This month Preface Studios celebrated its 10th birthday – Yay! Get the bubbly out! This moment in our tiny (but awesome) history made us think back to the things that have helped shape our business and industry since we started way back in 2006.
From our beginnings as a design agency, maintaining the highest level of creativity no matter the client or budget has been at the core of our company. Initially this focused on services like branding, print design and web design. Recently we’ve taken the decision to steer the ship in a different, yet exciting, direction. One that allows us to focus on digital technologies that enable businesses to connect to customers in meaningful ways at the moments that matter. This decision was triggered by our experiences’ dealing with brands and connecting closely to those that form major parts of our lives. In the spirit of this new direction, we thought it might be fun to look at all of the digital technologies that have shaped the way we’ve lived and worked over the past 10 years.
Our Key Digital Milestones: 2006 to 2016
2006: Twitter launches
The 140-character social media revolution that is Twitter launched in March 2006. Like many new technologies it took some time to become mainstream. We use Twitter to stay connected to peers and see what new things they were doing. This impacted us personally, as well as our clients, because it was the first time we had power to communicate directly with brands. Today really great social media content that’s inspiring, relevant and engaging is integral to any effective communications plan.
2006: Facebook opens to everyone
On Sept 26 2006, Facebook made its public appearance (previously it was only accessible by University students). With over one billion users, the growth of Facebook has been remarkable, leading companies to increase spend on the platform, pushing out offers as well as communicating launches and events to highly targeted audiences. For us, Facebook is a platform to publish cool imagery and design inspiration, like a visual diary. Today, the global reach and growth of social media is staggering and Facebook continues to dominate.
2007: 1st generation of iPhone launched (first smartphone)
The launch of the iPhone was interesting because for the first time we could hold websites in the palm of our hands on crisp, bright screens using finger-tips to navigate. No more stylus’ required! This was the start of the revolution in mobile computing and commerce – we’re now in a truly smartphone society. We were lucky to grab iPhones early on, which enabled us to explore its features and dream of the possibilities.
2008: 3G on iPhone, first Android Phone released, Virgin launches 50 Mbps
The launch of iPhone 3G was another significant moment, enabling mobile web access, not just in offices or homes. Larger brands started to build mobile versions of their websites. Around this time Virgin broke the broadband speed record by releasing a 50mb connection, ready for consumers to start streaming movies and music. This opened up new entertainment channels away from the TV screens that dominated households. Some rural areas, even today, struggle to reach these levels. Luckily for us our office, at this point, was based in Godalming so we had superfast broadband when it was released.
2010: First iPad launched, death of Flash animation
Apple continued to dominate the development of mobile devices, with the first iPad in 2010. iPads and tablets opened up browsing potential for consumers and businesses, which impacted us in terms of designing for smaller screen sizes. We started to design websites that were tablet compatible, as well as looking great on larger computer screens. This meant considering how navigation, fluidity and width, typography and graphics, buttons and layouts affected the tablet user experience. This became known as responsive design, a phrase first coined in 2010 by Ethan Marcotte in his seminal A List Apart article.
At this point most developers used Flash to create animated and interactive elements within web pages. With the iPhone and iPad becoming such an important channel to reach audiences, and with no Flash support enabled, developers soon dropped Flash altogether. This created a short period, where more static looking websites were developed to ensure they appeared consistent across desktop, mobile and tablet devices. However, with the rise of CSS transitions – a way of mimicking some of Flash’s effects with CSS – and increased browser support, we could start to have some fun again.
2011: Start using Dropbox for file sharing and Google Docs
Dropbox is an incredible online file storage tool that we recommend all small businesses use. It helped us to collaborate closely and sync and backup work across our machines/devices. This opened up possibilities of working remotely, without the worry of forgetting a file on the office server. Google Docs, another essential tool, allowed us to group edit documents, helping everyone to stay on the same page and playing a significant role in avoiding miscommunication (this blog was created on Google Docs!)
