Mike Cushing / Digital Strategy / January 28th, 2014

2014 State of the Web Address

While President Obama is getting ready for tonight’s State of the Union Address, we thought it would be a good idea to assemble our own panel of geniuses to talk about some of the biggest challenges facing the industry, and how we can tackle them. So if you just can’t wait to fire up your #SOTU tag on Twitter, let’s talk about the State of the Web. The stakes are smaller, the issues less dire – but hey, at least we don’t have to deal with Congress.

geoff
Geoff Wilson, CEO

erin-everhart
Erin Everhart, Director of Digital Marketing

damion-wasylow
Damion Wasylow, Senior Marketing Strategist

pete-bernardo
Pete Bernardo, Director of Design & UX

brian-russell
Brian Russell, Senior Marketing Strategist

larry-hipp
Larry Hipp, Director of Software

Geoff Wilson, CEO – Becoming Agile

Agile software development is a concept that was created in 2001 when the Agile Manifesto was written, and since that time, it has changed the way that many software development projects are managed. We’re a huge believer in the principles and values of agile software development, so much so that we deeply incorporated them into every aspect of our agency’s practices. Even our new agency brand is reflective of our belief in agile. The interlocking circles in our logo symbolize our values and the members of our team, working together, with the client in the center – something we call the Circle Strategy.

What I find surprising is that very few website developers and digital agencies have adopted agile practices as of yet. For most, agile is still either a foreign concept, or they think it only applies to software development. But I think the word about how transformative agile practices can be is starting to get out, and we’ll see more and more people incorporating agile practices into their web projects. The lean startup movement really goes hand-in-hand with agile, as using agile principles to develop a startup product will help entrepreneurs get a minimum viable product to market quickly.

Erin Everhart, Director of Digital Marketing – Fixing a Tarnished Reputation

Our reputation is the biggest challenge facing digital marketing. For awhile, people viewed SEO as a bunch of hackers stuffing keywords and duplicating content to game the system. They viewed social media marketers as new-to-the-workforce Millennials spending all day on Facebook posting cat videos and playing FarmVille (you kids are still playing FarmVille, right?).

Users have gotten savvier, and Google has gotten smarter, and that’s forced us to be better. Data and advanced reporting have given us more metrics. Content has gotten sharper, smarter. Quality is starting to replace quantity. We’ve come a long way since our roots, sure, but that mentality still exists because we all know how hard it is to fix a tarnished reputation.

Damion Wasylow, Senior Marketing Strategist – New Media Continues to Gain Ground

Together, streaming media channels like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and Spotify control huge markets. They have an estimated 97 million subscribers, and there are many other providers out there, both mainstream and niche. As we move into 2014, these content providers and more are going to continue to erode the huge base of traditional media – and traditional media needs to finally accept that they may need to change.

Today’s consumers demand control over how and when they take in their favorite shows, movies and music. Streaming media players like Roku and Apple TV, dongles like Google Chromecast and smart TVs make consuming online media easier than ever. What used to be an individual stream to someone’s PC is now an experience more likely to be enjoyed by families and groups, thus dramatically altering overall viewing habits.

Cable TV providers lost 1.8 million subscribers in just one fiscal quarter last year. Even once-dominant premium cable services like HBO, Showtime and Starz are feeling the pinch. With streaming media outlets producing their own top caliber original content, consumers are cutting the cord with premium services. These premium channels lost nearly 16% of their subscribers over the past year and a half.

Traditional media outlets seemingly have few answers. While it’s true that many are actively building out more robust online content, it’s often just an extension of their on-screen programming. More importantly, they have yet to find a cohesive strategy to monetize beyond commercial advertising.

2014 won’t be the year streaming media overtakes traditional, but it finally may be the time traditional outlets recognize they need to change in order to survive.

Pete Bernardo, Director of Design and UX – Iterative Data, Not Big Data

The constant chatter about Big Data has really made listening to your users seem more of an unclimbable mountain than it should be. Looking at Big Data as requiring an NSA level of data collection needing a massive infrastructure is a mistake. The point of Big Data is to listen and better understand your user base. So the paralysis that is caused by thinking that it needs to be a massive undertaking is a big problem.

I would like to see more product owners and site managers start to take a bootstrap approach to listening to their users. Instead of taking the Big Data approach of trying to gather all data I recommend a simple start with a solid feedback cycle that just includes: reviewing analytics, asking users questions through surveys, remote test with your users and split testing.

Our goal for 2014 should be starting up Iterative Data, touch points that you constantly monitor and don’t take a lot of effort nor a big infrastructure to start.

Brian Russell, Senior Marketing Strategist – Overcoming Data Paralysis

spiderman no idea“With great power comes great responsibility,” said a comic book character’s uncle, and that’s the challenge facing real organizations large and small that have access to data. To further Pete’s point: there’s a lot of data out there that can help businesses make smarter, more impactful decisions. More organizations are becoming aware of this, but reach paralysis at either what data to collect, how to collect the data or what to do with it once it’s gathered.

Web behavior is the easiest to track, but in reality comes long after the data collection process could have, and possibly should have. Qualitative data, like asking people about their problems, can come first to help your business decide what to offer as a solution to help them become your customer or partner. Comparative data, like A/B testing of marketing materials or processes, can help to improve conversion rates. Competitive data can help your business to see how you stack-up against others in your industry.

I believe businesses can snap out of this paralysis by understanding early on that data collection and measurement are part of creating something — not something to be added on after-the-fact. Everyone in the organization knowing well what families of data can be used, and having access to the results can help lead everyone to a sense of ownership and empower them all to make smarter decisions.

Larry Hipp, Director of Software Development – Write Once, Deploy Everywhere vs Native

As the market has stabilized to a few large platforms, mobile development has seen a consolidation in development platforms. Developing apps with native programming languages still dominates the industry, but we’ve seen a couple of the “write once, deploy everywhere” platforms settle into a comfortable position. Tools like Appcelerator’s Titanium and Xamarin have emerged as the de facto non-native platforms.

For instance, Appcelerator’s Titanium harnesses the power of JavaScript to deploy to all major mobile platforms. Their website claims more than 50,000 mobile applications have been deployed with using their tools. A quick tour of the Zipcar app will give you a great idea of what can be accomplished using Titanium. Xamarin uses C# to accomplish the same goals as Titanium, but also includes Visual Studio support. Xamarin’s platform performance can be seen by downloading Rdio’s music streaming app (an app I’m using while writing this very post!).

The appeal  of “write once, deploy everywhere” platforms is undeniable, and they have come a long way, but they are still no replacement for native development. The utility of deploying non-native apps come with a performance trade-off. Users have been conditioned to notice even the slightest delay in transitions when using their mobile devices.

At 352, we’re still native-first proponents. We want to deliver the highest quality user experience, and we see native development as the way to achieve that goal. However, we’re technologists at heart, and we love experimenting with new platforms and development methods. Balancing development timelines and user outcomes will become a major part of choosing how to build your next mobile application.