Trends to Watch in 2017: Digital Experience Design, Delivery & Management

Pete Brown, Director Product Marketing, Cloud Computing talks about the trends in digital experience for 2017.

At Acquia, we’re continuously impressed by our customers and the digital experiences they’re creating on our Acquia platform. For instance, customers such as SABMiller, Warner Music Group, ADMA, and govCMS have all reinvented their digital experiences, making them more relevant to audiences, cost-effective, faster to develop, easier to maintain, and more secure and controlled.

Here are just a few of the digital trends we’ve spotted, inspired by our customers’ successes and their continued focus on creating exceptional digital experiences across their organizations.

Responsive Design for Digital Interactions

Digital interactions with customers are not device independent. In fact, in February 2015 the importance of delivering digital experiences across platforms took center stage as Google announced that they would rank search results by mobile friendliness in their blog.

Two years later and responsive design is practically a required capability when talking mobile versus web. The next generation of digital experiences will likely go beyond mobile and web, incorporating additional channels like wearables, voice assistants, and other IoT devices. If you’re using Drupal 8, you’re in luck because it puts responsive design first.

2017 digital trends to watch


Micro-interactions will become the primary digital interactions. Digital experience performance will be measured by users’ ability to quickly find the relevant content, perform a desired action and move on.

Those that execute micro-interactions well will focus on providing a user experience that sets context and provides clear next steps. In an era where screens sizes vary and appear on a multiple devices, successful designs built for micro-interactions will enable users to easily follow their journey – regardless of how they interact.

Continuous Delivery

For digital experiences, DevOps will continue to mature. In order to meet objectives, digital experience app teams must accelerate their time to market with continuous delivery tools. Delivery tools need to drive efficiency with the ability to spin up or take down environments quickly, minimizing site downtime for patches and bug fixes. This means that developers will work increasingly in environments where code is built more frequently and simultaneously. The result is that consistency becomes a challenge when multiple areas of code are being updated at once.

Without tools to keep projects in sequence, it becomes difficult to integrate new code into existing environments without risking the introduction of bugs and downtime. Traditional workflows will have to change to provide easy differentiation between the production version of applications and those in development to manage changes in the correct sequence of versions.

Digital Experience Personalization

Optimizing web experiences for overall customer experience isn’t new, but it’s still important. Giving your visitors a personalized experience based on their profile data and interests will only improve their web experience. Personalization technologies have become a key component of the marketer's technology stack as they help deliver contextual experiences to better engage audiences and increase conversions.

For instance, personalization solutions such as Acquia Lift can merge customer data across various websites, sessions and devices allowing organizations to deliver better, more cohesive experiences to their customers. Dx designers need to balance the level of personalization with visitor expectations. Although the benefits of delivering the right content to the right person at the right time are well documented, designers will have to strike a balance in how targeted models are for known, anonymous, and forgotten visitors. Continuous optimization of the personalized experience will be a requirement as we find the balance between individualized and creepy.

Omnichannel Integration

Companies want to create unified visitor profiles based on data from multiple tools and sources to deliver the right content to the right people. As part of their personalization strategy, integrating data from web, mobile, email, and more will allow marketers and business leaders to deliver a personalized, cross-channel, cross-device experience for their customers. Predictive modeling or even artificial intelligence will help tailor content across channels.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The internet of things (IoT) is both exciting and scary because we’ve demanded it come to market quickly. The rapid pace with which we connected our watches, homes and even our cars to the internet has brought about a number of stories of devices getting hacked. These stories present a harbinger of a challenging period for the next few years as early, unsecured devices are replaced with updated, secure models. In my opinion, this period will bring about the zombie apocalypse of the web. This won’t be “The Walking Dead,” but the growth in unsecured, connected devices opens up the risk of increasing distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS). Leaders must have risk mitigation strategies and technologies in place to thwart the zombie horde and keep their web experiences and applications available to customers without risk.

Management and Governance

Website governance will take center stage for large global organizations, especially those that are managing multiple sites across multiple brands, products, campaigns and regions. Digital marketing initiatives will be managed with the support of the digital platform team that bears responsibility for delivering the required scale.

Those organizations that adopt a digital platform model will gain governance over their digital experiences as they continue to scale. Digital platform teams will seek to consolidate CMS instances to simplify management in order speed delivery and streamline management.

The platform approach will enable digital marketing teams to be able to spin up new sites quickly, while IT ensures that all digital initiatives are secure and compliant. All of this innovation will be driven by a new class of tools that enable companies to centralize the management and governance across all of their digital experiences. These tools will enable this change without delivering homogenous applications, but allow for unique aspects across the digital experiences for many products, brands, and/or regions.

As companies scale, a multisite management tool will quickly become a requirement to deliver and govern multiple sites. Teams will seek ways to standardize on design templates, code, development modules/features and content systems to ensure that each experience is as consistent as it is personal.

Regulatory Compliance

Finally, the obligatory discussion about regulation. Data privacy and “the right to be forgotten” took center stage in 2016. It was a busy year. A huge case that brought privacy to the forefront of discussion was when Microsoft won in the Second Court of Appeals versus the United States regarding a subpoena for customer emails stored in Ireland. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) began implementation.

Safe Harbor fell giving rise to the Privacy Shield. All of this means a lot of digital change, and in some cases, a little more clarity. At Acquia we are prepared to support digital experience evolution in a more regulated world. Acquia’s global network of data centers and certifications are prepared for these new regulations, and we will continue to watch for future developments.

Other regions of the world may soon follow the lead of the EU and enact their own data privacy regulations. As organizations plan for future digital experiences, understanding how personal data is being collected, how it is used and where it is stored will be a focus point.

Beyond these trends, there are many aspects to consider when it comes to designing, delivering and managing your digital experiences. Hopefully this list comes in handy. It is important to choose a partner who has the expertise to bring your vision to life, and is positioned to navigate your vision in an increasingly complex and ever-changing digital world.

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