A Review of a Web Designer’s 2011 Predictions

A Review of a Web Designer's 2011 Predictions

This will be the third year that I’ve sat down in front on my keyboard to write my predictions of things that will shape the Web industry in the coming year.

Before I share my predictions with you for 2012 (which I’ll do in another article), I thought I’d look at my 2011 predictions first and see how they panned out.

Previous Predictions for 2011

At the start of 2011, I wrote about what I thought would be the five things that will shape the Web this year. If you missed that article, you could check it out first to give you a bit of context for the things I’ll be talking about below.

In the article, I predicted these five things would be influential in our industry:

  1. Flash
  2. Print media
  3. Hardware-accelerated browsers
  4. Television
  5. Location-based services

Let’s talk about those five things, and see if they did, in fact, make an impact this year.

1. Flash

At the start of this year, I said:

Expect to see something out of Flash this year, whether it’s innovation, a repurposing of the technology, or a significant drop in usage.

I think we’ve mainly seen more of the latter — a drop in usage — than anything else. For instance, as of August this year, jQuery was used on more top websites than Flash.

Even Adobe, the company that owns and develops Flash, announced that they would no longer develop Flash for mobile, opting instead to focus on HTML5.

As 2011 marched on, HTML5 and JavaScript chipped away at Flash’s place on the Web as a facilitator of rich interaction. Designer/developer Aral Balkan, who covered the possible demise of Flash for .net magazine earlier this month, suggests that “if you’re starting a new web project, do not use Flash for it.”

2. Print Media

Just how much of an impact have traditional print publication companies — magazines, newspapers, books and so forth — had on the Web?

It does seem that all the experiments and ventures rolled out by print media on the Web are still going strong. The Times, for example, still sits behind a pay wall and appears to be doing fine. The iPad-only Project Magazine I mentioned in my predictions is now rolling out issue 11. Pay walls and premium content are popping up on many sites around the Web, and appear to be a sensible way to monetize content.

The future of traditional print-based media companies moving onto the Web is still very much focused on the tablet market, and iOS5 brought a new angle to this model with the Newsstand feature aimed at digital versions of popular print newspapers and magazines.

More and more people are putting down their newspapers and magazines, opting instead to use their tablets and smartphones. Research by eMarketer showed that Americans spent more time on their mobile devices versus reading newspapers and magazines; over 1 hour per day on mobile devices compared to only 44 minutes on newspapers and magazines.

3. Hardware-Accelerated Browsers

Hardware acceleration has probably had an impact on the Web that most people don’t even realize. Most modern browsers now ship with some kind of acceleration running in the background, but as far as users are concerned, it isn’t really noticed except when used in cutting-edge experiments and demos such as OK Go’s video website for All is not Lost.

However, the run-of-the-mill hardware acceleration was trumped with a new technology called cloud acceleration, which we saw on Amazon Silk, a new web browser for Kindle Fire.

How does a cloud-accelerated web browser work? To reduce the processing power needed on the tablet, Amazon decided to leverage their Amazon Web Services (AWS). The Amazon Silk web browser, for those not familiar with it, offloads the processing required to render web pages and JavaScript to AWS, which compresses the output and shoots it down the interwebs to your Kindle Fire, therefore removing the need to process a lot of stuff on the tablet.

There was a bit of a problem though, as it turned out that it wasn’t quite as fast as everyone hoped; tests showed that web pages loaded more slowly when the cloud-accelerated feature was turned on. This may well change as AWS caches more and more web content. Amazon also promises a speed boost with their next release of the browser.

4. Television

The Internet TV wave isn’t quite upon us yet, and the bottleneck may be Apple. There is talk and rumor of an Apple TV hitting stores in 2012, and consumers and manufacturers may be holding their breath and waiting to see what the technology giant will release before moving into this space.

In the same way that Apple made the tablet market, speculators are saying that Apple TV could revolutionize the way we use our TVs.

We’re also seeing traditional television moving onto the Internet more and more, as shown by the continual growth of web-based services such as iPlayer, Hulu and Netflix (well, at least until Netflix shot themselves in the foot).

Live coverage is also popping up on the Web, where we used to expect them to be on our television sets. YouTube, for example, showed live coverage of the British Royal Wedding. Facebook now streams numerous live events, including UFC fights.

TV shows are increasingly leveraging social media for live discussions with fans; many shows even include hashtags for Twitter.

In my opinion, it seems that the Television and the Internet are on a steady crash course to blend into an integrated, on-demand medium.

5. Location-Based Services

A quick look on your smartphone, and you’ll know that pretty much all apps ask for access to your location data.

One of the most interesting implementations of geolocation I saw this year was from Apple with the Reminders feature on the iPhone. This is how the Reminders feature works: You set your iPhone to remind you to do something (e.g. “get milk from Supermarket X”) and when you’re close to the location, it will remind you of a to-do you created for that area.

In fact, you can tell a technology is getting serious when big companies put money behind it: Facebook acquired location-based social network Gowalla for a cool $3 million so that they can improve their own location-based services.


There’s my look back at the five things I thought would shape the Web industry this year. I’ll be back in a later article to have a look at what I think will affect our industry in 2012.

What things will shape the Web in 2012? Share your own predictions in the comments!

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