Data Visualisation Trends in 2019

Data Visualisation is a powerful tool for analysing your business data, harnessing the brain’s ability to recognize patterns and shapes. The latest powerful tools enable diagrams, charts and graphics to be created on the web with a speed and interactivity that was unthinkable even five or six years ago. Add to this the ability to draw in the browser in three dimensions and even with virtual reality, then the possibilities are very exciting.

In this article we feature some of the latest examples of Data Visualisation and give you an insight into the tools used to produce them.

Uber Engineering Team

Technology: React, MapboxGL

Uber handles billions of data points every day, and has grown it’s own in-house data visualisation team to make the best use of that data resource. Combining this nab-based data gives city managers and ops teams a real-time visual overview of supply and demand distribution. 
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UK Road Accidents

Technology: Mapbox, deck.gl

Not the most cheery of subjects, but this demo by Ryan Baumann of Mapbox is a great example of combining mapping with a large dataset to give real, useful, location-based visuals. Using hexagonal mapping and coupled with an interactive UI enables the density of accidents to be mapped very smoothly and informatively.
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Launch It

Technology: WebGL, PixiJS

It’s worth waiting for the loading messages to clear, as this fantastic interactive spinning world is one of best designed and implemented of it’s type. Produced by designer Shane Mielke was made to support the Launch It book release, giving feedback on where the book can be bought.
Read more >

New Year, New Website?

As the New Year festivities fade and we all head back to work, inevitably thoughts can turn to plans for 2019 and how to progress your business. One of the main factors in a sales and marketing strategy has to be to optimise your company’s online presence. We might well be a bit biased – but there are a number of ways we can help you and we’ve outlined some options below.

New website

Most companies and organisations will have a website in place, so mainly we’re looking at a website redesign. Unless branding and logo have changed, typically a second, third- or fourth-generation website just needs to be refreshed, with perhaps a look again at the focus of the content. Responsive design is often a key, to ensure focus is given to mobile and tablet view. Depending on the industry sector, over half of traffic to a website will be on mobile. This also guides us into making sure the content is as clear as possible, with key action points as a focus.

Website Audits & Consultancy

From our basic website audit to a more in-depth consultancy role, we try to use our experience to help you ensure your website or mobile app is delivering the results you need. Focus is given to planning improvements and then measuring the performance over coming months and years.

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing, which includes a wide variety of areas such as SEO, Social Media and PPC campaigns, is the method of marketing your website or app online. With such choice of channels to use, it’s key nowadays to ensure the most effective route is used, and most importantly, to measure the success of the campaign. With analytics and insights metrics available to measure the finest detail of traffic source and flow, it’s possible to accurately show any return on the investment.

2019 and beyond

If you feel that any of the options we outline above may be of use please contact us, we’re always happy to chat through any enquiry. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of our #blogmas articles this year, and wish everyone good fortune in 2019.

3 Exciting Developments on the Web for 2019

Happy New Year! We hope you’ve enjoyed a few of our #blogmas articles this season, and for the New Year we take the opportunity to look forward to a few of the developments on the web that we are most excited about. These may not make a huge impact even this year, but just following any progress is going to give a fascinating insight.

AI & Web Development

 Although Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken a hold and is used more commonly than thought (think timelines in Facebook, targeted ads), the progress of this technology is going to be fascinating to watch. AI is going to change all our lives, and if harnessed in the right way can be a hugely powerful tool. 

The massive amount of data being stored lends itself to being analysed by AI tools in a way any human can’t possibly imagine. Pure data visualisation is a fantastic tool, but imagine the possibilities if the AI tool could suggest what might happen looking forward, and recognise trends before they happen.

PWA – Progressive Web Apps

This is already a favourite subject of ours, but the blurring of the lines between native mobile apps and web applications is going to be a growing influence in 2019. As more and more APIs are made available to the web browser, being able to access native device features such as camera, file storage and geolocation enables a web app to give a level of performance not before seen.

Having one codebase to build and maintain can be a game-changer for companies looking to develop an app, and that cost saving can make potential projects much more feasible.

