10 Web Predictions for 2012

Craig Buckler

Welcome to 2012! The web has reached its third decade and it’s changing more rapidly than ever. I’m no Nostradamus but, unlike him, I’m prepared to make ten prophecies without resorting to ambiguous language or tenuous explanations. I do not claim to have mystical predictive powers but you’re welcome to gaze at my crystal ball … the mists are clearing

1. Chrome Will Overtake Internet Explorer

If current growth rates continue, Chrome will become the world’s most popular browser by the middle of 2012 and end IE’s 13-year reign. There will be much rejoicing followed by a sickly hangover when everyone realizes just how powerful Google has become.

2. But IE10 Will be Better Than You Expect

In response to Google’s dominance, Microsoft will release IE10 during the spring. It’ll be a wonderful browser with a slick interface, amazing speed and excellent W3C standards support. It’ll receive glowing reviews and everyone will humbly acknowledge the fine job Microsoft is doing.

We’ll subsequently return to our default browsers once we realize two-thirds of the world can’t install IE10.

3. Windows 8 and Windows Phone May Surprise You Too

Painful experiences of Windows Vista will be a distant memory by the time Windows 8 appears in the fall. It’ll be applauded by businesses, home users, gamers and developers alike. It’ll sell well even though the western economies are in meltdown. Web developers will also be able to leverage their skills and write native Windows applications using HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.

Similarly, devices running Windows Phone will become a viable alternative. Not everyone wants the geek of Android, the Apple-knows-what’s-best-for-you chic of the iPhone, or the best-for-business BS of Blackberry.

4. Tablets and Mobiles Will Begin to Influence Web Design

Everyone will be taking tablets in 2012. The Apple iPad and Kindle Fire are increasingly popular and, within a few months, tablets will be de rigueur for anyone attending a high-powered business meeting. They won’t be used or required, but they’ll make you look cool and important. Thousands of CEOs will consider tablets to be the future of IT and insist that all company web sites and applications are compatible. On their device. In portrait mode. At 480×800.

Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but web designers will almost certainly need to consider small screen devices. Mobiles currently account for 8% of all web access and it’s rising rapidly.

5. Responsive Design Will Go Mainstream

With the exception of a few major companies, media queries have mostly been used for technical websites and demonstrations. That will change in 2012 and everyone will want their site to work on desktops, tablets and smartphones.

My only reservation: is the industry ready for responsive layouts? I’ve worked with many graphic artists over the years but very few could make the psychological leap beyond fixed-width design. Fluid layouts have been with us since day one but the majority of the web remains steadfastly rigid. If you only have time to learn one skill in 2012, make sure it’s CSS3 media queries.

6. Many Mobile App Developers Will Switch to HTML5

The mobile market has become increasingly fragmented with differing versions of iOS, Android, Symbian, Blackberry OS, webOS, bada, Windows Phone, etc. Many companies make a good living producing apps for a single platform but it’s increasingly difficult to support multiple devices.

The sophistication of mobile browsers and APIs make HTML5 web apps an attractive cross-device proposition. It’s still possible to take advantage of app store advertising, distribution and monetization by creating small native wrappers which link to your online application.

7. Advertisers Will Discover HTML5

If you consider web advertising to be ugly and intrusive now, think how bad it’ll be when advertisers adopt HTML5! The advantages (for them) include:

  • Adverts can adapt to different devices and screen sizes using media queries and similar technologies.
  • File sizes can be reduced so advertisements appear faster.
  • An advert can interact with any part of the page — not just its own box.
  • HTML5 adverts will be more difficult to block.

HTML5 development tools may not be as sophisticated, but the supremacy of Flash advertising is beginning to wane.

8. But Flash Will Survive. Just.

Despite a rapidly-expanding market, Adobe has abandoned Flash on mobile devices. But the technology is far from dead. The main reason: HTML5 and its development tools are relatively new whereas designers have been using Flash for more than 15 years.

I won’t pretend that the future is rosy for Flash, Silverlight or any other plugin technology. They evolved to overcome the inherent omissions and slow progress of web standards, but HTML5 is catching up and legacy browsers will become less of an issue…

9. IE6 and IE7 Will Finally Die

In January 2012, the worldwide market share for IE6 was 1.8% and IE7 was 4.0% — and they’re dropping fast. In many cases, the development cost for supporting those browsers cannot be justified.

However, 5.8% of the market is a lot of people and they remain the default browsers for many large organizations and government departments. The web is device agnostic; there may be few economic reasons to test legacy browsers, but active prejudice against specific sectors of the community is a different matter.

Ideally, websites should remain operational in IE6, IE7 or any other web browser. The design need not be pixel-perfect — it can be downright ugly. It does not necessarily require all the graphics, effects, animation or media. You may even choose to disable all CSS and JavaScript. But there’s no reason why your content should not be available to all.

10. Average Page Sizes Will Reach 1MB

I hope this doesn’t come true but, if current trends continue, the average total weight for a single web page — including all CSS, JavaScript and media files — will be 1MB by the end of 2012. It’s ridiculous since HTML5 and CSS3 reduce the need for images and JavaScript. That won’t stop it happening, though.

If your pages are becoming bloated, do everyone a favor with a 2012 detox. Make it your New Year resolution. Who am I trying to fool? We’ll be stuffing our pages with tasty treats by February.

Do you agree with my mystic predictions? Have you experienced premonitions of what’s to come in 2012? Happy New Year!