cost of future updates as web components become more modular. For those who do not know ESB, a simple ESB example of this would be that the service that fuels the date for your websites will be separated from the websites themselves allowing you to upgrade each component individually, rather than having to upgrade everything at the same time.

 

To read more of our 2016 round-ups and predictions on what 2017 may hold, head back to our News and Views page. 

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