Looking Back on 2017, Looking Ahead to 2018

Last week, we took stock of our top stories. Looking back on our writing gives us a chance to reflect on some of the specific work, ideas, and projects we had throughout the year, which is a fun way to revisit some of our most impactful stories and recall the events surrounding them. But there are larger trends and trajectories worth examining as well, which is why this week we’re going to shift gears a bit.

The past year saw some huge changes in the world of technology. CUI, AI, AR & VR… 2017 may just be the year acronyms took over. But more than becoming a regular part of our lexicon, the technologies behind those acronyms were being experimented with and implemented fast and furious in nearly every industry on earth. From chatbots to self-driving cars to in-home assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, this feels like the year that brought high-tech to the heartland.

Overhead shot of a computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, and cell phone.

And those sweeping advances in tech created massive, ripple-effect impacts on all other aspects of the business we’re in — strategy and design were as influenced by things like personalization and the incorporation of AI as the pure world of tech itself.

As a way to wrap up the year, we spoke with some of our senior team members about what struck them as the biggest trends of 2017 and what we can expect to see more of in 2018. Without further ado, here’s what we saw and what we’re anticipating:

Andrew Semuschak, Associate Director of Design

Looking back
Chatbots ate themselves out of a lot of meaningful implementations through poor design / execution, and became something of a 2017 UX buzzword. Moreover, it seems there’s still very much a place for visual (and voice) design, even in spaces that might have initially not looked to be too hospitable to these disciplines and elements.

Looking Ahead
The unfortunate twist of fate noted above presented the opportunity to look to the horizon to see what technologies we can start experimenting with that might deliver more exciting and valuable interaction in the not too distant future. One of those technologies — and the one I think is poised to make a big splash — is Augmented Reality / Mixed Reality. Do yourself a favour this new year, skip a few shows on Netflix, download Unity, and start daydreaming.

Jason Cottrell, Chief Executive Officer

Looking Back
Our customers got more progressive with personalization, but the most compelling use cases weren’t at individual points of contact (i.e. personalized websites) as I initially thought going into the year, but instead across many customer touch-points (i.e. websites, apps, and call centers). As a result, Customer Experience Management finally began getting coverage from analysts like Forrester and Gartner in a bigger way. Kitewheel, Journey, Thunderhead, and Salesforce are all playing in this space, and it’s been exciting to watch that unfold.

The other big trend I noticed was CUI: specifically, that we are accepting it more, but using it LESS (at least for voice-based assistants like Siri). A lot of brands rolled out CUI pilots, but it still seemed less helpful than traditional screen interfaces. That said, some use cases where a screen wasn’t feasible — such as searching show titles with Alexa on a Kindle Fire TV, or dictating via Siri on an Apple Watch — seemed to get more traction. These cases, along with integration into the messenger services we already use (Slack, Facebook, SMS) seem to fit best into our lives.

Looking Ahead
I expect to see continued use of data by our customers around personalization and customer journey orchestration. In most cases, this will continue to be in pilot form or for narrow use cases.

This year was a big ah-ha moment for us at Myplanet around the role Augmented Reality can play in achieving our vision. Our Hololens concept has been a great way to see how data, real-time feedback and gamification can impact our work. (Interestingly, these types of more assistive and agentive interfaces often benefit from voice / CUI control.) With Apple announcing a big AR play in 2019–2020 and the next generation of Hololens coming, I believe these will be driving forces over the next few years, and I think we will be spending more time here in 2018 working with early adopters to bring AR to their experiences.

Finally, Bitcoin had a big year in 2017, but my long-term excitement is in platforms like Ethereum. In 2018 I think we’ll see more real-world use cases for non-cryptocurrency applications, including big ones from major players in the Ethereum Alliance. More of our projects will incorporate Blockchain into their underlying architecture and product strategy. It’s an exciting time to be in tech.

Hand typing with visible code on screen

Yashar Rassoulli, Chief Technology Officer

Looking Back
From AI to VR and IoT to Blockchain, 2017 promised a lot in terms of technological progress but left little practical benefit for the average human. Big strides were made in each of the domains, but much work and opportunity has been left to be harnessed by those brave enough to pave the path of innovation for others.

