The Changing Web: May 2019

Ollie's Photo by Ollie Jackson


The Changing Web is a series of articles noting discoveries or announcements from across the web.

We consider what the changes could mean; how will they affect how we interact online? What influence might they have on design trends? What opportunities do they present? And how can you prepare for them to stay ahead of the curve?

We keep our ear to the ground so we can call out the fads, report on the good stuff and celebrate the awesome.

In the same month that Apple unveiled a monitor stand at a cost of $1000 and Theresa May called time on her (eventful!) premiership, we look back at some of the news from across the tech world in the last 30 days, including:

  • Google is changing how search results are displayed
  • 5G has arrived in the UK
  • Apple launches ‘Sign in with Apple’ at WWDC

Google is changing how search results are displayed

In late May, Google announced changes to the design of search results. Google says the changes are intended to put your branding “front and center” whilst also helping users to know where the information is coming from.

The changes aren’t major. But there are part of Google’s continued efforts to improve the usefulness of individual search results.

The key change is the use of a website’s icon inside each search result.

Google determines which icon to use based on an existing favicon - so if your website doesn’t have one yet, or it’s outdated, now is the time to fix it! It’s going to be visible to plenty more eyes!

Google has set out recommendations for a favicon here.

Changing Web Favicon
How the updated search results will appear on mobile

5G has arrived in the UK

The rollout of 5G has been in the news a lot lately - not least because the UK National Security Council concluded that the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei could help to build some part of the UK’s 5G network. The decision is subject to approval by the government (best leave this one to your successor, Theresa!) but it has sparked concern from across the pond - namely over security fears. Google has also announced it is blocking Huawei from using Android apps on its devices.

So aside from Huawei’s potential involvement, what does rollout of 5G mean for your business and how might it shift user expectations? Let’s have a think.

5G is fast. Stupidly fast. It is estimated that 5G could be upwards of 100 times faster than the existing 4G infrastructure.

The speed, flexibility, capacity and reliability of 5G will see it play a crucial role in transforming homes, transport networks and cities into truly smart, connected hubs.

5G will also have much lower latency - the delay or lag that you might currently experience on your device will all but disappear. In real terms, this means downloading an entire HD movie can be done in a matter of seconds.

The speed, flexibility, capacity and reliability of 5G will see it play a crucial role in transforming homes, transport networks and cities into truly smart, connected hubs.

A study of 3500 people, including business leaders, tech innovators and enthusiasts was conducted by PBS Research which highlighted that:

  • 91% of respondents expect 5G will enable new products, services, and use cases that have not been invented yet
  • 89% of respondents expect 5G to increase productivity
  • 87% of respondents expect 5G to allow for new industries to emerge
  • 85% of respondents expect 5G to make companies more globally competitive
  • 82% of respondents expect 5G to enable the development and growth of small businesses

5G is expected to have a significant impact on the availability, adoption and performance of:

  • Internet of Things (this is the concept of connecting devices over the internet and letting them talk to one another - and us!)
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Virtual reality experiences
  • Improved emergency response
  • Smarter cities
  • Smarter homes
  • Next-generation wearables
  • 3D printing
  • AI
  • Virtual media care

Recruit from anywhere, work from anywhere, stay productive

Perhaps one of the most welcomed impacts of 5G will be the ability for businesses to recruit globally and list remote working as a ‘company perk’.

Having access to faster, more reliable internet speeds will make network-related tasks such as file-sharing, video-conferencing and cloud computing easier and more efficient. We’ve all been in meetings that begin with, “Can you hear me?” and, “Wait, I can’t see you”. Unreliable networks and variable data transfer speeds often hinder how effectively and efficiently we communicate.

The reach and reliability of 5G will make remote working far more accessible by removing any technical hurdles caused by flakey or slow internet connectivity.

