As a digital agency in a rapidly changing world, it is important for us to be thinking about where changes in technology may be taking our clients. There are many ways that we investigate and experiment what’s on the horizon, but one thing we did this year was to identify Innovation Themes for 2016 — the broad subject areas where we believe we should focus a fair amount of our efforts.

We shared these with the staff at Beaconfire RedEngine early in the new year and we’ve already started exploring a variety of related projects. I’d been meaning to share these with you, our faithful readers, but something always kept coming up. Suddenly, it is nearly March and I realized it was time to sit down and quickly share our Innovation Themes for 2016 before the year is over.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topics we’ve chosen, or those you think we missed. Please share in the comments!

  1. Mobile Is the Future of Everything
    We’ve been building nothing but responsive sites and mobile optimized e-mails since 2012. However, in 2016 and beyond, simply having a responsive site is not enough to ensure you have a smart mobile strategy. The fact that the majority of users are consuming content on mobile devices while waiting in line at the grocery store has a profound impact on how many organizations engage with the users and drive their mission. We’re already implementing or experimenting with a variety of other mobile strategies like text messaging, app development, mobile wallets, mobile first design and more. I would recommend that any organization start thinking about how the continued explosion of mobile usage could impact their digital strategy and mission.
  2. Good Performance is a Good UX
    Too often, we and our clients fall in love with the great user experiences we design and forget about the importance performance has on meeting the project’s goals. The greatest piece of content won’t be read, if it takes too long to load, or the perfectly optimized donation form won’t convert, if too many edge cases result in an error. In fact, here is an interesting tidbit. Many large media providers are now hosting their content directly on Facebook’s servers. Yes, that is right, they are willing to trade away traffic to their website in exchange for getting better performance (and more eyeballs) on their content hosted elsewhere. Oh and remember that Google rankings do take page load time into account. There is a lot that we can are doing to improve the performance of what we build — including regression testing, smart use of Google tag manager, SEO, server optimization and performance monitoring. It’s not the the sexiest topic, but a vital one. Want to know more about how to speed up your sites, just ask.
  3. UX & Design Beyond Page
    As a digital agency, this can be a tricky one. Design and development trends keep getting leaner and more component based. The day of designing and building web pages are long past and our internal teams are very much on board. That being said, many clients still expect to see traditional comps of webpages as part of the redesign process. We’re continuing to evolve our design process to allow us to take advantage of the benefits of lean UX and design, while still providing clients the opportunity to review and provide feedback in a format they are comfortable. There is no one-size fits all approach that works for all projects or clients, but more and more we’re able to find an approach that leverages user stories, prototypes, design blitzes and other lean techniques. The best part, it often saves clients time and money and in our opinion, results in a better end product. It’s a never ending evolution and one we are very committed to focusing on this year. If you haven’t worked with us in a while, I imagine you’ll be pretty surprised how much of our process has and will continue to change.
  4. Drupal 8 is Here
    We work with a host of CMSs, but many of our clients prefer Drupal for the websites and applications and those in the community know that the release of Drupal 8 has arrived… sorta. As you can see on this chart from, an overwhelming majority of sites are still being developed in Drupal 7 — and for good reason. While many vital modules are now part of Drupal core, there are still many others that are not and have not been upgraded to Drupal 7. This means that for more complicated projects, there will be additional time (and money) to develop a site in Drupal 8. Deciding whether to build in Drupal 7 or 8 is a tough choice as we suspect Drupal 7 to be supported beyond 2021.  The good news is that we’re here to help make that determination and are spending much of our time this year exploring, building and investing in Drupal 8. When Drupal 8 is the right decision for a project, we’ll be ready to deliver on their goals as efficiently as possible. Keep an eye on this blog space for more Drupal 8 related blog posts and webinars during the course of 2016.

Well, there you have it. Our innovation themes for 2016. It’s not all we will be playing around with for the next 12 months, but a few good guide posts of where we want to make sure we’re staying ahead of the curve. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topics we’ve chosen, or those you think we missed. Please share in the comments!

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