Looking Ahead
As I look to 2018, I suspect it may be the year of valuable consumables in the spaces of VR, Blockchain, and IoT. Mixed-reality headsets may finally go mainstream and Blockchain-verified transactions of all kinds may be the new way of ensuring trust. AI will continue to solve interesting problems but will perhaps require the power of quantum computing to truly unlock human-level cognition. IoT devices and protocols will continue to integrate with our home devices and other consumables connecting everyone and everything. Most strikingly, with the explosion of access and data, I think security and privacy will continue to define how we allow for technology and the institutions that control them to govern our lives.

Everett Zufelt, Director of Technology Services

Looking Back
Looking back on 2017, there were four major trends in my work this year:

1) Content Personalization

2017 was a year of great advancements in content personalization. Industry analysts were writing about it, every platform vendor now has an ebook, and many of our customers requested a degree of content or user experience personalization in their projects. The latest release of Acquia Lift helped our customers to accelerate content personalization roadmaps and to support improved behavioural segmentation and conversion toward key online goals.

2) Maturation & Adoption of Drupal 8

In November Drupal 8 had it’s second birthday, and it really has matured into a full-featured Web CMS. In 2017 we recommended Drupal 8 for nearly all of our Web CMS customers, and did so with the confidence that Drupal 8, backed by Acquia, is the only relevant open source CMS for enterprise.

3) Progressively decoupled systems

Decoupled is a term that was thrown around quite a bit, especially this past year. Progressive decoupling is an approach of embedding highly interactive client-side components within a Web CMS. This enhances the overall user experience, while not introducing the architectural overhead of a fully decoupled, or isomorphic solution. In 2017 we found that nearly all of our Web CMS builds had multiple progressively decoupled components. Our designers have loved the freedom to think outside of the constraints that a traditional Web CMS architecture creates.

4) Accessibility growing in prevalence

In North America, and around the world, the prevalence of web content accessibility has continued to grow. In the United States, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has continued to be successfully used through the courts to force businesses to provide web experiences that are accessible to all. As the profile of web accessibility is raised, more and more our customers are requesting accessibility be baked in to their projects from the beginning, or that we provide options to remediate existing accessibility issues in their applications.

Looking Ahead
Looking ahead is always interesting, because we have some idea of the projects in our own pipeline and what the big buzz is in the world at large, but you can never truly predict what will hit and what won’t. That being said, there are a few things I think will be big in 2018:

1) Journey Orchestration

Building on the surge in content personalization experienced in 2017, I see more demand for automated customer journey orchestration coming in 2018. Several of our customers are already requesting strategy support with multi-channel customer engagement through RFPs and in initial project planning discussions. Acquia Journey hit the market a few months ago, and we believe that it will demonstrate itself to be an excellent tool for tying CMS, marketing automation, CRM, social, SMS, and other channels together into an automated and cohesive customer experience.

2) Further Exploration of Multi-channel Media and DAM

Building again on the increase in content personalization and the building demand for journey orchestration, we’ll see organizations who had previously passed on DAM (Digital Asset Management) solutions taking another look. As the use, and reuse, of digital assets across channels grows, the value of housing these in a single, smart repository will reduce overall effort while increasing marketing’s ability to get the right message to the right customer at the right time.

3) API-first Drupal 8

Drupal 8 continues to mature, and one of the most exciting areas for further development is around the API-first and decoupled initiatives. There is a feature and initiatives roadmap that demonstrates the community’s understanding and drive to deliver on future needs for all Web CMS users. These include more support for reusable / flexible layouts, embedded media, and adoption of the latest API First and JavaScript technology to allow powering a variety of experiences from TV to smart assistant to digital signage.

4) Accessibility By Default

As WCAG 2.1 matures and more organizations realize the benefit of baking accessibility into their projects up front, 2018 will be the year of accessibility by default. Software studios who do not have the in-house capability of researching, designing, delivering and testing applications for accessibility will find that they are falling behind. 2018 should prove to be a pivotal time for the advancement of digital accessibility.

Where do you think our industry is headed in 2018? What major trends do you see coming? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to share the post!

Written by

Leigh Bryant

Leigh Bryant

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