2011 Web Design Predictions

Mobile Web Goes Mainstream

The mobile web has been the dominant subject in web design for the past 2+ years. A quick peek at Dribbble, a social media site where designers share their projects, will show you that many of us are working on mobile device apps and interfaces.

However, it’s still safe to say that most websites have given little to no attention to their mobile web presence. Most of the innovative mobile device web designs we’re seeing are on big, industry-leading, tech-centric sites such as Amazon.com, Google, and Digg, or niche sites targeted toward web designers (such as A List Apart).

Where we’re not seeing mobile web design implementations are in run-of-the-mill company and corporate sites. Small- and medium-sized businesses, Fortune 500 companies, and government websites are sadly falling behind instead of in line.

However, companies are beginning to see the rewards of meeting the needs of mobile device users. In the years to come, there will be a significant shift in attention toward the mobile web presence in all websites.

There are already several mobile web tools you can use for creating a mobile web version of your site; it’s time companies seriously look into implementing these cost-effective and relatively simple solutions as either a stop-gap solution or a permanent one.

Web Design as a Profession Will Become Specialized

Web designers are increasingly contending with many roles and tasks. What used to be just HTML, CSS and designing static brochure sites for the desktop has extended to designing web-enabled solutions for mobile devices, web apps, rich Internet application (RIA) interfaces, content management systems (CMS) and much more.

We’re tasked with making harmonious designs that carry a website’s brand across all platforms and situations — designs that establish the company’s brand whether it’s being viewed in a 28-inch desktop monitor or an Android smartphone.

This leads to two things. Job security is one, but the other is the need to distribute these tasks so that we can specialize and excel in one specific area.

In the future, there will be greater stratification of the role of web designer. Right now, web app designers, mobile app designers and traditional website designers are clustered under the umbrella title of “web designer.”

Just as the profession of being a doctor and the field of medicine are branched out into sub-fields such as oncology, dentistry and neurology, we may see a similar division in the field of web design. I can see specializations such as mobile web designer, content management system designer (with further sub-specializations such as WordPress theme designer or Drupal theme designer), and RIA interface designer becoming a reality and being in demand as we move forward.

Simpler Aesthetics for Websites

There’s been a sweeping trend in the way new websites are being visually designed. Web designers are forgoing complex visuals and overdone design techniques, opting instead for clean and simple web designs with a high attention to detail, a greater emphasis on typography — with the help of web fonts and the upcoming open web font format (WOFF) specifications — and stronger interaction design for richer and more captivating user experiences.

Not only that, but simpler aesthetics means lighter web pages, which translates to a better experience on mobile devices where Internet connectivity is lower in speed and less reliable when compared to the traditional broadband connection, and where screen sizes are too small to fit excessive design elements. This web design trend of “less is more” seems like it will extend, if not dominate, the aesthetic tastes of web designers in the near future.

Web Design Will Replace Print Design (Even More)

Print designers are typically tasked with brand identity design, such as logo design, letterheads, business cards and other print materials.

However, companies are seeing the great opportunities and effectiveness of business networking online. Businesses are a lot more concerned about their brand’s visibility on the web. Business cards are being replaced by social networking profiles on Twitter and Facebook. Newsletters, brochures and company letterheads sent out by snail mail are being dismissed for HTML e-mails and e-newsletters.

We’ll be witnessing design budgets earmarked toward traditionally print-based branding materials shift toward web design solutions such as Twitter profile page designs, Facebook fan page designs and HTML e-mail and e-newsletter template designs.


2011 Digital Advertising Predictions

Once again, we’re looking into our ‘Virtual Crystal Ball’ with some predictions on what to expect from digital advertising in 2011.

Local Advertising Becomes Relevant Again With Location

Location-based advertising will continue to grow in 2011 as Facebook expands the technology with its location platform, Places. In addition to Facebook, many other players in the checkin space, including Foursquare, Yelp, Shopkick, and last but not least, Google, will condition shoppers to expect a deal or coupon for alerting friends of their whereabouts. Relevance will distinguish these services from each other as the two biggest players, Facebook and Google, have the most powerful social graph data to customize deals for consumers. Don’t count Groupon out, though. It more than makes up for its comparative lack of technology with brand equity and scale, as its massive sales force will remain dominant in 2011 by further monetizing local commerce beyond the recently launched self-service platform.

Silicon Valley Will Be the Next Madison Avenue

The coolest job in advertising used to be working for an agency in New York City or Chicago, but these days the dream jobs are at Facebook and Twitter. Not unlike Mail.ru Group (formerly Digital Sky Technologies) attracting top bankers from Goldman Sachs, as Facebook and Twitter start generating more revenue, advertising and marketing talent will start heading West to cash in.

Influencers Will Be the Celebrities of the Social Web

Consumers are constantly scouring the social web to decide where to eat, shop and stay; so it comes as no surprise that brands are desperately analyzing Twitter, blog posts and reviews to understand not only who has the largest audience, but how much influence individuals have. YouTube’s Partner Program is being joined by new services such as Klout to create an official layer of social credibility.