2013: WordPress becomes most popular global CMS, responsive interface introduced
Between 2010 and 2013, WordPress – our CMS of choice – experienced huge changes. It was taken over by Automatic, and by 2013 was already the most popular CMS worldwide. The same year WordPress 3.8 was released, which introduced MP6, the new WordPress admin interface. This new interface was responsive and aimed to provide a better user experience on any device or screen size.
2013: Constant Google algorithm changes and updates
We strive to keep ahead of technological developments and the constant changes Google makes to its algorithms certainly keep us on our toes. We design sites to ensure maximum SEO and Google is truly driving this. We became increasingly aware of creating quality content for clients’ websites to improve domain authority. Web pages needed to be information-rich and answer the most pressing questions to improve conversion rates. It meant being clever about what potential customers might search for and adapting text for visitors searching with an intent to buy. Keyword stuffing is most definitely out, to be replaced with relevant and sharable content that focuses on a smooth user experience.
2014: HTML5 and CSS3, Google Apps launches
The death of Flash taught us to stay nimble, willing and ready to adapt to new technologies. Adopting this mentality meant we began to build websites in new ‘flash-style’ formats of HTML5 and CSS animations from very early on and we’d been trying this out since 2010.
2015: Apple Watch (wearable technology) launched
We’ve always been huge fans of Apple and we were really excited when Apple Watch launched in 2015. The release of iPhone was huge for us and it made browsing on a phone a pleasure rather than a frustrating mess. In the same way, the Apple Watch means big changes in the way we think about digital – we’re always aware of ever-shrinking screen sizes and serving up specific content for different devices and audiences.
2015: Google announces “Mobilegeddon”
In a rare step, Google announced in April 2015 that it would implement significant changes to its algorithm that made mobile-friendly sites rank higher than non mobile-friendly sites. We’d already anticipated this change much earlier and had been building mobile-friendly websites from 2013 onwards, in line with the changes at WordPress CMS.
2015: InVisionApp, Sketch App and Slack used
InVision web app changed the way web projects were developed, allowing us to share, collaborate, prototype and gather feedback on projects more easily and quickly with clients, designers and developers.
Another app, Sketch, (referred to as the Adobe Photoshop killer) helped us further streamline design processes by avoiding the age-old method of designing web pages in Photoshop/Illustrator and Indesign before slicing each element for our development team. It’s proved to be a big time-saver.
Slack is a messaging app for business: using ‘channels’ for each project, any discussions are recorded and we can also invite external suppliers or clients to join a conversation.
2016: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Rest API for WP
Today we’re on the cusp of perhaps the biggest change for digital design – Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. VR has the potential to change how we interact and experience everything from games, film, the web, to medicine, engineering, education and entertainment. With the new craze for Pokemon Go, we can really see how the first wave of AR gaming has already taken hold. Artificial Intelligence will make huge, unfathomable advancements in the coming years. We’re following how this will take shape with great interest; recently a music video was created using AI, while The Grid is promising websites designed entirely by AI.
We’ve already blogged about REST API for WordPress, which is another exciting development we’re tracking closely.
The future – Internet of Things and even faster internet
The Internet of Things is bringing us closer to a time where everything can be done over the internet and where ‘things’ (appliances and devices) know information before we do. We’ve already been involved in the launch of a new innovative technology that provides power for Low Energy Internet of Things devices.
In the future, faster internet speeds will mean that we’ll be designing increasingly interactive, video-driven websites. The cloud will be at the heart of website design, since we’ll have more powerful devices in our hands, whilst all the heavy number-crunching processing will be done in the cloud.
For a business like Preface Studios, the digital world is truly exciting. The technology we work with is constantly evolving and there’s certainly no sign of this slowing. The digital world will become faster, devices will become smaller and we’ll all be more connected to each other, as consumers and business owners. We’re all certainly ready to continue to embrace change over the next ten years!
If you would like advice on how to improve your business’ digital presense, please give the Preface Studios team a call on +44 (0) 1252 820 022 or fill in our online project enquiry form below.