In January many of us think about what the new year might bring and some of the trends that will impact our activities and influence our plans. 2020 was a very challenging year and its shadow will inevitably impact what happens in 2021, although we hope eventually better times are on their way.
Here at Sitemorse we’ve been looking into our crystal ball and thinking about some of the wider trends that we expect to see in 2021. Of course, many trends around digital customer experience, website management and accessibility don’t really change that much from year to year, but there are certain aspects of where we can expect movement in the coming months.
Here’s our view of seven website trends we expect to see in 2021.
In organisations levels of awareness about digital accessibility have always been variable, but our sense is levels of awareness have grown in recent years, thanks to events such as Global Accessibility Awareness Day and increasing legislation relating to accessibility. For example, Google Trends reveals a steady overall increase of the use of the word ‘accessibility’ as a search term over the past five years.
In 2021 we expect that awareness to continue to increase for several different reasons, including the focus on ensuring that everybody has access to critical information during the pandemic, the continuing threat of legal action and new WCAG 2.2 guidelines coming into play.
If there are any positive outcomes from the pandemic, one is that there is currently a more empathetic and human-centred worldview from organisations who have committed to supporting customers and employees through the events of 2020. We can expect that to continue in 2021.
This shift to a more human-centred organisational culture also builds on trends that were already happening in parallel such as increasing support for diversity and inclusion (D&I). Improving accessibility both helps D&I and shows a more empathetic organisation; we believe some organisations will better embrace accessibility and subsequently make real-world improvements.
Our fingers are firmly crossed that the latter half of the year may see the virus more under control and allow some “normality” to return. However, even if the need to socially distance is reduced, the economic impact of the pandemic is likely to be felt for some time yet. We can expect budgets to remain constrained with smaller, incremental improvements the order of the day rather than lavish digital projects with large budgets. This has the potential to substantially influence how teams work and the kind of projects they will be involved in; there may also be pressure on headcount.
In 2020 everything seemed to pivot to digital; a day of Zoom or Teams calls may be a lingering memory for many of us. Inevitably more customer interactions were also done online as companies scrambled to preserve business continuity and ensure people stayed safe. In 2021 the pivot to digital isn’t going away anytime soon, not only because COVID-19 is still not under control, but also because some of the increased focus on digital interactions made sense anyway, with or without a pandemic. Moreover, companies that have now moved processes and customer touchpoints online may now want to build on the investment in digital they have made with a focus on the longer term. Overall, we expect the pivot to digital customer experience to continue.
With the profound impact of the pandemic on every aspect of life, we think COVID-19 will continue to heavily influence the themes we find in website content. During 2020 one overriding theme was supporting and helping others; we can expect that to still be there in 2021 but we also think there might be more topics which reflect a return to “normal” or at least the desire for that. Here themes such as continuity, recovery and reassurance are likely to come to the fore in content; persistence and patience may also be highlighted. We believe this will certainly influence campaigns, individual items and overall tone of voice.
As a software vendor in the accessibility space, we naturally keep an eye on what other providers are saying in the market. Unfortunately, there are quite a few vendors who are making over-inflated claims about what their solution can do to drive accessibility compliance, for example suggesting an AI-driven solution means accessibility compliance can be guaranteed with an automated approach. We understand the need for vendors to promote their solutions, but these marketing messages are highly irresponsible, as they lull website teams into a false sense of security about the actions they need to take to improve accessibility. Unfortunately, we think some providers of accessibility solutions will continue to sell snake oil during 2021.
September 22nd 2020 was the day that public sector organisations in the UK had to make sure their website was compliant with European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04) meaning that they were largely meeting level AA compliance with the WCAG guidelines. But as our Q4 UK public sector INDEX benchmarks showed – for example for UK local government – there are still huge numbers of public sector websites in the UK that are not compliant. There is a vast amount of work that needs to be done. We can expect a theme of 2021 for some public sector organisations to be in rapid catch-up mode as they try to move closer to compliance.
We hope 2021 will be a better year for lots of reasons; we certainly think it will be interesting. We hope you found our view of the themes useful in thinking about your plans for the new year.