Most years we share our website design predictions for the coming year. This year was a bit different because, as I started to draw up my list, I noticed that my predictions were much less focused on design trends and instead had more to do with the practicality of creating a commercial website.  Commercial websites are thoroughly planned around the customer journey and integrated closely with digital marketing activities.  Put the idea of a 10 page brochure website with a home and contact us page out of your mind and instead think about outcomes.  Think specifically about how you will be driving traffic to your website, how different sources of traffic (audiences) will have different needs and think about the exact outcomes you need.

Here are my top 5 web predictions for 2018…

1. GDPR

I am mentioning this first just to get it out of the way!  It’s not really a trend or a prediction but GDPR is happening this year and will affect how we store/access data, how we harvest it from our websites and what we can do with it.  Look out for a blog post in a couple of days with my checklist. Are you ready?

2. Mobile First

This is not necessarily new, since every year for about 5 years we have been reminding our customers of the importance of delivering a website that works on mobile.  In this time several approaches have been and gone with responsive website design emerging as the champion.  The mobile first approach takes responsive website design one step further, and as the name suggests requires the design/user experience to start from the mobile site. The idea is that if you can design a brilliant user experience for a website on a mobile, then you would be able to expand this for the desktop.  The mobile first approach forces the decision makers to think very hard about the hierarchy and quality of content that is presented and also to focus explicitly on what the user needs. Generally this results in a much cleaner and clutter free website.  A great place for you to start is your Google Analytics account to see how much of your previous traffic was from a mobile device. Read more about ‘mobile first’ here.

3. Client Portals

Most businesses share documents on a regular basis with their customers: price lists, checklists, client forms, guides, invoices, quotations etc.  All of our clients are completely unique but in 2018 we will be launching a variety of client portals designed to help our clients keep their customers fully informed and organised. Imagine never again having to find a link or a document again and never having to remind a customer of the next steps in the project.  Combine this efficiency with a safe place for customers to pay and view invoices and your business is moving towards automation. Customer portals are a really useful investment as they save time and add value to your paying customers.

b:web we will be launching a client area of our own, it will allow our clients to keep track of their projects, sign-off milestones, set up reoccurring payments and to download guides. We are also developing several customer portals for our clients, everything from photo sharing for an event management company through to bench marking for HR professionals.

4. Data Driven Design

The beauty of a website has always been that they are easy to keep updates and can be changed in real-time.  Unlike a printed brochure, a website can be altered and tweaked to maximise the performance of every single pixel.  This flexibility with data from your traffic and you have an extremely powerful marketing tool.  When you and your agency designed your website you would have spent a lot of time planning how it would be used, where your users will click and what calls to action will work best.  Your experience of your customers and your agencies experience of what has worked in the past is a great way to start to make decisions but what about the data?  What does the data say? Once your website has launched, there are so many things you can do to find the details that make the difference.  Heat maps will help you to see the experiences of real users and split testing allows you to test variations of the same page and therefore optimise your live website.  What if the data showed that the conversion rate could be uplifted simply by swapping out a sentence, or moving something higher up the page? What if you are missing out on leads just because of something really minor on your websites and you simply didn’t know?

5. Facebook Messenger

Facebook messenger is most definitely not new, we have been using it to connect with our friends and families for a long time.  Facebook messenger is a non obtrusive way to send a fairly informal communication to our network.  But that’s all going to change in 2018.  With Facebook bots we are going towards automated lead generation and transaction messages, these were previously sent via email, being sent via messenger. Why are we moving to messenger? Currently our emails are filled with clutter and our attention is instead in social media.  2018 is a great time to delve into Facebook messenger as the channel is not yet flooded, of course as soon as it does start to “work” for marketeers we will have to shift in direction and find another channel without too much noise.

So there they are! What do you think?  Do you have any predictions that you would like to add to this list? My predictions for 2018 are based around the conversations that I am having with our clients and prospects and reflect the types of projects that we anticipate to be working on in 2018.  We’d love to hear from you and discuss your plans for 2018.