Almost all design and development trend articles focus only on techniques and visual elements. This year, here at Zazzle Media we wanted to look at the wider industry and touch on different topics that don’t always get the same level of attention. In this post, we’ll cover the continued evolution of substance that we predict will happen throughout 2018.
Since its initial release in September 2010, Sketch has been steadily gaining ground in the design and development world due to a number of factors. While Sketch isn’t here to directly replace the Adobe suite, it’s certainly a design tool specifically built from the ground up with a clear focus to tackle the latest UX and UI problems that most digital designers encounter when designing for web or mobile apps.
Another tool worth mentioning is Figma, which brings something new to the table; collaborative design. Launched back in 2015, Figma has now firmly found its feet in the industry to give Sketch a healthy dose of competition.
It’s no secret the overall performance of the Adobe suite has subjectively declined over the last few years. In comparison, Sketch and Figma are lightweight design tools built with performance at heart. Both apps are ideal for a range of projects ranging from websites to mobile apps with a focus on efficient workflows and key considerations for UX and UI.
Sketch also features a huge amount of plugin support with the incredibly useful companion app called Sketchpacks. Managing, finding and installing new plugins has never been easier.
If you haven’t used Sketch or Figma yet, definitely give them a test run. Sketch is available with an annual licence purchase starting from £87.30 ($99). Meanwhile, Figma takes a different approach. While it’s free for individuals and small projects (up to two editors), adding more collaborators comes in at $12/month per editor.
Rest assured, at Zazzle Media we’ve still got a soft spot for Adobe given the nostalgic memories we have with it. After all, we wouldn’t be a very useful design and development team if we couldn’t open a PSD, AI or EPS file sent from one of our clients, would we?
We’re huge fans of InVision at Zazzle Media. After introducing the platform to our workflow around three years ago, it’s safe to say it’s made us more efficient as a team and as a business. InVision has helped us share creative and collate feedback from our clients much easier while also allowing us to create semi-interactive pitch mockups for prospective clients.
But while InVision has been making fans around the world, the company has bigger ambitions. After acquiring eight other organisations since 2016 including Macaw, InVision is now set to launch a new tool in the name of InVision Studio.
Yet to receive an official release date (rumours of Q2 2018), InVision Studio looks to build on an already solid platform by introducing a fully-fledged design app to rival the likes of Adobe, Sketch, and Figma. After witnessing the power of Sketch first-hand within our design team, we’re eagerly awaiting the launch of InVision Studio to see whether the new tool can tie us firmly into the InVision eco-system.
Without dedicating an entire blog post to Sketch, it’s worth discussing what the next milestone in the apps lifecycle may or may not bring. Sketch 48.2 (the current version) was released on December 20th, 2017. Taking a quick look at their handy update page, we can see that Bohemian Coding, the development team behind Sketch, typically release a major version every 45.7 days (on average).
Based on this rough timeline, we can assume Sketch 50 will be released some time toward the end of Q1 or possibly further into Q2 if we’re looking at a substantial release.
Given that Figma and the next release will both include animation support, we’ll take a reasonable punt that Sketch will look to include this as soon as possible to ensure they retain market share.
Designers around the world rejoiced when Adobe included an option to enable a dark UI for Photoshop and Illustrator back in 2012 for the latest CS6 release. There, is in fact, a plugin that introduces a dark theme to your Sketch UI, and while it does only cost $8 and is probably worth it, shouldn’t it come as a standard feature?
While Figma tout collaborative design as a standout feature, it remains to be seen what level of integration InVision Studio will support. An in-app collaboration looks to be the next evolution of workflow efficiency. It would be wise for Bohemian Coding to look at implementing improved collaboration out of the box rather than a plugin-enable feature.
We long for the day where we can replicate shortcuts across applications using an easy import/export feature. This could be a great feature that allows designers to transition between apps seamlessly. Having dedicated countless hours to learning shortcuts within Adobe, it’s frustrating that we can't easily replicate those shortcuts in Sketch. Sketch does allow custom shortcuts, but it’s clunky at best and has to be configured via the keyboard settings within system preferences.
As mentioned earlier in this piece, the performance of Sketch is one of its strongest features. While all of the features above may sound great at first glance, it’s essential that Bohemian Coding continue to focus on performance as a critical element to prevent the app from mutating into another bloated app cough Adobe cough.
Check out these awesome free Sketch plugins
Rather than make the same predictions likely covered by numerous other websites, this year we felt like taking a new approach. Here’s a curated list of some of our favourite posts around 2018 trends to improve your creative.
What is it?
Google AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, is a push from Google to drastically speed up the web for mobile users while also encouraging site owners to always consider their mobile users. AMP pages aim to instantly render on mobile devices through a range of technical developments to offer huge performance gains over poorly built websites. Given that an estimated 96% of those aged 16-34 now own a smartphone in 2018, the AMP project has had a massive impact on mobile users.
The story so far
Since 2014, Google has been on a crusade to improve the overall web experience by introducing the mobile-friendly tag in results pages. Fast forward to 2016, and things really started moving. May saw the release of their mobile friendly testing tool and shortly afterwards, Google announced interstitials would be penalised.
Only a couple of weeks passed before Google officially announced the AMP project on September 12th. A few months later, Google continued their conquest for a better mobile search experience. In November 2016, the Californian company announced their algorithm would start to primarily index mobile-first websites.
