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.

The Rise of the Website ChatBot

Along with the unmissable Cookie Notice & Privacy pop up, the rise of the ChatBot has been hard to miss on the web in 2018. In our first blog for #blogmas 2018, we put the ChatBot in our top five trends for the past year, and there’s every reason to see this continue through 2019 and beyond.

At first the offer to chat on a website, as a support feature, can seem a little intrusive. A further reminder maybe, that our every move and click online is being tracked. But once you get over that concern, and occasionally even use these services, it hopefully becomes more clear as to how they could be useful when used in the correct way.

Some online chat support is still operated by a live person, and more technical enquiries are often handled this way. But increasingly these services are being replaced by an automated support ‘bot’, that has been programmed to give defined answers to a range of commonly-asked questions. These bots, or ChatBots, are fed questions and answers, and using Artificial Intelligence algorithms, are ‘trained’ to respond to a wide variety of input. 

Currently it’s relatively easy to spot the difference between a ChatBot and a real support person, but as time goes by the difference is going to be hard to spot. As we move through 2019, many companies are looking to use the AI tool as a way of increasing engagement on their website. Remember that all dialog is stored, analysed and in turn educates the ChatBot through machine learning. This circle of learning means that what currently seems quite a crude tool, will over the next few years become increasingly sophisticated.

With the release of AI tools such as Google’s DialogFlow, creating a ChatBot is becoming relatively straightforward. Maybe the question is not should we use these tools, but when do we start?

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.

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

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.