Geographical metaphors have long been used in business, and it’s rare that you’ll work on a project without at least one person asking: “Where are we on this?”
But the question ‘where am I?’ is taking on new significance in the 21st century, as global positioning capabilities in smartphones and tablets, and the precise position of a desktop or laptop user’s IP address, allow search engines and other websites to accurately pinpoint exactly where a visitor is.
This is actually not just one trend, but a convergence of three – local search, mobile search, and responsive web design.
Local search is rapidly establishing itself as the factor way to find information. Where search engines began as simple online business directories, they are now returning – in a sense – to that original function.
By identifying an individual’s position on the planet, search engines can return results that are not only relevant to the digital query they typed in, but also to their physical location in the real world.
In the early days of local search, many people found this discomfiting, but over time it has become a familiar practice – particularly for mobile web users, for whom local results are arguably more relevant too.
Mobile search is a trend that has been longer in the making, but is yet to reach maturity in the way local search currently is doing.
It encompasses a broad range of different search methods – including all of the technologies built into smartphones and tablets, such as searching by photograph or QR code, voice recognition and song search sites and apps.
As Nokia’s Lumia range finds its place in the market, bringing Windows Phone to a wider user base alongside Android and iOS, this is one trend that may yet accelerate – making it one to watch in 2013.
Responsive Web Design
All of this points towards responsive web design – a term that is used increasingly in the online marketing trade – as a trend whose importance should not be underestimated in 2013.
Just as the various different concerns within the search industry, such as mobile and geographic search, are converging into one, so web design is once again finding its focus.
Soon enough, it will no longer be appropriate to redirect visitors to a stripped-down mobile site, or allow access only via a platform-specific app – responsive web design is the 2013 trend that will change all that, putting platform-independent websites that work on desktop, tablet and smartphone screens alike firmly at the top of the agenda and catering for the ever-growing mobile web user base at the same time.