As of May 2017, over two billion AMP pages have been served with many heralding it as a huge success. The open-source project has been adopted by some heavy hitters including Bing, eBay, Pinterest, Reddit and Tumblr, among others. Even Weibo and Qzone, the Chinese social platforms with over one billion (with a b) accounts combined, have both joined the party.
Things are looking great, right?
Well, not so fast.
It seems the quest for better performing websites has rustled quite a few jimmies within the digital community. This recently published open letter dated January 9th, 2018, specifically accuses AMP of keeping users locked within the Google domain ecosystem while diverting users and traffic away from other websites. Ultimately, the authors of the open letter feel the search giant is knowingly and intentionally trying to reinforce their dominance across the web.
Search engines are in a powerful position to wield influence to solve this problem. However, Google has chosen to create a premium position at the top of their search results (for articles) and a “lightning” icon (for all types of content). This is only accessible to publishers that use a Google-controlled technology, served by Google from their infrastructure, on a Google URL, and placed within a Google controlled user experience.
Within their letter, the authors recognise and understand that slow web pages are a problem for users. However, they aren’t the only ones who take issue with the method Google has chosen to take to address the matter. Others have also echoed their concerns of ecosystem lock-in while also raising privacy, security and UX concerns.
At this point, given its huge adoption, it’s highly unlikely the AMP project is going anywhere. While AMP itself is not a ranking factor, page speed certainly is. Google confirmed in 2010 that page speed is a ranking signal for desktop websites. However, only recently in January 2018 was it publicly announced that page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile websites.
Aside from some a few concerns within the web community, Google will look to address these issues in 2018. Already, there have been three announcements signalling the intent from Google to continue supporting the AMP project.
Soon, Google will soon show the full URL of the source website by dropping the google.com/amp prefix. In a move to possibly combat Snapchat, Google will soon bring AMP stories to a search result page near you. This will allow big name publishers like CNN, Mashable and Wired to create stories to better showcase written content in an interactive form.
On the very same day of the AMP stories announcement, thenextweb reported Google will soon looking to bring the AMP project to your Gmail inbox. With the stale state of email newsletters in 2018 and the restrictive nature of email newsletters, this exciting move should open up a new content avenue for marketers and publishers. Now that the AMP project has firmly established itself as a shortcut to performance, 2018 looks to see continued innovation from Google; for better or worse.
Maybe you witnessed first-hand the cryptocurrency hysteria toward the end of 2017 or maybe you live in a cave and completely missed it all. If it’s the latter, here are three great TED talks to help you understand a little more about cryptocurrency and what’s so revolutionary about the underlying technology - blockchain.
Only a few years ago, the demand for UX and UI jobs exploded. It’s quite possible that the very same thing is about to happen with the cryptocurrency industry. Blockchain developers and consultants are in high demand at the moment and are being rewarded handsomely for it. As adoption of blockchain continues to proliferate, the demand for technical developers will only increase. At the moment, in early 2018, blockchain developers are attracting salaries between $180,000 to $250,000 but this is likely to fall once more talent is attracted to the industry.
What are the most in-demand programming languages for blockchain developers?
What jobs are most in-demand for the blockchain industry?
While there is no official release date pencilled in for WordPress 5.0, we know the latest version is in the works and will land sometime in 2018. We’re also able to see a raft of potential enhancements and bug fixes listed on the public ticket tracker. However, the biggest change to the world’s most popular CMS looks to come in the form of a new content editing experience. Enter Gutenberg. As part of the WordPress 5.0 release, the Gutenberg plugin will be merged into the core CMS package.
Gutenberg is a WordPress plugin named after Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press over 500 years ago. Gutenberg (the plugin), aims to bring an entirely new editing experience into WordPress by focusing on simplicity, content and rich media. If you’ve ever used Medium or Ghost, you’ll know the entire UI for these platforms has a big focus on one thing - writing content.
To date, the plugin has amassed over 100,000 downloads since its release but a quick glance at the plugin reviews shows a different story - 47% of all reviews are one star. Within these reviews, there are several complaints around the issue that Gutenberg is not backwards-compatible with versions older than WordPress 4.9. While we always recommend keeping WordPress and any required plugins up to date for security purposes, this may not always be an option for site owners who lack technical experience.
While the backwards-compatibility issue may be an issue for many users, this could be a great incentive to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress to unlock the latest functionality and security benefits.
Back in 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would soon become a ranking factor. It’s something that we’ve helped countless clients navigate but it’s also something we wrote about shortly after the announcement.
It’s official. Google has announced that any website without a HTTPS/SSL certificate will be rendered as ‘unsafe’ in Google Chrome. Given that Google Chrome has a market share just shy of 60%, it’s quite a big deal. You may be surprised to learn that Firefox actually implemented the same policy back in early 2017.
If you’re keen to learn more about this issue, we recently wrote a reactive step-by-step guide on how to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS over at Search Engine Watch.
As it stands, only around 50% of all websites are HTTPS encrypted with an SSL certificate. We predict 2018 will be a huge year for HTTPS and predict the 50% figure to drastically increase in the coming months.
Much like our 2017 predictions, this year looks to be another exciting one for those within the design and development industries. As technology progresses to a near-exponential rate, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the latest developments within the digital sphere to keep our clients well informed and bring new ideas to the table.
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