Starbucks PWA

Content as King

This is a continuation of a trend that has picked up in the last couple of years, which is to move away from design-heavy website and to put the focus back on the actual content. 

As the web matures there is now a real movement to focus on the content – text, imagery, video – that visitors are looking for, and to reduce excessive clutter on the page which only acts as a distraction.

Focus still needs to be given to any branding and ‘feel’ that a client is looking for, but within a clean, easy-to-navigate framework.

Our Favourite Augmented Reality Apps of 2018

As mobile and tablet technology increases the number of Augmented Reality (AR) apps available is increasing quickly. Augmented Reality apps overlay generated content on a view of your surroundings, and the uses of this are being explored in creative ways, as outlined by our pick of three AR apps below.

BBC Civilisations

Built in support of the BBC’s Civilisations series, this is the corporations first venture into AR and as expected is delivered with superb content and usability. Featuring over 30 artefacts from museums across the UK, the app allows users to view and learn about these selected objects.

BBC Civilisations

Ikea Place

Ikea’s Place app allows users to view IKEA furniture overlaid on rooms in their home, with a view to helping decide which range and model suits best.

Although not perfect and with a few buggy areas, the app is useful enough to give a real sense of how your prospective purchase will look. IKEA is leading the way with what could be a big part of the future for furniture retailers.

American Airlines

OK, we’ll admit it, we haven’t used this in anger, but the American Airlines AR app looks so good we decided to include it here.

Guiding (or ‘wayfinding’) users around airports with overlaid directions to security, gates and airport areas, this app looks to be a great use of real-world AR. The only thing we need to do now is to book a trip to the US to  find out!

Virtual Reality on the Web in 2019

Most of us are familiar with the headsets that can take you into an immersive 3D world, but until recently the VR experience depended on dedicated hardware. Developments in modern browser technology though, are bringing closer the ability to use VR via an adapted mobile phone or tablet device. This step will massively accelerate the growth of web VR and with it stimulate growth in applications and reduce development costs.

WebVR

WebVR is a browser programming interface that allows VR experiences without installing additional software. Depending on the device and browser being used, it is possible now to access VR content through even relatively cheap VR headset setups such as Google Cardboard. Google itself has put together a sample of WebVR experiments which give a flavour of what is currently possible.

If you are fortunate enough to own dedicated VR hardware such as the Occulus Rift, then this too can access the content of WebVR-enabled websites.

The 2D Web

As fascinating as this looks and enticing as it may be to look forward to working in this new online world, one big hurdle remains in the advance of the VR web. Since it’s beginnings over twenty years ago, the web has developed and produced all it’s vast amount of content in 2D. The switch to viewing 3D content on a flat 2D browser is going to take some adaption. Even the best of touch-typers may struggle if viewing in VR and attempting to type on a laptop keyboard. So while it may seem unlikely to imagine this transformation in hardware, don’t forget the transition we’ve already made from using large desktop computers to browse the web, to predominantly hand-held mobile devices.

What next

As these technologies grow in use and the power of mobile devices increase, WebVR should become much more mainstream. As the Google experiments show, even now its possible to produce engaging VR content via a website. Although we’re not there yet, the day when website away. owners put VR tours on their sites can’t be too far away.

Top 5 Website Trends in 2018

In the first of our 12 Blogs of Christmas we have a look back at 2018 and pick out our top five website trends from 2018. These are website and app design and functionality that we’ve seen grow through the year, and may just give a pointer as to where we need to look in 2019. So if these are the top trends – are they the best way to enhance your website and make the most of your online presence? Not necessarily, and we give our verdict on each.

