There’s no mistaking that we’re facing a period of transition in all things digital. Artificial intelligence, visual search, and practically anything with the word “smart” in front of it is getting all of the attention right now, and rightfully so–it’s exciting. In fact, just the other day, I kept saying “Alexa” when I meant to say “Siri” and I just couldn’t believe I live in a time where I am already getting my servant robot names mixed up.
While companies are starting to get serious about how machine learning can solve business challenges, increase sales growth and give them a competitive edge, it makes me wonder what this all means for websites.
I’m still a big believer in the importance of having a great website and stand firm in the belief a poor user experience could diminish brand perception and be a make or break factor when converting site visitors into paying customers. So, let’s take a look at what’s in store for websites with three of the top trends to watch out for in 2019.
1. Chatbots. Ok, so I’ve already contradicted myself here a bit by blurring the lines. A “chatbot” is artificial intelligence (A.I.) software that can simulate a conversation (or a chat) with a user in natural, conversational language. In short, it returns a predefined instant response based on input from a user. Why are they so important? Chatbots streamline interactions between people and services, enhancing and personalizing the user experience. At the same time, they offer companies new opportunities to improve the customer engagement process and even improve a company’s operational efficiency by reducing the typical cost of customer service.
Chatbots certainly aren’t new–ever since Facebook invited developers to start making bots via its Messenger App, we’ve seen the number of bots significantly grow. Companies like Sephora, Whole Foods, and National Geographic have implemented them into their marketing with impressive results. Today, chatting with bots has become second nature, but as advancements in machine learning continue to drive forward, expect to see smarter chatbots on websites really take off this year.
2. Site Speed. Humans are flighty and impatient, and attention spans are dwindling by the day. If you have ever asked yourself how much time you get to make a good first impression with a potential customer online, the answer is less than three seconds. That’s right, that’s all you get! That’s about the same time spent reading a billboard while driving down a road. In studies done by Akamai and Dynatrace, 50% of users expect that when they click on a site, it should load in two seconds or less. They will abandon a site if it takes three or more seconds to load.* A slow site not only impacts the time visitors will spend on your site, but it could also impact your organic search rankings as well. In fact, Google has begun prioritizing rankings for sites that load faster than others, meaning site speed and SEO go hand-in-hand.
3. Accessibility. This one is less of a trend and more of an absolute requirement in 2019. The web is an important resource in all our lives so it’s important to make sure it provides equal experience and opportunity, regardless of how it is being accessed. Over the past year, government organizations have worked to make their websites accessible, and now it’s time for everyone else to get on board. Companies that aren’t compliant are starting to receive lawsuits for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. In fact, companies such as Glossier, AllSaints, and Beecher’s Cheese were all hit with lawsuits in 2018.**
So, get your website components up-to-code by following common accessibility guidelines like WCAG 2.1 and WAI-ARIA. While the laws are still murky outside of government organizations, it’s just not worth the risk and your audiences will be thankful.
Though we may not be welcomed home by Rosie the Robot just quite yet, advancements in all areas of the digital landscape are advancing at a breakneck rate. Websites are no different, from chatbots to site speed and a renewed focus on accessibility for all users. At its core, these trends boil down to a key tenet of web design that brands would do well to never forget: user experience is critical to your company’s success on the web.
*TheeDigital’s 2019 Web Design Trends
**Forum One’s 2019 Design Trends for Nonprofits