January-February roundup: news and trends in IT development and digital marketing
Published on January 31, 2021 Last modified on July 09, 2021
This year, we’re introducing a new monthly round-up series where we gather relevant information and resources on latest trends in software development, design, ecommerce, and marketing in one place.
2020 has no doubt been a rough year for many businesses—plans had to be tweaked, strategies had to be recalibrated, and compromises had to be made, all while dealing with a worldwide pandemic. As most transactions started moving into the digital space, we’ve learned that an online presence is now more essential than ever for businesses to continue reaching customers and prospects.
But in 2021, an online presence no longer simply means being ‘present’ online. The playing field is getting crowded, and it now takes more than a website and some social media pages to ensure visibility to your target audience. Here are some of the new strategies and trends that you need to know to guide you through this year:
Core Web Vitals
You’ve probably heard of this term before—“Core Web Vitals” has been sort of a buzzword late last year when Google first introduced it. In a nutshell, it refers to a set of metrics that Google deems important in the browsing experience:
Largest contentful paint - a metric used to indicate perceived loading speed; it marks the time when the page’s main content has loaded and is visible to users, at which point the user can determine whether the content is relevant to their interests or not. (Needless to say—the faster the page loads, the better.)
First input delay - a metric that measures the time from when a user interacts with your site—for example, clicking on a button—to the time when the browser responds to this action. This is an important factor in the user experience as delayed responses may cause frustration for the user and lead them to abandoning the site and looking for alternative web pages.
Cumulative layout shift - a metric that measures the layout shifts in a page throughout its loading time. Different elements on a page may be loaded at different times (based on their importance, for example). Sometimes, it happens that when a new element is loaded, the whole layout rearranges itself—this introduces a friction in the user experience, especially if the user is already starting to interact with the page, i.e., they are about to click on one thing but ended up clicking on another because of the sudden and unexpected change in layout.
Google announced that these metrics will become ranking signals starting May 2021, so as early as now, it’s important to start evaluating your site in terms of these core factors. To start, you can take a look at your Search Console dashboard—on the left navigation, you’ll see a menu for Core Web Vitals, where you can see URLs on your page with poor scores on these metrics.
(If you don’t have a Search Console setup yet, we encourage you to implement it now as it’s a big help in your website optimization. Read our guide about the tool or contact us if you need help setting it up for your website.)
Real-time collaboration on draft wireframes
Our design team at 1902 Software has started to use Balsamiq, an online wireframing tool specifically intended for real-time collaboration. With this tool, our creative director, project managers, designers and developers, can collaborate with clients in real-time in drafting wireframes, identifying key elements, and deciding on a layout during the brainstorming and requirements gathering phase of the design and development process.
This greatly helps in visualizing the end product before the actual design phase, and helps in working out kinks as early in the project as possible.
Google’s Privacy Sandbox and FLoC—solutions to cookie-less advertising?
Last January 25, 2021, Google announced its progress on Privacy Sandbox, an initiative that was first launched in 2019, aiming to move away from “pervasive cross-site tracking” through third-party cookies, and instead proposing alternatives like aggregate interest-based advertising.
In the latest press release, Google has expressed confidence in the tests they have done so far with FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), a solution intended to deliver relevant ads “by clustering large groups of people with similar interests”. This is in contrast to cookie-based advertising, where personal information is collected across different websites to put together a directory that integrates different data and determined interests to “follow” the user with relevant display ads across the web. With FLoC, individual users are anonymized and are instead grouped by interests, and data stays on the device and is not shared across different websites.
According to Google, recent results indicate that FLoC can provide an “effective replacement signal for third-party cookies”. The technology will be available for public testing through origin trials in March, and Google expects to start testing FLoC-based cohorts with Google Ads advertisers in the second quarter of this year.
New conversion measurement API from Google
The steady decline of the third-party cookie has not only affected retargeting, but also proper attribution and ads performance measurement. Without cookies, data cannot be effectively shared from one site to another, losing track of the user’s journey and making it hard to properly measure where on-site or in-app conversions are actually coming from.
Google Analytics 4 and Consent Mode are some of the new features from Google that help with this, but recently, Google has also released the Event Conversion Measurement API, designed for adtech platforms, as well as advertisers and publishers that rely on custom code for conversion measurement.
This API helps in measuring click-through conversions while maintaining user privacy by aggregating information, limiting the amount and types of data that gets sent from the user’s device, adding noise to the reported data, and introducing a reporting window where conversions aren’t immediately reported to prevent gathering more information than necessary from users.
If you’re using an advertising platform, like us at 1902 Software, to keep track of conversions (e.g., Google Ads), then you don’t need to use this API directly. However, as this is something that adtech platforms may adapt in the near future, it may be of interest to understand how this API works and how it can change the way we measure conversions online.
Last year, Facebook rolled out Facebook Shops—an ecommerce solution right inside Facebook and Instagram, designed for merchants who want to sell directly in these social media platforms, or supplement their existing webshop strategy.
Although shopping on Facebook has been a thing for quite some time now, this newly launched tool introduces enhanced features that almost rivals basic ecommerce setups with capabilities for inventory management, payment processing, and more, plus with the added power of social media.
A Facebook Shop is free and fairly easy to set up—there’s an option for self-service, as well as integration with various ecommerce platforms. If you plan to process payment directly in-app, then a minimal fee will have to be paid. Otherwise, the feature is free for merchants to use.
Even if you already have a thriving ecommerce site, it probably wouldn’t hurt to set this up—you get to take advantage of the wide range of audiences who use Facebook and Instagram daily, you can make your social media posts shoppable (with direct product links embedded in the photos), and it’s yet another channel for you to establish brand identity and increase your reach.
Do you need help with your website or webshop? Our team at 1902 Software not only provides design and development, we also help a lot with identifying areas for improvement in the user experience, and providing ideas for conversion optimization. Contact us today for a no-commitment consultation.