1. ChatBots

We’re sure you must have experienced the popup welcome when visiting a new website – ‘Can we help?’. Usually on the bottom right of the screen, these advice-offering widgets often feature thumbnail photos of the support person and their name. Nine times out of ten these are automated ChatBots, trained by Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning to automatically respond with guidance to common visitor requests. The suspicion is that these bots can be helpful, but tend to become an annoyance when continuing to appear on further browsing of the website. So are these ChatBots an annoying passing fad, or can they offer real value to your website visitors? Well, we think they are here to stay and will play a growing part in our web experiences over the next decade. A bit annoying currently, but when it becomes difficult to tell the difference between the bot and a real person then the value of a ChatBot really kicks in. Companies who’ve invested the time in ‘training’ these automated helpers will be a step ahead of their competition.

Verdict: Needs to be used with care currently, but a good investment for the future.

2. Original Illustrations

Website frameworks offer a fantastic way of helping clients get projects up and running quickly, and keeping maintenance costs low. One of the drawbacks though is that website styles, layouts and typography can become very similar unless time is invested in making the project stand out from the crowd. This is where original illustrations have taken a role in adding a wonderful bespoke element to the best of the web.

Verdict: We think illustration can make a real difference, and is well worth the additional initial cost.

MailChimp’s 2018 redesign

3. Data Visualisation

Having worked this year on a large Data Visualisation Portal, we’re perhaps a little biased in thinking that Data Visualisation has been a growing trend for 2018. However, the growth of infographics, mapping and data charting can only help users get the information they are looking for and is a great example of new techniques pushing the boundaries of user interaction. Coding tools including ChartJS, more advanced software such as Tableau, and mapping frameworks similar to MapBox make this a fascinating area to work in.

Verdict: We may be biased, but new techniques make this an exciting field to be involved with.

Mapbox GL 

4. Microinteractions

Microinteractions are those subtle, almost imperceptible, effects that occur when buttons change when you hover over them, or images fade in when scrolling down a page. Although often seen as a ‘nice touch’ that gives a website an added design element, these microinteractions can really help guide and prompt the user through a website path. More advanced interactions can show detailed animation and even morphing of images and text. Developments with the use of SVG images and typography in modern browsers have enabled web developers to let their imagination run free.

Verdict: Becoming a key design element and if used carefully can help guide the user and create a unique style for a website.

5. Progressive Web Apps

Progressive Web Apps or PWAs, are websites which have increased functionality that enables them to give a more app-like experience to the user. On mobile they can give the similar performance of a native iOS or Android app, but run from a website or web app. The huge benefit to client and developer is that the PWA uses only one codebase or set of files, keeping development and maintenance costs much lower than would be needed to maintain  separate native and web applications.

Other features which are typical of a PWA are the ability to work offline with locally stored data until a data connection is available, access to device hardware such as camera and geolocation. Our blog post from earlier this year outlined in more detail the rise of the website PWA.

Verdict: The future of the the web and mobile app.

Starbucks PWA

Top 5 Summary

These are the top five web trends that we’ve picked out from 2018, and maybe give some insight into what to look for in 2019. If we were running a top ten then just missing out on the charts were: Content Marketing, Responsive Design (yes, still), Reactive Design and Push Notifications. There’s another blog post in the making!

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas

4D - 12 Blogs of Christmas

4D - 12 Blogs of Christmas
4D Digital – 12 Blogs of Christmas

This year we are joining the #blogmas campaign and will be running our own 12 Blogs of Christmas over the festive period. Featuring articles that look back on web developments in 2018, looking ahead to 2019, guest posts from friends of 4D, and a few offers thrown in for good measure!

We’ll be running our blog over social media using the hashtag #4D12days – keep a look out and let us know what you think. Any feedback on the articles is welcome!

Every day from Christmas Day we’ll release one blog, articles will cover web design, mobile apps, social media marketing, SEO and all things web! From in-depth assessments of the state of web development to a more light-hearted look back and ahead we hope you’ll enjoy the blogs.

 

4d-christmas-embelishments

Website launch – Baileys of Salisbury

Baileys of Salisbury
Baileys of Salisbury

Baileys of Salisbury are an independent, family-run bed retailer based in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Baileys approached 4D Digital looking to set up a new website for the business, wishing to ensure the quality of the website reflected the mid- to high-end bed ranges they offer in store.

