Last time, I discussed the things that shaped the web design industry in 2010. Now, let’s look forward to what’s ahead this year. I won’t be making crazy, outlandish predictions; instead, I’ll be talking about things that will likely continue to exert an ever-increasing influence on our industry this year.
Flash? I can hear people seriously questioning my mental state right now. How can Flash be a major influence this year? "But…but…but Flash is fighting to survive amidst HTML5 APIs," you must be saying to yourself. But that is where the key is.
If Flash does die, it will die fighting. And, as we all know, the best innovations happen when companies are fighting for their survival. Think about how Apple almost went bankrupt in the 90s, and now they are industry innovators with products such as iTunes, iPad, Macbook Air, and iPhone.
Adobe, the company that owns Flash, knows that it’s under serious threat against open HTML5 APIs such as
Because of this realization, they’re one of the first companies working on creating an HTML5 editor/IDE, starting with their HTML5 prototyping tool (codenamed Edge). They have also incorporated HTML5 canvas-exporting capabilities in Flash CS5.
Adobe has continued the development of Flash to increase its performance, especially on mobile devices with the release of Flash Player 10.1 for mobile devices.
Expect to see something out of Flash this year, whether its innovation, a repurposing of the technology, or a significant drop in usage.
2. Print Media
I regularly pick up and read a newspaper, but it would certainly be true that I am among a declining number of people who are doing so.
An industry that has significantly influenced and inspired web designers and content-driven websites (such as blogs, for example), the traditional print medium is under threat.
But it’s fighting back.
Among those under threat are print companies that produce content in a more disposable form, such as newspapers and magazines where speed and timeliness is crucial.
From paywalls to mobile apps, companies in the printed world are exploring ways to adapt to the web so that they may continue delivering the quality content they’re known to produce. If The Times, for example, can make their paywall work, then don’t be surprised to see other similar print media companies throwing up paywalls across the web and potentially influencing the culture of free content on the internet.
A big area where newspapers and magazines are focusing on is the Mobile Web. Reading a magazine on the desktop isn’t that great of an experience, but sitting with an iPad while you have your morning coffee and breakfast can easily compare to the experience. iPad apps, accompanied by subscription-based payment models, are seen as the key focus for a number of print media outlets.
It’s not just a case of traditional media being ported to apps either; the first iPad-only magazine, called Project, has already been released.
As traditionally print-based companies feel the threat from the internet, we might see innovations in the ways their websites seek monetization and revenue. Even content-driven sites, already increasingly less reliant on internet-advertisement monetization, may take cue from a medium that has heavily influenced their own. We have seen recently, for example, the Tuts+ network, which got its start on the web, offering subscription-based premium content much like The Times and the New York Times paywall.
3. Hardware-Accelerated Browsers
Described as the "next frontier of the browser wars," by ReadWriteWeb, hardware acceleration is set to bring a whole new realm of speed to your browser. Opening up previously untapped processing power in your computer will enrich our browsing experience.
And it’s not just IE, Google Chrome and Firefox are coming out with their own hardware-accelerated browser features. Google Chrome, for example, has Tabpose and other GPU-accelerated compositing features in the works. Likewise, Firefox 4 has full hardware acceleration.
From a user’s perspective, we’re set to see improvements in the speed and quality of graphics rendering. The ability to utilize hardware more fully will mean an even richer web experience.
Watching TV on the internet and accessing the internet on your TV are the two primary ways the internet and the television industry are working together. TV on the web is already on demand with web services such as Hulu, Netflix, Fancast, and BBC iPlayer.
TV advertising revenues will inevitably drop as people increasingly watch their shows on demand rather than at their scheduled time with the programmed ads. Bandwidth is also an issue: Streaming HD video through the internet can be taxing on internet service providers.
The second focus is having the internet on your television set so that you can watch streaming video on your awesome flatscreen TV while taking advantage of the web’s interactive and socially-networked features. We have Apple TV, Google TV, internet-capable TVs, and gaming consoles such as Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii; the number of options for getting the web in your TV is near endless.
Expect industry leaders to investigate new compression and encoding technologies to assist the speed and file size of delivery of TV through the web. Expect even more innovation in the TV/web space this year.
5. Location-Based Services
The internet no longer sits on your desktop, and everybody from your kids to your grandmother uses the internet. You carry the internet around in your pocket, in your laptop or netbook, and in your tablet; it’s only natural that technology companies will want to take advantage of this.
Facebook has stepped into the space last year; and now, they already have over 100 million Facebook mobile users. Gowalla rolled out their latest iteration not so long ago, along with some very interesting features that highlight the power of location-awareness. The Notes feature in Gowalla, for example, allows users to leave notes about a particular location that a friend can pick up when they visit the area (e.g., "Dad, don’t forget to pick up milk when you come here to Costco").
There are now also plenty of "near me" applications such the SoleSearch iPhone app that uses GPS data to show you boutique sneaker retail stores near you (the app was initially built by shoe enthusiasts/entrepreneurs with no programming experience). The task management iPhone app, Omnifocus, shows great use of location awareness by allowing you to create tasks with specific locations so that your to-do lists have improved context that can increase your productivity.
We’ll see more location-aware apps that will serve you relevant information and features depending on where you are at any given moment. Combine location-aware features with other upcoming technologies such as barcode scanning, book cover recognition, Google’s speech recognition API, and augmented reality — and the possibilities suddenly becomes countless.
No doubt, an increase of pushed, location-aware content for smart phones and similar devices informing you of nearby points of interest will only rise in popularity. We’ll also see content tailored to your current location while you browse websites on your mobile phone, and even more innovation focused in this space.