Here is what I think web site owners should keep an eye on in 2006.
This time of year sees a wealth of predictions for the coming year. Andy Budd and Cameron Moll have both given some interesting predications for you developers and designers. Not wanting to be left out here is what I think web site owners should keep an eye on in 2006.
Adoption of web standards
In 2006, you will almost certainly see more and more of your competitors adopting web standards. This will provide them with a raft of benefits including faster download times and improved search engine placement. However, probably most disturbingly, it allows them to make quick global changes to their site, so ensuring they are considerably more responsive to consumer trends. If you have implemented standards already, you will find the competitive advantage it gives you waning as more of your competition adopts it. If you are yet to redevelop with standards, you will find yourself getting left behind very quickly indeed.
I believe that 2006 may also bring some prominent prosecutions of sites that are inaccessible (in the UK at least). These test cases will raise the profile of web accessibility and put it firmly on everybody’s agenda. I believe that the disabled community will become much more aware of their rights in this area and I would expect web site owners to see an increasing number of complaints on this subject.
One word of warning. Rumours abound that pressure groups such as the RNIB are considering prosecuting smaller sites too as these cases are easier to win and will undermine the lethargy that smaller business owners have to the subject of accessibility.
2006 will see a lot of emerging technologies hitting the mainstream (such as web 2.0 and AJAX) and web site owners will be barraged by lots of new technobabble from web designers. There is a danger that the enthusiasm of the development community will sweep you along but I encourage you to think long and hard about the benefits these new technologies bring before you add them to your site. Ultimately, it is down to you, to keep your eye on the bottom line. Return on investment has to be the watchword of the day.
Predications for the coming year are often a hit and miss affair. However, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that 2006 is the year web feeds (RSS) become seriously mainstream. Sure, 27% of web users already use web feeds but only 4% of users knowingly do so. 2006 will see that 4% dramatically grow and users become a lot more sophisticated in the use of feeds. Why am I so confident? Because 2006 will see the launch of IE 7, Office 12 and Microsoft Vista. Microsoft have made it clear that all three of these products will include a large amount of web feed integration and Bill Gates has been pushing the concept of web feeds very strongly.
This means that you need to be adding RSS to your site if you have not already done so. Of course that in turn also means you need to have regularly updated content such as news, a blog or events. I know that this sounds like a lot of work but I think you will find that the benefits are considerable.
Beyond your website
Finally, I believe that 2006 will be the year that you start to think beyond your website to other internet based marketing tools. What do I mean by that? Well, at the moment most marketers see their website as their primary online marketing tool. Sure, they might also use banner advertising, PPC, email marketing etc. However, ultimately, all of these are about driving more users to your website.
2006 will see the continued growth of broadband with ever more homes connected and greater speeds becoming available. I believe this will lead to a break through in internet TV and podcasting. To be honest we were already beginning to see this towards the end of 2005 with traditional news networks such as the BBC doing an increasing number of stories on podcasting.
These emerging delivery mechanisms are not reliant on your website but operate as marketing channel in their own right. Let’s say that you are selling widgets to a very specific market segment. Imagine being able to produce your own TV series or downloadable radio show aimed specifically at that market segment! The opportunities in this field are immense however; it takes time for the applications of these delivery mechanisms to become obvious. No doubt you are reading this thinking, I am not sure that this can apply to me. If that is the case I would encourage you not to dismiss it prematurely. Podcasting and Internet TV offer some interesting opportunities to expand your reach and should not be ignored lightly.
So, these are my predication for web site owners in 2006. What do you think? What will be the big issues of the coming year?