With a relatively short project time, 4D worked closely with the client in order to co-ordinate with the store opening at the end of November 2018. Launching on time and with on-site client training and an ecommerce framework, the website is all set to grow and go from strength to strength.

The website was built with a particular focus on mobile and tablet device layouts, with larger lifestyle images being more prominent on desktop browsers.

With an ecommerce framework at its core, the website system will be well-set to expand the ranges of beds featured in-store and online. Custom settings have been applied to enable the store owner to easily add and update page content and enquiries.

We’re extremely pleased with the website and look forward to working together with Baileys of Salisbury over the coming years.

www.baileysofsalisbury.co.uk

 

Progressive Web Apps – How they can help your business

Most businesses realise that mobile technology needs to be at the forefront of any digital strategy. We all know how powerful and addictive mobile apps and websites can be. However, businesses can harness this (in a good way) by using a technology that creates a new type of mobile app or website – the Progressive Web App.

Add to Home Screen

A Progressive Web App (PWA) is a website or application that interacts with the user just as a native app would do. Unlike a native app, a PWA is not installed via an app store such as Apple’s App Store or Android’s Google Play. The application is simply a website visited by the user, who is prompted to install a shortcut onto the mobile home screen.

This seemingly small difference offers a huge benefit to anyone developing and maintaining the app. No app store means no commission fees, no time-consuming approval process every time the app is updated. In addition to bypassing the app stores, being based on web technologies enables the application to written in only one codebase – not the multiple versions that are needed to maintain iOS, Android and Windows apps. Reduced development and maintenance costs, quicker release to market – it’s easy to see why many some of even the world’s largest brands are pursuing the PWA route to market.

PWA Functionality

Only in the last two or three years have PWA’s been given access to the hardware device functions a native app could use. Camera, Microphone, Push Notifications, Geolocation, File system – all of these and more can now be accessed by mobile web technology and therefore a PWA. Transferring data on secure https connections, the ability to work offline – these are now default functionality for a PWA and make for exciting possibilities.

Starbucks leads the way

Let’s have look at three of the best PWA examples currently in use. All are from big brands who are slowly moving away from building native iOS and Android apps.

Starbucks

Like them or loath them – Starbucks have led the way with PWA apps. Featuring geo-location for nearest stores and good offline capabilities.

Twitter Lite

The Twitter PWA or Twitter Lite as it’s referred to, can be installed via https://mobile.twitter.com

The performance is so good that it’s easy to forget this is not a native app.

 

 

Debenhams

The might not be considered bang up-to-date in the fashion stakes, but the team at Debenhams are ‘en mode’ with this one.

https://www.debenhams.com/webapp

 

The future’s bright – the future’s PWA?

There may always be a place for native apps. But we would suggest that anyone looking to build a new app should seriously consider the PWA route. Reducing development cost and time as well as removing the need for app store approval, can make a serious difference to any new project.

3 Ways to Improve your Photography for Websites

JPEG (Top) / RAW (Bottom) - Comparison

Use Manual Settings

If you’re looking to find your niche in photography you need to know all the settings of your camera, so look through your manual/guide and learn about each button.

Manual mode is one of the main settings on your camera, and it lets you control shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

Using Manual Mode (M) on your camera gives you the most flexibility and control over your photos. You may make many mistakes when you first try this, but experimenting with different shots will only make you a better photographer in the long run.

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is simply a grid of 9 boxes on your camera, which allows you to place your subject/main focus point into one of these areas.

Why should you use it?

If the subject is small try using individual parts of the grid, but if the subject is large trying using a third of the grid to create that empty space.

Shoot in RAW

One of the main things that will help you improve your photography is shooting in RAW. If you shoot in JPEG it can generally make the colours quite dull and it also gives you less flexibility when it comes to editing things such as exposure and colour temperature.

Here’s an example of JPEG edited vs RAW Edited.

JPEG (Top) / RAW (Bottom) - Comparison
JPEG (Top) / RAW (Bottom) – Comparison

This is a guest post by Photographer, blogger and marketer Oliver Howells