2015 look ahead: Part three – Audiences and values

BY Clare Bennett

This is the third installment in our series forecasting the digital world in 2015 and beyond (check out the first and second blogs).

Users’ digital behavioural repertoire is expanding. In plain English that means we’re getting used to cooler ways of interacting with content. For instance, thanks to Apple’s smartphones we now all know what pinch and zoom means. Innovations like this will continue to influence website navigation and design. The challenge for corporate communicators will be filtering out trends that don’t add to the overall user experience.

We think the following are here to stay.

3 clicks (and you’re still not done)

Received wisdom was that a website visitor should be able to get to their destination within 3 clicks. In the early years of web design this approach was genuinely helpful. (Who are our users? What are they looking for? How do we get them there quickly?) And as a philosophy it should still guide thinking on digital interfaces. But in 2015, user behaviour and web design will continue to evolve. As long as users are engaged and don’t have to think about navigation, they won’t mind spending longer on websites.

Progressive disclosure

In support of this argument we’ll be seeing more sites which are designed for audiences with a more mature understanding of the way websites work. This allows sites to be clearer and more confident about their purpose, not attempting to be all things to all people. This allows for functional experiences that expedite short visits to websites. It also allows for progressive disclosure and/or branded experiences that don’t prioritise the user’s exit from the site but optimise the opportunity of their visit.

Narrative websites

Finally, narrative websites will become even more popular this year, driven by website users’ familiarity with scrolling through pages, parallax (where the background moves at a slower rate to the foreground) and responsive design. Combined with personal stories, strong humanised photography and engaging copy, this will create much more immersive and strongly branded, but nuanced digital experiences.

Shell’s new site (currently in beta as of Jan 2015) or Barclays do this well, selling their offer by telling product and people stories respectively.

User journeys and user experience

As mentioned elsewhere in this series and also in our specially commissioned research (find it here), audiences are proliferating like never before. Global internet traffic continues to grow and audiences are using the digital channels which suit them (sales of non-desktop devices for accessing the internet grew to 60% and most major social media networks are experiencing growth).

Meeting this challenge requires an understanding about the journeys audiences make and their experience of your brand at each of these touchpoints.

The 2015 success formula:

– Prioritise the channels your audiences use; be targeted and avoid the temptation to go scattergun.

– Get tone of voice and content right: an engaging corporate personality grounded in your brand voice.

– Only use channels you’re prepared to invest resource in maintaining.

– What does success look like? Set your KPIs, then monitor and measure them. That enables transparency about ROI through each channel, whether influencing sentiment or shipping boxes.

The takeaway from this?

Make it easy.

As Richard Thaler (author of ‘Nudge’) puts it, if there’s a barrier in the way, people won’t do it. Barriers can include not being where your audiences are, talking in the wrong visual or verbal language or not being relevant.