2016: Digital Trends

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Exponential access to web-based communication continued to shape the world in 2015 

Access to data was the story of 2015. We’ve all been shaped by mobile-networked tools that put this data to applied use. Networked devices open up near-endless opportunities that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

Half of the world’s population now has the internet in their pocket. This is a monumental accomplishment, in no small part because this technology has networked the entirely world together so fast.

In only 10 years time billions of people have gained direct access to smart phones. When compared to other revolutionary technologies such as: running water, electricity, the automobile, or even the household computer, the adoption rate of smart phone technology has been unprecedented. It took lifetimes for those other technologies to become commonplace across the world. Relatively speaking, the rate at which smart phones have become commonplace has been like the flip of a switch.

If you have a business, or even just an opinion to express, nearly everyone on earth now has direct access to this information. It’s reshaping the world. Fortunately, there’s plenty of reasons to think that these changes, on the whole, will be for the better.

What can we expect in 2016?

With a New Year just around the corner, it’s a great time to consider the future a bit. As we consider such rapid change in 2015, we can only speculate as to what’s to come. How might these trends improve our lives? How will they continue to affect our professions?

Well, just to get the ball rolling, here are two fascinating predictions posited by some of today’s leading technology futurists:

1. File Sharing for 3D Printing 

We’ll call this one a ‘safe bet’ because it’s already happening commercially. Heck, it’s already reshaping (and creating new) industries.

Dr. Kurzwell (Director of Engineering at Google) is confident that 3D printing will change the world in increasingly substantial ways. Indeed, ‘personal fabrication’ devices are well on their way to becoming household items, albeit in their earliest stages of infancy. But going forward, Dr. Kurzweil believes that they will democratic product design and development across industries.

Just one example cited is the fashion world, which has already begun sharing clothing design files that can be printed in studios (and soon: at your own home). bring-clothing-production-home-3d-printing-clothing-printer-6More importantly, people will live longer as a result of this same information sharing, because surgeons the world over will be able to communicate and print organic materials (including genome-specifc-specify organs) that will prolong the lives of countless patients.

Other thought leaders make even bolder and more abstract predictions. Like…

2. An interface you can navigate with your mind?! brain, computer, alsno lead art

Several high profile experiments have yielded a means to navigate digital interfaces through the power of thought. It’s called a Brain to Computer Interface and you can learn the basics here.

How does this work? I have no idea!

With the help of some bleeding edge software, this technology is even paving the way for ‘Brain to Brain Interfacing’. This is one of those advances in science that sounds too ‘out there’, too utterly science fiction to be true. But here we are.

Where this technology is heading is anyone’s guess. But a core area moving the research forward is for the disabled to live more mobile lives. It’s remarkable to consider just how helpful this technology could be for those who will benefit from it most. Common ‘day-to-day’ applications for this technology might still be a few years off. But it stands to reason that our relationship with web-based interfaces will take a major leap forward if this technology is to be applied to our ubiquitous networked devices.

So how will bleeding edge technologies affect our work in 2016?

Precisely how these innovations will be applied into our personal and professional lives is still anyone’s guess. It’s likely that most of us won’t be directly affected by these technologies at all in 2016. But there will certainly be newly applied digital tech that will play a role in our lives in the year to come. The challenge, as always, is predicting what these exact new technologies will be and where they’ll come from!

But if digital trends in the past few years are an indication, endless opportunity awaits for those who keep an eye opened towards ‘applied use’ of emerging digital technologies. Keep your eyes open, folks. And keep the focus on how these applied technologies can change our lives and businesses for the better.

Here’s to the new opportunities to come in 2016!

Drupal 8.0 Launch Day: What’s New?

First of all, Drupal 6.0 will no longer be supported on February 24th, 2016.

That’s coming up soon, folks!

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If your site runs on Drupal, it’s time to prepare to migrate your site if you need to, or if you think you might need to! If you’re uncertain, today is a good day to speak with your site administrator(s), or web development partner, about a potential migration.

So what does Drupal 8.0 bring to the table?

It will take some time to truly assess the new additions. But what it clear right out of the gate is that 8.0 offers vastly improved admin themes that are (finally!) responsive. There’s also a number of features that should help make Drupal more application-development friendly. This is what remains to be seen. But, if true, could help make Drupal a more cost-effective solution for custom development.

It’s going to be interesting to open the box and see how these new changes work in practice. But there’s reason to believe that this new launch could help open the door for more would-be Drupal adopters.

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Communication Breakdown: Web App

There’s a major problem in the world of app creation. You know what? I’d dare to go as far as to call it a minor crisis!

It’s a problem that stems from a simple but all too common miscommunication. It’s a case of semantics causing a complicated mess.

What is this catastrophe I’m referring to?

Folks are using the term ‘App’ when they really mean ‘Web App’ 

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Theres are a number of differences between a ‘Native’ App and a Web App. And the cavalier use of the the word ‘app’ to mean one or both of these tools creates endless confusion. So let’s break it down.

First of all, if I’m honest, the most noteworthy of the difference between a Native App and a Web App is the amount of time and money it takes to see an ROI on a native app. This is because, in many cases, tons of money is wasted building an app when the focus would be better served on a well designed web app.

So what exactly is a ‘Web App’, anyways? Web-App-vs-Native-app

A Web App is basically just a device agnostic website; it’s a site that is built to fit all browsers, including mobile devices. It might even look and feel like a proper app. The functionalities can be near endless. But a web app is always run through an internet browser.

Don’t call a Web App an ‘App’, call it a Web App (or ‘Mobile’ Web App, if you prefer).

Native apps, on the other hand, are proper ‘Apps’

Apps are built exclusively for IOS, Android, etc. They are not run through an internet browser. They are extraordinary useful tools and can even be vital for some business models to survive and thrive.

Apps can be invaluable tools. We’ll get to that. But they have some major downsides. Here’s two big ones: they’re costly and reach a limited audience.

The truth is that not every organization needs an app. In fact, many organizations won’t even gain anything from a dedicated native app. On the other hand, every modern company or organization needs a web app. This is doubly true if any of your service offerings are web-based.

If you want the content housed in your website to reach as many people as possible, a mobile responsive website is your ticket

And doesn’t this definition fit the needs sought out by most organizations?

Even if you might find the need for a native app down the line, it almost never makes sense if your organization doesn’t first build a rock solid web app.

At the end of the day, you only need to ask yourself one question: ‘is your organization trying to accomplish anything that can’t be achieved in a web browser?’

If the answer is ‘no’. It’s probably wise to resist paying for an app.

If the answer is ‘yes’ then maybe it’s time to jump in.

And if you are unsure whether the answer might be yes, then here’s a list of the very real reasons to have a native app:

  • They’re fastercoomplcated-app-store
  • They’re available offline
  • Any manner of unique functionalities tied to a device (i.e. touch screen game(s), utilization of a smart phone’s camera or GPS)
  • Accessibility or ‘high-use’ service (is yours a service that over 10% of clients could realistically use on a daily or even weekly basis?)

Would any of these functionalities add considerable value to your brand? It’s a vital question to consider. And it’s made more complicated by the fact that your answer is likely to fall in a gray area somewhere.

Here’s a handy dandy infographic from Functionality that some additional context:

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Key takeaway: Designing a great app is expensive

Finding a worthwhile ROI is extraordinarily tricky when it comes to launching an app. It’s why more and more organizations have learned to settle for extremely well designed Web App interfaces.