Klout scores are being used by The Palms Hotel in Vegas to gauge discounts for hotel guests, including through the “Klout Klub,” which “will allow high-ranking influencers to experience Palms’ impressive set of amenities in hopes that these influencers will want to communicate their positive experience to their followers.” Creating thoughtful ways to leverage your influencers is the thing to focus on. People have always said it’s cheaper to keep and please the customers you have, than acquire new ones.

Small Will Be the New Big for Social Networks

Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s unwavering belief that an open and connected social web is best for society, early adopters are starting to experiment with new platforms designed to communicate and share media with smaller audiences. Path has shown us the potential of limiting our social networks to 50 people. Fast Society is a new iPhone communication service that allows the user to create small groups to text with on the fly, and the groups last for three days. Facebook also realizes some of us may prefer communicating with smaller networks. Facebook’s new Groups feature allows us to segment our friends into personal, professional and interest-based communities, and openly engage in conversations not meant for our mother or colleagues to hear. Watch for more of these smaller, closed networks to launch in 2011 as people seek deeper connections online.

Brands Will Become More Like Media Companies

Social media has empowered brands to break their own news instead of relying on advertising or PR to disseminate their message. As brands become increasingly comfortable with social media on the whole, more budget and attention will be focused on high quality content created specifically for the social web. We will see more Facebook Pages like Skittles that appear to employ comedy writers to keep the content fresh. It would seem that “a brand’s best bet in social media is randomness.

Facebook “Likes” Will Be Important for Your Brand

While it’s still unclear exactly how much a Facebook “Like” is worth to a brand, the following video sums up why Facebook is so important. 

Brands will be tripling down on Facebook advertising in 2011, and the process for acquiring Facebook “Likes” has evolved to accommodate this increase in demand. Instead of doing A/B testing between two photos to see which generates more Facebook “Likes,” the savvier brands and agencies are leveraging technology that can simultaneously deploy 10,000+ ad variations to yield the lowest CPA (cost per acquisition) of those “Likes.”

Terry Robinski


5 Predictions for the Web in 2011

We’re taking a look into our ‘Virtual Crystal Ball’ and making some informed (yet bold) predictions for the coming year regarding web trends.


websitesSmall businesses are predicted to increase online marketing spending, with websites taking the front seat, according to a recent survey. The survey found that 54% of respondents indicated that their businesses currently have websites. Unfortunately, most of those websites contain nothing more than general information, and less than half of them incorporate customer service features.

The importance of being easily findable on the Internet() has still not been fully recognized by small businesses, but increasingly, smart entrepreneurs are taking notice. Next year will be marked with increased spending on website development, lifting small business sites from their current iterations as online brochures to more prominent positions as useful resources for customers.

Those making valuable upgrades to their online presences will increase functionalities revolving around e-commerce, reservation systems, corporate blogs and social media integration. Furthermore, we may see increased attention on better web design.



A whopping 49% of small business owners use smartphones, outpacing the rest of America in smartphone adoption, according to a recent Forrester study.

As more small business owners are exposed to smartphones on a daily basis, it’s inevitable that they will begin to innovate with mobile technologies. In 2010, business owners were tweeting on the go, using location-based services and investing in mobile advertising.

In 2011, the smartphone revolution will continue to ensue, with ever increasing smartphone adoption. Mobile devices will continue to change the way that companies of all sizes do business. With most business needs at the tips of their fingers, small business owners will experience more flexibility than ever before.


ecommerceWhile a number of small businesses benefited from social shopping in 2010, others were left wondering if group buying was really worth the risk.

Regardless, it’s evident that e-commerce is a huge advantage for small businesses taking part in it. Offering their products online, businesses have widened their customer bases beyond their local markets.

While only 30% of small business websites currently incorporate e-commerce abilities, the increased buzz around online and social shopping will probably push more small business owners to experiment with the medium in 2011.



socialThis year was a time of social media experimentation for many small business owners. Testing many social media services in the past year, small businesses are becoming more knowledgeable about which platforms their customers use most and how their companies can benefit from staying connected on each platform.

It isn’t uncommon to visit a small business’s website to find a mass of social icons pointing to less-than-utilized profiles all across the web. It seems that anxious entrepreneurs have spread themselves thin in the social media realm this year, trying out every platform that got buzzed up.

The simple truth is that not every platform is right for every business — it’s all about where your customers are.

Having answered quite a few social media questions from small business owners this year, I have a feeling that next year is really going to be about paring down to the essentials based on proven successes and strong metrics.


cloudEarlier this year, a group of Internet and tech experts and social analysts predicted that Internet users will “live mostly in the cloud” by 2020. While I don’t have the expertise to analyze that prediction, I can point to the fact that I and many of my friends and co-workers already do live and work mostly from web-based and mobile apps, relying less on software installed on our desktops.

Cloud services have already simplified many processes for businesses. Google Apps and Google Docs(), for example, make hosting and collaborating on spreadsheets, presentations, forms and word processors much simpler. Box.net and Dropbox have also made online file sharing and collaboration much easier. Meanwhile, 37signals supports a full line of business tools for project management, CRM, internal communications and group chat.

In 2011, businesses will be increasingly exposed to cloud services as tech companies introduce more and more products geared toward moving our digital lives into the cloud.

Terry Robinski