The next time you walk down the street, take a look around. Yes you'll need to lift your eyes from your smartphone to do it. Once you look up, what you'll likely see is everyone else's heads down, focused on their own devices. That's pretty much the case everywhere: in stores, at sporting events, and in restaurants. What you are witnessing - and likely participating in - is the Digital Experience, something that's growing stronger every day. According to Forrester Research, in 2010 90 million people in the US owned smartphones and 5 million had tablets. That grew to 140 million smartphone and 60 million tablet users last year. By 2016, it's expected that 205 million people will have smartphones and 110 million will be using tablets.
In its recently released study on this digital device explosion, Forrester discussed the effects of this phenomenon. Here's a look at five emerging trends.
1. From Responsive Design to Adaptive Design - By now you're likely aware of the shift toward Responsive Design in web site development. Organizations like the Boston Globe have designed their sites so they function appropriately regardless of whether opened on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone. As digital devices have become more pervasive, we're now moving from Responsive Design to Adaptive Design. Not only will sites display correctly, but the device will dictate what content you'll receive. For example, if you go to the New Zealand Kiwi Bank site on a smartphone today, you'll see a specific mobile friendly login, branch finder and customer service number.
2. Responsive Context - Companies continue to mine Big Data to find out more about you. This will allow them to match your specific information from prior purchase and service history for example, to current situational data - where you are and what time of day it is - and present you with appropriate offers. For example, if you go to the ZipCar site, it will recognize your location and guide you to the nearest available rental. It will then book the transaction and unlock the door for you.
3. Device Synchronization - As the use of the cloud increases, there's continued development to connect devices to products and services and to each other. Amazon with its Kindle and Evernote are already well down this path and the trend is likely to accelerate for all providers. AKQA built a social game for Heineken to engage fans at soccer games. The game connects fans at the stadium, pinpoints where they are and also provides commentary in synch with their play by play broadcasts.
4. Adaptive Interfaces - This year the number of people who access the internet on mobile devices is expected to surpass those that go online on desktops. Developers are reacting to that by creating interfaces more easily used on smaller, mobile devices. Layouts are cleaner and less cluttered. Action buttons are bigger and easier to click whether by touch or with a mouse.
5. Information Visualization - Information that is being presented from sites like Mint or Hipmunk is expected to take the next giant leap. They are moving from tools that track behavior - financial spending trends, health care tracking, and mobile phone usage - to interfaces that help users act on that data. In addition to presenting basic information, sites will explain what it means, its consequences and how you can use it to make improvements going forward.
Ultimately, according to Forrester, we're headed quickly to a time when our mobile phones become the remote control of our lives. Now if they could only come up with a DVR where we can relive the good parts and delete the bad ones....
What trends are you experiencing in your digital world? Where do you think we're headed?