31/10/2014

By Elie Auvray, Co-Founder and CEO, Jahia


I would hazard that at one time or another pretty much everyone has stumbled upon an archaic website. The experience can be like a Madeleine moment, conjuring up memories of dial-up internet connections and finding facts on an Encarta CD. These websites act like time capsules, a frozen showcase of what cutting edge design was at that point in time. One of the oldest website still functioning is for the 1996 movie Space Jam. It’s more than fair to say that in the 18 years since that site was created, web design has moved at an incredible pace.

This rapid development begs the question: what websites will look like in the next few years and how can companies avoid their website becoming a source of nostalgia?

The big trend in the next few years will be websites that provide an immersive user experience. Web browsers are generally becoming more sophisticated, opening the door to more complex web functionality. Add to this the curve balls of wearable technology and the ‘internet of things’ and the landscape is ripe for websites to become personalised to each user.

To make this a reality, web designers will need to ensure content and data is capable of being displayed on a huge variety of media – from desktops to smart watches. Information will need to be accessible and manageable at the atomic level so that it can be repurposed to fit a range of displays and user interactions.

As more and more information come from apps that are external to the website - weather on smartwatch, for instance - website will need to have the flexibility to expose content from third party apps.

Content management systems (CMS) will increase in sophistication to keep up with these trends. A key factor will be facilitating responsive and personalised design. Through a variety of new tools, web designers will be able to create and manage sites that will work on the wide variety of devices and provide users with bespoke browsing experiences.

These expected changes to websites might sound daunting and expensive to business owners. However, unlike previous website design trends, such as the rapid development of mobile and tablet friendly sites sparked by the smartphone revolution, the migration to immersive and fully flexible sites is likely to be more gradual. The jury is out on whether smart watches and other wearable devices will become as pervasive as smart phones. There are also plenty of unknowns regarding how consumers will use the interconnected devices promised by the internet of things.

As it stands, the best approach for a company to keep their website up-to-date is to treat it as an app. The days of regarding a website as ‘static’ are long gone. A site needs to be linked to the CRM, marketing automation systems and sometimes the business management software within a company, thus becoming itself a full-fledged application. Consequently, websites need to be closely monitored for glitches and upgrades need to be anticipated.

If business owners think of their website as a living organism and build it using a platform that has modules, templates and apps that can be updated separately, it all but removes the need to undertake a risky or costly complete update to a site every few years as technology improves.