Top 10 trends in digital experiences
The most profound developments that will influence the world of digital experiences and web content management in the near future.
Digital experiences refer to websites, apps, and other digital channels working together to deliver the best possible user experience for the consumer.
As you can imagine, this is an exciting world of emerging technologies, innovative ways of thinking, and a fresh approach to managing, delivering, optimising, and analysing experiences across every digital touchpoint in the customer journey. Let’s take a peek at what’s in store for us in this complex arena of digital experience trends.
In a world where the C suite is increasingly aware of the power of content marketing—where there are more digital channels than ever before—content production is torn between grandiose content strategy and fragmentary content delivery.
Enter ContentOps, content operations, a principle that unites people, processes, and technology in order to create quality content that is consistent, repeatable, and scalable. The world does not need more content, it needs better content. Make sure you apply principles to achieve just that.
Learn more: How to excel at content operations »
Omnichannel is a term designating a cross-channel business model where organisations purposefully use different digital channels in tandem to leverage user engagement. Omnichannel includes channels such as physical locations, eCommerce, mobile applications, and social media.
The rise of IoT—connected cars, refrigerators, watches, televisions, etc., has given marketers an entirely new playing field to reach potential customers. The synergy promised by the omnichannel approach is something any future-proof digital experience should take into account.
3. Headless CMS
A natural way to address the fragmentary world of omnichannel is to make your content management system independent of any specific presentation. Which is exactly what a headless CMS does.
This type of CMS is essentially a database with structured content, delivering to different channels via an API. Headless might not always be the right choice, however (for instance if you're mainly building a website), in which case a hybrid CMS may prove the best alternative.
Learn more: Headless CMS for marketers - the must knows »
4. Atomic content design
The shift in digital experiences is clearly moving towards omnichannel and headless, and this in turn demands new ways of thinking about content structure.
Atomic content design is just such a future-proof content structure. According to this principle, you should break your content down into its smallest possible, but still meaningful parts (or “atoms”). Each atom can then be re-used in larger contexts when needed, for instance as parts of a page about COVID-19—like symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment—or as independent, autonomous items.
5. Cloud platforms and microservices
Cloud platforms and microservices continue to gain traction. With microservices, an application is structured as a collection of separate services—each maintainable, testable, loosely coupled, and independently deployable. This makes it easier to frequently apply changes to your solution.
As for the cloud trend, digital experience platforms that are prepared for the future have already “moved to the cloud.” And even more continue to tag along, because who will risk missing the benefits of increased safety, flexibility, and scaling?
See also: How a digital experience cloud can lift your business »
6. Front-end frameworks
A front-end framework creates a more app-like look and feel to what you can see and interact with on-screen on both websites and applications. The development in this sphere has enabled increasingly plentiful interfaces and smooth UX—just think about feature-rich websites like Facebook and apps like WhatsApp.
Front-end frameworks have usually depended on client-side rendering—meaning that your browser or app handles the application and retrieves the data. This, however, causes loading times, which don't bode well with Google. This, in turn, has seen the rise of server-side rendering, with support for front-end frameworks. In any case, front-end frameworks are here to stay.
7. Progressive web apps
Progressive web apps, PWA, has been touted as the future of applications. Essentially being advanced websites, they can work offline, are compatible with every platform, and offers functionality previously exclusive to native mobile apps.
PWAs fuse the best of web and apps: they have URLs, require no installation process or downloads, they start immediately, and they need no app store. Done properly, you can't spot the difference between a PWA and a native application after it has been started. In short: PWAs are faster, simpler, more universal, and more personalised than their older brethren.
Learn more: The state of Progressive Web Apps »
8. AI and cognitive
Artificial intelligence and cognitive computing are impacting an increasing number of facets of digital experiences. AI and cognitive include a vast array of different technologies, including machine learning, natural language processing, speech and object recognition, reasoning, and narrative generation.
What this means for your digital experience is many things, but among the chief keywords are: chatbots, personalisation, voice generator, behaviour pattern recognition, marketing automation, customer service automation, predictive marketing, and predictive content management.
The use of voice in search has exploded, with up to 60% of smartphone users having tried it at least once in the last 12 months, according to Quoracreative. Speech-friendly appliances like Google Nest and Amazon Alexa have already made their way into your living room, and the usage is spreading everywhere, including eCommerce.
When designing your digital experiences, keep in mind the onset of voice-based search from your customers and clients. Design your content structure to be easily adaptive towards new behaviour patterns and digital touchpoints—e.g. design your system for both text and voice inputs in different contexts, like one content for “McDonald’s London locations”, and another for “where is the nearest Mickey D’s in Southwark?”, respectively.
10. Customer data platform
Even though GDPR and strict privacy laws are here to stay, content management systems are still collecting data and building user profiles—creating new silos and privacy issues.
To combat this potentially fine-riddled trend, we have seen the introduction of the customer data platform (CDP), which creates a unified customer database accessible across all systems in your organisation. Data is sourced from multiple locations, cleaned, and combined to create an aggregated view on the customer, thus keeping you and your digital experiences on the right side of the regulatory law.
The world of digital experiences is a shifting one, and staying up-to-date is important to keep you from being left behind by your competition. Explore these trends in your own pace to get acquainted with what efforts you should undertake to stay on top in the foreseeable future.
Originally published 22 October 2018, updated 10 March 2021.