Remote working has grown incredibly quickly in recent years and improved network access has contributed significantly to its adoption. It’s one thing to want to offer the option of working remotely to employees, but it’s another to be able to deliver it.

The reach and reliability of 5G will make remote working far more accessible by removing any technical hurdles caused by flakey or slow internet connectivity.

And with the option to work remotely, businesses have access to a much, much wider pool of talent. Gone are the days of scouring for possible team members within a 20 mile radius of your office. You can hire the best person for the job, irrespective of where they call home. Supported by a fast, reliable network connection they can work as productively from their study as they could from a desk in the office.

No hiding place for a slow website

We’re an impatient bunch. We want a website to be fast and we’re not about to hang around if it isn’t. In fact, according to Google, 53% of visitors leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load on their mobile.

The arrival of 5G will only serve to raise the expectations that a user has when browsing the web - particularly on mobile.

Get that code minified. Leverage browser caching. Optimise your images and video. Improve your server response time. Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great starting point when thinking about how to improve the performance of your website.

Look upon 5G as an opportunity to ensure that your website is as performant as possible so it can keep up with user expectations.

Apple launches ‘Sign in with Apple’ at WWDC

Okay, okay, so this is technically a June-development, but we’re going to sneak this announcement here.

At their annual Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple made a string of notable announcements including the upcoming new releases of iOS 13, macOS Catalina, watchOS 6 and tvOS 13. Oh, and iPad is getting its own OS. Oh, and they’re killing-off iTunes. Oh, and Siri is getting a new, more natural voice. Oh, and how can we forget the eye-wateringly expensive monitor stand that we mentioned earlier?! Even by Apple’s high-pricing standards, the cost of the new stand - designed to accompany the new Mac Pro - drew audible gasps from the audience. You know it’s pricey when you break WWDC-goers!

As part of the release of iOS13, Apple also announced their new “Sign in with Apple” platform. And that’s what we’re going to focus on, not least because the initial guidelines of the new privacy-focussed platform could have implications for business owners and developers.

“Sign in with Apple” is the company’s answer to single sign-on, the convenient feature that lets you sign into a website or app with existing credentials. At present, these might be courtesy of Facebook (each time you see “Sign in using Facebook”) or Google (in the form of “Sign in with Google”) as both companies have single sign-in solutions that have been widely adopted.

Changing Web Google Facebook Sign In
You'll often find these badges on websites and in apps allowing you to sign in with Facebook or Google

Apple is pitching its offering slightly differently. The emphasis is on privacy and not just convenience. Both Google and Facebook have faced criticism for their use of single single-in as the data is often gathered as part of wider advertising efforts.

Changing Web Sign In
How 'Sign in with Apple' will appear

Whether users would sooner trust Apple remains to be seen. But their announcement does have implications for new and existing apps. Apple is set to force developers to add “Sign in with Apple” to all apps that currently support the feature via Facebook or Google. This means that you’ll have to make time (and find the space) to accommodate Apple’s own solution or drop single sign-in all together. The feature will be released as part of iOS13, which we expect will be available in mid-September.

Summary

So that's a look at three announcements from the month of May, including; Google updating how it displays search results, the arrival of 5G, and Apple's plans to rival Google and Facebook with the release of 'single sign in' functionality.

Apple's decision to enforce their own 'single sign in' offering has taken some by surprise. But for Apple it's about privacy. They believe that offering a sign-in option (that doesn't require you to hand over personal information to ad-driven third parties) is a real benefit to users. If Apple succeeds in communicating its commitment to privacy, we could see a shift away from the popular log-in solutions currently offered by Google and Facebook.

May also marked the launch of 5G, with EE becoming the first network to support the new super-fast cellular technology. Not only will 5G help to support existing businesses by making them more productive, but the technology will present a host of new opportunities across a wide range of sectors from healthcare to manufacturing.

By anticipating the impact 5G will have, you'll be better placed to ensure your business continues to thrive and can make more of the opportunities that it brings.


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