The last year has seen lot of fundamental changes in the market perception of what was required and where money should be spent in digital; partly driven by a continuing slashing of public sector budgets and charity funding, but also by the maturing of emerging concepts such as mobile and user engagement, it seems that 2011 was very much an eye-opener to clients and agencies alike.

Mobile is one of the key areas for growth in 2012 – the market has spent a lot of time talking about how it needs to get on board with mobile but it’s only recently that people are starting to understand it. Mobile isn’t just having an iPhone App, it’s about speaking with your users in a medium where their expectations and ability to interact with you are fundamentally different from the desktop. With some metrics measuring mobile accounting for 40% of traffic, and with 1% of all US web-traffic originating from an iPad in 2011, mobile is massively important and can no longer afford to be a nicety; we’re going to see a lot of intelligent mobile-centric design and functionality - not just with Apps, but also on the web.

Responsive and Adaptive Design is where this is going to happen – the ability for a website to respond to the circumstances of the visitor by adapting to their screen size, input methods and even geo-specific information requirements. This is more than simply making sure your website scales properly on smartphones or presenting a mobile-version; it’s about creating alternative interfaces for your sites that take into account the differing needs of your users when mobile, from the fact that they will likely be on a slower connection, be facing bandwidth restrictions (and with the average webpage size creeping up to 1mb, this is going to be a big thing in its own right) or simply that they’re navigating with a finger rather than a mouse pointer.

This will all be driven by another key 2012 consideration – User Experience. It’s always been important to make sure you’re providing the best possible on-site experience to your users, but with the possibility of many different faces to your site, where the same user might expect a different experience with each, coupled with the emergence of social media into everyday digital life over the last couple of years, and managing and monitoring your users’ experience is going to be key. On-site experience is just one step in how you are perceived by and how you deliver to your customers, and we’re going to see a massive push into better insight and understanding over the next 12 months.

Insight and data analysis will stop being quite the niche skill-set it has been historically, largely because of this – as it becomes ever more important to understand your users through primary and secondary information, the ability to take a mass of potentially disparate information and turn it into a useful dataset will mean insight is going to feature much more highly than ever before in digital strategies over the next 12 months.

Price – it’s always been a factor, but the last few years have seen it really matter in the commissioning of new digital projects, and 2012 will be no different – ongoing budget and funding cuts, both in the public and NGO sectors and as the private sector continues to tighten its belt means that cost will continue to be a major factor in digital. At the same time, with mobile and social being ever more important, there’s less money available yet more services that need delivering than ever before. Every penny is going to count in 2012, and we’re going to see a massive shift in the focus of projects to ensure that they provide the best return on investment.

Off The Shelf is therefore going to make a resurgence – we’ve spent a happy few years moving SME clients away from the safe-option of commercially supported, licensed solutions, instead offering them highly customised, open-source solutions at a fraction of the cost, but with the increasing need for solutions that will continue to deliver for many years yet due to the inability to re-commission on the traditional 3-5 year lifecycle, the market is going to be looking for solutions that can bring future-proofed, cost-effective and roadmapped / supported solutions. This isn’t necessarily a complete return to large, commercial solutions, merely a change of requirement to something a little less customised and thus more open to future upgrade, support and of course more cost-effective in the first place.

Holistic offerings – ones which come with the ability to expand to encompass all digital requirements beyond simple CMS – are a key example of where this is going to happen. Completely Integrated Solutions, those able to provide CMS and CRM, Social and Mobile and which can easily plug into a client’s existing sales and business systems, are going to play a massive part in both large and small projects in 2012; something that just works is going to appeal massively to the market, especially as the need for more user understanding and management is becoming vital rather than desirable.

Technology in general is going to take a backseat but also see massive development – What sounds like a contradiction of terms actually means that that technology isn’t going to be any less important, indeed intelligent and well-constructed technical solutions are going to drive all of the above; it’s merely to say that people are going to stop caring about how things are delivered so much as that they are delivered cost-effectively and with the future in mind. We’re going to see a lot more clients considering such options as SaaS and cloud hosting. Technology is going to move on massively to allow such fundamental changes, but it’s largely going to happen in the background.

Finally, Social – it’s not going away in 2012, although it largely matured in 2011; the market is recovering from using social media simply as a buzzword and now has a better understanding of its practical applications. Importantly, clients are beginning to realise that a Facebook page is not necessarily a good thing. 2012 will see the continuing realisation of this, as well as some seriously integrated social campaigns for those who have calmed down about it all. That said, I think 2012 will see a lot of brands move their campaigns, and in some cases even their primary digital presences, off traditional websites and exclusively onto social sites such as tumblr and Facebook. Social Marketing is going to continue to grow strongly, also.

In Summary, 2012 is going to be a defining year for digital – we have to find a way to engage visitors on a variety of devices across many different platforms; We have to recover from the initial hype of mobile and social and implement solutions which will actually provide real benefit to visitors; We have to put solutions in place that will be bang up to date now and continue to be so for years to come; and we have to do this on less money than ever before. It’s an exciting challenge and one which should make the 2012 retrospective an interesting read indeed.

----- Ends -----

For further information, please contact:
Diana Erskine, Marketing Manager, Reading Room Manchester 0161 274 0744 diana.erskine@readingroom.com

About Reading Room:

Reading Room Manchester (www.readingroommanchester.com) is part of the Reading Room global digital consultancy with over 180 staff in offices across the UK, Australia and Singapore.

City based, the close knit team of 23 members provide consultancy, creative and technical production services for web, mobile and social channels including user research, content management and campaign management.

They are an approved digital supplier on both Government Procurement Service and COI government frameworks and highly ranked as part of the UK’s top digital agency (Design Week), Global Top 10 Digital Agency (Interactive Media Awards) and European Seal of e-Excellence Gold Winner.

Unlike many leading agencies, Reading Room Manchester has a very broad range of clients from large charities and organisations such as USDAW and Groundwork UK, to a large number of smaller but equally valued Museums and Arts organisations such as the People’s History Museum and the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

They specialise in the Government, Health, Cultural and Public sectors and have worked with organisations such as the Department of Health and the Central Office of Information.

About Garry Byrne:

Garry Byrne is known both for his role as the Managing Director of Reading Room Manchester and for his high industry involvement in Manchester. Outspoken in his views about saving the world ‘one website at a time’ as well as having deep seated passion for digital - he is proud of his inability to be ‘offline’ for longer than a few hours. Garry has an intimate and longstanding relationship with digital that started as a PHP developer in 2001, has seen him achieve international acclaim for own projects such as JustInCaseIDie.com, which featured on The Scott Mills Radio One Show and has equipped him to successfully deliver numerous project and propel him to the helm of Reading Room Manchester.

Garry’s career, spanning over 10 years, offers a strong background and understanding in technical development and project management, all based in an agency environment. He has both developed and managed a vast amount of online solutions for SMEs, multi nationals and the public sector, and has extensive experience across the whole spectrum of online media.
As a Director who developed his career by rising through the ranks, self-educating and plenty of hard work Garry is a digital entrepreneur as well as a Mancunian at heart. His time with Reading Room has seen him successfully manage large scale enterprise projects as well as working with international clients before managing his own Strategy team within the company and eventually heading up the Manchester office in July 2010. He is a regular public speaker at places such as Manchester Metropolitan University on all manner of subjects as well as taking opportunities to support local projects and being regularly published in trade magazines.

Published on: 11:11AM on 5th January 2012