Nothing ever stays still in a digital world
Our perspective on digital was formed early. In the late 1980s we used Apple computers to automate the design production process. By the early 1990s we used computers to talk to each other. By 1995 we were designing websites and by 1996 we had designed our first ecommerce supermarket for Sainsburys. Today, we design sites that work across desktops, tablets, smartphones and even connected tvs.
Our early experiences gave us a headstart. We quickly realised that digital needed brand designers and that brand designers needed to master digital. A decade and a half later, many have yet to come to terms with this necessity.
We completed the 1990s with two online supermarkets and an online bank (first direct) under our belts and a flurry of ecommerce retail followed. Then we also discovered online travel and have never looked back.
Today, digital requires a combination of strategy, brand, technical, design, film making, writing and online marketing skills, together with an ever inventive mindset. While website development has matured, we are now in the middle of another shift, away from design and usability defined for laptops and PCs towards structures and designs that can respond to whatever device is being used to browse, be it a smartphone, tablet, laptop or 52" connected tv.
Digital design for the Mobile era
We have watched the growth of mobile website browsing with interest and our own surveys document the dramatic growth. As we have now entered the Mobile era, digital design is having to adapt, with new approaches to user interface design, navigation and content required to cater for this changing market. With the launch of the iPhone 5 and continuing success of the iPad (326m devices forecast to be sold by 2015) and now iPad Mini, plus continuing growth of Android devices, we expect mobile website browsing to account for more than 30% of all traffic by the end of 2012 and 50% by the end of 2014. For more on this, read our thought-pieces on mobile web browsing
However, we think it is important to distinguish between the role of a mobile-friendly website and a mobile app. While apps have been all the rage for a couple of years, they are not good customer acquisition tools and will therefore not replace a website for spontaneous searches and research browsing. However, once a consumer is won over to a brand, apps can deliver superior customer engagement and performance, so there is a place for both in every digital strategy.
We expect that mobile web browsing will be key in 2013 and this means all websites designed for Web 2.0 will need to adapt to the Mobile era. While some brands will opt for separate mobile websites, we believe that managing two sites and publishing to multiple operating systems (OS) creates significant additional overhead which can be avoided by using responsive or adaptive design techniques.
The huge range of screen resolutions, pixel density and browsers combinations means there are significant benefits managing one website design which caters for all users. Responsive design techniques 'sniff out' the device and resolution and serve up pre-formated screen variations based on screen size break points. At each break point, the page elements are re-arranged, or replaced by device specific elements, such as navigation being replaced by a mobile menu for smartphone screens.
This latest shift represents a big new challenge for our clients and for ourselves, but having spotted it early, we have already have deep experience developing a new perspective user interface design and developing a new aesthetic that is suited to this new generation of smart connected devices.
Digital is an area of our work where nothing ever stays still. For even a minute.