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Web Design 2011 A Review of the Year

Published on December 16, 2011
Tags: Web Design London

As another year draws to a close and the Christmas party season starts to warm up, we thought now would be a good time to pause and take stock of the year before everyone heads off for mulled wine and mince pies. Specifically, let’s have a look at some of the key themes that have impacted on web designers during 2011 to see if they can give us any indication of where we might be heading throughout 2012.

Diversification of platforms

A few years ago, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had by far the biggest share of the internet browser market. It’s still at the top of the pack – but not by as wide a margin. Also, Google’s Chrome has recently overtaken Firefox as the number 2 browser for the first time, continuing the rapid expansion of the Chrome browser and neatly reflecting wider changes that are going on in how we use the web. Recent figures suggest that Chrome has now got a 25.69% share of the browser market (up from 4.66% two years ago), compared with IE’s 40.63%.

As well as more of a split between the browsers being used, people are also going online in increasing numbers of ways. Notably, 2011 has largely been about mobile web design and working out how web designers can cater their sites to the rapidly growing smartphone market. Elsewhere, this has bought us developments such as the QR code, as well as new challenges to cater for an increasingly broad range of platforms.

Google keeps us up at night

One of the most influential web design factors of 2011 has got to be Google. Looking back, we’ve written quite a few blog posts about it, covering topics from changes to Analytics impacting on how we access data to wondering whether the Google Plus business pages can compete with Facebook. One Google-related event, however, stands out above all the rest.

Google Panda/Farmer. This was the algorithm update that was first released in the US back in the first quarter of 2011 and has since been rolled out elsewhere and also received a few updates since. Almost as soon as this update was released, it had an impact on around 12% of searches in the US, showing just how powerful and influential such changes can be in the world of web design and SEO.

The aim of Google Farmer was to weed out low quality content sites in order to promote the search rankings of sites filled with high quality content. It seems as though it has certainly succeeded in having an impact, although some sites have had to make significant changes in order to ‘beat’ the Farmer effect. 

Privacy versus analytics

2011 has also seen many issues to do with privacy coming to the fore. Staying with Google for a moment, they recently upgraded their encrypted search feature, which secures the searches of those users logged in to a Google platform (such as Gmail). This is designed to protect the data of users, but it has also had an impact on web analytics teams, who have found that up to 10% of their previous analytics data simply isn’t there anymore (unless you’re paying for certain services).

The EU has also had a lot to do with the privacy debate, with recommendations regarding internet cookies and the ‘pre-ticked’ box phenomenon. Arguably, the directive that affects internet cookies – the Privacy and Communications Directive – is the more significant of these in terms of web design as it limits the amount of information websites can collect on their users before having to ask them for permission.

The EU privacy directive has caused some issues due to varying interpretations of it across different member states and the fact that hardly any countries have actually taken any meaningful action on it yet. However, it is still an important example of the on-going debate between the privacy of web users and the needs of businesses that depend on web analytics for their revenue.

Where next in 2012?

With all of this in mind, what can we expect to see in 2012? At the time of writing, it seems safe to say that all of the above issues will be continuing on into the New Year. As more and more people start to use the internet on their smartphones and web users make use of a growing range of browsers, compatibility issues are set to carry on for the time being.

We also predict that Google will be making more waves in 2012, whether this is due to exciting new services or algorithm updates that have a knock-on effect for months afterwards. Privacy will also continue to be debated, as will other related issues such as piracy, especially if the Stop Online Piracy Act in the US and other similar directives continue to cause controversy.

Elsewhere, seeing as 2012 is an Olympic year, you can probably expect to see lots of Olympic-themed web design and online campaigns, at least in the run up to the Games. 3D is a phenomenon that seems unstoppable and has been having an increasing influence on web design, so that could be another area to watch.

Whatever happens, though, the world of web design at the end of 2011 is exciting. There’s a lot going on and a lot of potential for further development. We look forward to whatever 2012 may bring.

By Chelsey Evans

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George Smith

Commented on January 21, 2012

Well done, it is a unique posting. I think your articles are very nice.

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