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Digital Trends for 2016

By Margaret 5-10 minute read

As the year comes to a close, it’s always a good time to reflect on what we’ve done in the past year, what we’ve learnt and where things seem to be going in the year to come. So, here are some trends for the coming year that I see happening in digital.


Optimising for mobile / responsive

This remains a thing. With mobile only websites no longer happening, building a site that is responsive so it adapts to a range of device sizes is the way to go.  It’s a necessity now with the ever increasing range of device sizes on the market, ranging from mobile, mid-sized tablets like the iPad Mini, through to standard tablets. Not only that but desktop screens are getting bigger, so with the mind-boggling array of sizes out there, it’s no wonder responsive is a bigger trend than ever.

Also, earlier in the year came a change in Google search ranking algorithms which meant that sites that were optimised for mobile were given priority in rankings. This meant that sites were being retrofitted to be responsive as they lost their place in search rankings.



Content that is meant for sharing

This is about content that is well written or funny and doesn’t put a product at centre stage. This content is more likely to be shared through social media as users are too savvy to share something that has too much of a marketing message. So, think outside the box, break the rules and feel the love as your content is shared by many. Oh, and don’t forget to make your content sharable in the first place by including lots of sharing options.


Less is more

Remember the days of cramming a link to every bit of content on a website onto the homepage, just in case the user was looking for something specific? Those days are long gone.

The trend now is for uncluttered layouts that guide the user, present them with a limited set of choices and focus their attention on the message that you are trying to tell them. Fewer calls to action, less advertising, less clutter means you are not overwhelming people and are keeping them more engaged.

A while ago I read a book called The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz where he talks about the sheer amount of choices that people have in all areas of life nowadays and the cost to our health and happiness of having an overload of choice. Think of when you’re at the supermarket buying a product and the sheer amount of options you have in most products - it can feel very overwhelming!

The idea that ‘some choice is good but it doesn’t mean that more choice is better’ has finally found its way online and it’s a good thing.

This is an example of the Zeroseven website circa 2008 and now.




More inspired sites – less of the bland

When you look at most sites on the internet now, they are starting to look very much the same. Where has the personality gone? The ‘flat design’ trend, loved by designers and developers alike for its clean lines, ability to scale and remain crisp with responsive layouts has meant that a lot of what made sites unique is now missing.

The response to this seems to be that ‘almost flat’ design is making an appearance, where shadows and subtle texture is coming back. We’re also seeing custom icons, animations, illustrations and little graphical touches all which go a long way to bringing the personality back.


Good use of typography

With the rise and use of web fonts, whether free Google fonts or affordable subscription alternatives, there is now no excuse for sticking to Verdana or Arial for a website. Different fonts can be used which are both attractive and very legible online.

We’ve been seeing some nice pairings of fonts on sites – think clean lines mixed with a script font – and some bold 'type only' based layouts. Fonts that are too thin should be avoided as they are hard to read.


High quality images or video

With big images becoming the norm for most websites, we are seeing less stock and more inspired images. Companies are starting to think hard about their images and choosing to commission images that best reflect their brand values and make their sites unique.

We’re also seeing video in place of big images on sites; these videos can be ‘background’ videos that sit behind text and calls to action but add a bit of life to the site.

Another option is to use a cinemagraph - this is a cross between a video and a static image, with a small moving element to grab the user’s attention. This is a great choice for intermingling with content and something unique to feature on a site.

Sites such as the Hoover-Mason Trestle Project website and Save the Rainforest website combine interactive storytelling with innovative use of video and images.




Interactive storytelling

Not a new trend but still relevant today is the idea of taking people on a journey through content, so they get an immersive experience and understand the content better. Think of daily life and our society and culture – we love telling and hearing stories and finding out ‘what happens next…’.

The job of a good story, or interactive journey, is to make the user want to continue and want more at the end of that journey.

Some examples include the Slavery Footprint website and the Australian Census website.




Personalisation without the user having to choose to personalise

This is a trend that I’ve  noticed over the last year or so and especially with online stores who can see your previous orders and purchases, and there are a few aspects to this….

The first one is the send out of a newsletter/email specifically tailored to you. This could be reminding you that you have left items in your basket that you should return to buy or simply suggesting products based on your previous purchases or styles that you like.

Another one is tailoring the site that you’re viewing to your taste based on what you have read, clicked on, shared or liked.

I’ve also noticed this translated to banner advertising where something that you have bought, liked or put in your basket is then featured in a banner ad when you’re browsing a completely different site. I have to admit this one freaked me out the first time I saw this, thinking that the internet needed to get out of my head!

Needless to say, this trend is great for marketers as they are giving a personalised experience without the user explicitly asking for it.


Wrapping up…

So, in conclusion, these are some trends for the next year that I think is where we’re going. We could well see a curve ball thrown in at any point (like the Google mobile algorithm thrown in earlier in the year), which could mean a trend rises quickly to the top and becomes super important for a variety of reasons.