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The Future of the Web
Insights from SXSW

Each year Cult sends a few of its best and brightest to SXSW to hear about some of the latest trends and buzz worthy topics happening in digital right now. Somehow I was lucky enough to make the cut this year and I took advantage of the trip, ensuring to absorb as much as I could. 

Common themes that kept coming up were: virtual reality, artificial intelligence, wearables, scale ups vs. startups, and kimchi fries. I was excited to see that the flying car is on the horizon and no longer just a childhood fantasy. I snoozed through a panel discussing the implications of new privacy regulations, and attended many talks on my favourite topic – user experience.

The Experience Web

Dries Buytaert, from Acquia, gave a particularly enlightening session in which he offered some bold predictions for the future of the web. The web began as a place where anyone and everyone could build a website and be on equal terms for visitor attention. Then the mobile web put the focus on content over aesthetics, and often bypassed the traditional desktop experience altogether. Now we find ourselves entering a third wave – new the experience web.

Now we find ourselves entering a third wave – new the experience web. Here we’ll see the major players start to take control of how we access information.

069c72cHere we’ll see the major players start to take control of how we access information. Content is already being aggregated by Google, Facebook, Amazon and others and being delivered to you immediately, making a visit to the original content provider unnecessary. Google already provides movie show times on their results page for example, so why bother visiting the theatre’s website? Imagine sites like Pinterest allowing you to purchase products you stumble across immediately, bypassing the manufacturer. Restaurant profiles on UrbanSpoon and Yelp! may make individual restaurant websites redundant. One day, profiles on social networks like Facebook could eliminate the need for individual portfolio websites for designers and photographers.

The Effects of Change

From a UX perspective there are many benefits to this evolving trend. Primarily, immediate access to the right content eliminates clicks, time and hassle. Major players will establish the best patterns for searching and buying products, using maps, and checking reviews. Moreover, we won’t need to learn how to use clumsier UI’s produced by companies with smaller budgets or less talented designers and developers.

Of course the flip side of this homogenizing of the web means our clients, and brands in general, will need to come to terms with the fact that their digital portal is no longer the only place that their customers are encountering their brand. They will need to rethink how their message can be represented properly in environments they have less control over. It will also require some serious rethinking for the role of designers and developers in today’s market.

Opportunities will present themselves only if we remain innovative and adaptable.

Certainly as the web evolves our dependence on it will also grow and opportunities will present themselves if we remain innovative and adaptable. While this isn’t the easiest pill to digest it is imperative to remain flexible in the face of such rapid change.

The visit was nothing short of spectacular, with many other eye opening session and moments throughout the week. I will also take away a few eye closing moments due to some late night festivities.

Did you attend SXSW this year? What did you take away?

Further Reading
The CULT of Customer Experience
FIX: A new prescription to cure disengaged customers, prospects or staff
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