David McConaghy Reviews the goings on in the Digital Sphere in 2013 and looks to 2014
A lot has happened over the course of 2013 for the digital industry; it continues to mature and develop, some parts of it faster than others, aspects of it recede, and new parts grow in their replacement. Digital is continuing to become a larger piece of everyone’s lives, whether at home watching TV, on the tube reading a tablet, listening to radio through a smart phone, or sat at your desk on a laptop. Digital is everywhere and there are so many opportunities to be had; new apps, easier ways to shop, new spaces/platforms to advertise on, and new ways of analysing this volume of data.
Companies are having to smarten up, they are no longer having to react and keep up-to-date, they are having to think ahead; being incredibly innovative and tech savvy to be on top of this new wave of digital.
Even over the past 12 months a lot has changed; responsive websites and mobile sites are now a standard requirement. This time last year far more had apps that in fact were quite pointless; if you were using a desktop/laptop, you wouldn’t open up a program to do ‘that’ task, you would just go to their site. It is important to improve the user’s experience to make it easier to use a service when accessing a site through a mobile/tablet device, turning a responsive site or mobile specific site into more of a digital product, rather than just a website for information.
Mcommerce is a growing importance to a lot of companies. People are becoming more trusting when purchasing off their mobile devices, it is after all easy, and something you can do on the go. An interesting, quick read from Econsultancy states that now 23% of online sales is actually from mobile/tablet devices, a figure that has actually doubled since this time last year.
As well as purchasing; sales and advertising are changing, Traditional Ad Agencies are hiring Digital people and turning their whole approach; an approach that has worked so well since the Mad Men in the 60s. Where digital was something that was seen as a bolt-on to a big TV/Print campaign, digital is now becoming the core of the campaign, the big idea is spreading across the cyber space in the hands of everyone, and what makes it great is that is all tangible. We now have the data to see how successful a campaign is, or its immediate outcome anyway, click through’s, shares, likes, etc... all create a pretty interesting picture. Agencies are finding their clients are wanting this and while in the past they may have outsourced it to digital specialist agencies a lot are bringing it inhouse, building teams, hiring big names in digital and all-round heavily investing in these teams.
Agencies, Consultancies and Companies
Something I have been very aware of over the course of the year is that more designers in agencies seem to be open to the idea of moving to an in-house role, more on the design/build front than the advertising/marketing front, but there are a lot.
Companies are building good internal teams and are hiring good, well regarded digital design, creative and UX individuals. Also because digital has taken off so much, there are a lot more design based roles that could be clientside, for example before they may have had a small team of two or three that designed the landing pages, emails, flash banners, etc... though now companies are pushing their digital offering and understand how important it is to get it right so the team size can be larger – a few UX Designers, a UI/Visual Designer (or two) for their mobile/tablet applicant or site, Digital Designers who can work on the marketing/advertising, and possibly a Creative Technologist. Because they are riding the wave, keeping on top of emerging technology, and have specialists within the team, by the time they have finished designing and building their main website, a web app, a mobile/tablet app, or whatever it might be it is almost time to start designing the next edition of it.
One large banking client I have been working with were using 16 external agencies for their digital offering, and still had a few designers in the London office. They have put together a three year plan to cut that down to less than five, and with a name like theirs, and the perm salaries they can afford to pay their internal team they can hire some of the top digital talent in the industry, and have done so already. They are building an internal agency, decorated as though you were in one of the top digital agencies, creating a similar culture, just as many projects and variety, and paying their staff more than they would achieve if in an agency, plus great benefits.
London is home to 100s of techy start-ups, a new breed of entrepreneur is brewing, people on a whole feel a little bit safer about moving to them. A few years ago I was working with a couple of start-ups and it was a really hard sell, people were still being very cautious post recession, now I regularly have the top creatives/designers specifically asking me to keep them informed of opportunities within young companies and start-ups. A lot/most offer equity, a great opportunity for a new member of a company to immediately jump into it, give everything they can and put their all into making it work.
A nice middle ground between working in-house and in an agency is at interactive/digital consultancies; they have the opportunity to work on multiple clients/projects similar to an agency but normally working directly with the senior members of their clients; the likes of CEOs and other Board Members cutting out any miss communication from accounts teams. Also in my experience they remunerate their staff well and incentivise them, along with good company benefits. It does however require a particular kind of creative/design person, they need to be able to really hold themselves, be very knowledgeable about the market and be able to communicate this in quite a formal manner to their clients. They need to be comfortable to hold workshops, and lead/manage these senior people; people that are not normally used to being directed, can be fairly digitally ignorant and at times can be difficult.
Over the course of the next 12 months, I see far more companies designing, building and releasing responsive and mobile sites. A lot will continue their apps, but focus their attention on releasing a better user experience on their main site across devices. Interface design as a whole will continue to grow, they are an integral part of most people’s life now and I only see that growing – for example within house appliances, specifically kitchen, where I see the devices syncing with your mobile/tablet to remind you to (for example) stock up certain elements of the fridge, or to turn your oven on your way home to its preheated at the right temp for your entry.
With this in mind I see ‘Digital Experience’ Agencies/Consultancies growing their Visual/UI and Interaction/UX Design teams over the course of the year, possibly branching out into more physical product design with embedded interfaces. Design is a huge market but with technology going the way it is, it is bringing all the disciplines closer together.
On the subject of Consultancies; I see their approach as an interesting and slightly more mature one, and one that I think clients really appreciate. Clients are looking for expert help now, especially as so many have their own digital and design teams in-house, they need to know where they are going wrong, how they could structure their team better, what technologies are going to better their digital offering, and how these can make them larger revenues. Because of this I see Digital/Interactive Consultancies growing their market share tremendously, and a lot of Digital Agencies taking on this approach.
A lot of the larger advertising agencies I see growing/strengthening their Digital teams with senior hires, people from Digital native backgrounds, along with a lot of junior/mid-weight designers that can be sculpted by the senior digital creatives, designers, strategists and technologists.
As digital continues to grow, and become a larger part of organisations and consumers we expect to see the need for digital designers and creatives rise across agencies, consultancies and organisations. For those of you who aren’t aware the Design/Creative market at Xcede was split due to the large amount of requirements we have been working on.
If you have any thoughts/opinions on the market, or what I have written, please get in touch to share your thoughts… It is obviously all open to discussion.