My tendency to realize Digital Trends years in advance.

I will be using the Guggenheim project as a current case study as to why I believe I’m always thinking about the next chapter of web design and development and helping my clients to keep current with their website and online presence. By doing so, they don’t have to change the website as frequently, thus saving thousands of dollars in development costs.

Let’s look at The Guggenheim redesign project. As I stated in my last newsletter, I switched my clients or potential clients that were using or contemplating utilizing Joomla CMS to WordPress a few years ago. Now for Guggenheim, they have only just realized WordPress was the right choice after nearly a year of tinkering with the redesign options.

Prior to embarking on the project, the Guggenheim was running on Joomla, but the team had a difficult time implementing small changes. The Guggenheim website, which represents a collection of museums, was in need of an overhaul that would modernize its underlying architecture and design.

Laura Kleger, who oversees the foundation’s online projects, explained why the Guggenheim chose WordPress for its new website. She said that the team began with a CMS analysis phase, which included Drupal and WordPress.“The ideal process for improving websites is incremental and rapid change, but the old Guggenheim.org had accumulated too much technical and structural debt to produce further results, and a big leap forward was required,” Kleger said. “We wanted to use a widely adopted, open-source (free) CMS with enough muscle to meet advanced needs,” Kleger said.

They needed a user-friendly way for museum staff to create and update content without requesting the help of of designers and developers for simple updates. “We chose WordPress for a few reasons – among them, the broad pool of developer resources, the excellence of the content administration interface, the rapid update release cycle, the ease of extending functionality, and the CMS’s deep taxonomy,” Kleger said.

Digital Marketing Heavyweights

The Guggenheim implemented a headless version of WordPress with content served via the WP REST API. This allowed the team to build out the frontend of the site using AngularJS, that’s javascript to those that are not sure what it means.

The low level explanation is that when flash died, it needed a replacement that would be able to continue to serve interactive websites and javascript filled that void and is the staple for websites and mobile website architecture.

You have different frameworks for javascript, Angular, Backbone and jQuery to name a few of the leaders, but let’s not get too geeky here. All we need to know is Javascipt is an essential component in web design today.

Kleger continues “As noted by others, this approach is superior to the standard WordPress templating approach for achieving some of the more exciting possibilities in user experience today.” The new website is a beautiful example of the WP REST API.

What is WP Rest API?

It’s the game-changer folks. Right now this is where you need to stop skimming the content of this newsletter, focus and pay attention to what I am about to state. I referenced “uniformity” in my last newsletter. WP Rest API brings everything we need to make WP the right choice for now and for the foreseeable future. Let me try and explain this in layperson terms.

It’s the year of the Monkey in 2016 and it’s true, a very clever year as far as all things tech in my opinion.  To date, it has been an incredible year for online business. If I was to summarize from my view what’s trending right now – it’s all about the following; Big Data, IoT (Internet of Things), BitCoin, Mobile web, Google and Material Design, Facebook and Chatbots and much much more related to communication in a “unified” way and analyzing that data to create the best user and customer experience on the web.

If I transport myself back to when mobile started impacting online websites, we had the domain name .mobi appear and everyone wanted one to match their online brand. But creating a mobile friendly website was cumbersome and not very easy. So then developers found that building “responsive” frameworks and websites would allow for a system whereby you can view a website in different website resolutions, on the iphone, android devices or tablets and the website would fit into the various sizes seamlessly…. Well the seamless bit is a stretch. To be honest, it’s been a band-aid in my opinion. Just like Internet Explorer browser is the world’s most hated browser by all developers (as it just breaks everything you code constantly), responsive design is ok, just. It allows a budget conscious client to create a “mobile-friendly” website within each CMS, in this case WordPress, without breaking the bank. However, they really don’t work that well out of the box.

Furthermore, with Facebook purchasing Whatsapp, talking chatbots at this years F8 conference and with other apps like Snapchat and Slack that millennials are flocking to, we’re moving to a more interactive website where you’ll arrive and be greeted with a modern day and much improved customer service focused and interactive website. Here you’ll be able to come onto the website, request a call, live chat or video chat, have agents discuss and show you live how to fix that issue the customer needs answers to, have live group meetings and so much more. But integrating all these apps into Joomla or Drupal or WordPress or any other CMS requires a plugin or a developer to implement.

Hence the arrival and development of WP Rest API. It’s the programming code and bridge that allows developers a singular way to uniform the web. Now WP is compatible with everyone’s app and brand and can accept code and apps from the marketplace. It makes life easier for developers and unifies the web for business. It’s why Guggenheim has not only arrived, they now have the core programmatic requirements to expand into the next few years without a “material design” change.

 The Key Takeaway?

I recently did a quick redesign of Browserweb.com for two display versions. The desktop web version, using a dark color palette was a two-fold decision, it was also experimental.  I wanted to create two very different looking web experiences, desktop and mobile.  In my business, I need to have a very visual style of design. However, this year I went back to my thinking of the .mobi era – I made an immediate decision to have a separate design for mobile.

Why? First is web trends and data. 2016 has seen Mobile website views surpass desktop views of over 50% of people using phones to view websites.

Secondly, with this data in hand, I wanted a fast loading website that was clean and minimal on a mobile device and one that loads the data in the right layout for phones and without fancy elements that confuse the browser.

Thirdly, if I use the main website design on the mobile – I have a lot of “faffing” about with core templates to ensure the experience and rendering is perfect on mobile devices and then I have to take into account browsers from safari to chrome to firefox. If I have motion sliders, videos or interactive images, I have to set up different parameters on the mobile view – it’s a lot of busy work. Every time you want to get creative, you have to check every page you design for the web.

So you’re left right now with a couple of choices (as a small business without deep pockets). Go the Guggenheim path and create a custom WordPress website that looks like a mobile website on the web (we’ll call it minimal for the sake of art).

This website is actually a mobile website designed for desktop, it’s a reversal of the old logic of web design and that is the KEY takeaway. We should now be designing for Mobile first.

Summary

The Guggenheim have a singular mobile design that looks good on the desktop.  Right now the majority of desktop view websites are full width and use the “grid” system.  I believe that will be replaced with fixed width central design like Guggenheim has if you want one website for desktop and mobile versions. Alternatively, if you want to keep a creative website that will defy the standard display in the future, you’ll need two separate and distinct versions of your website, a desktop and mobile version and not relying on responsive theming.

In my opinion, the future is mobile design but that’s not news, the news is that the future is already here and unfortunately a lot of you are not ready with your current websites that rely on responsive only themes.

With universal javascript frameworks which Facebook and Google currently use, these are also being released in open source versions and being implemented by the various CMS vendors in the marketplace.  This will allow for greater possibilities and integrations to make your online business grow.  As far as WordPress is concerned, WP Rest API makes all of this possible.  WordPress is not perfect, their last update to WordPress 4.5 didn’t go seamlessly and did receive some backlash from some developers, however it shows the human side to any business.  I believe they are making a very strong statement to the community that they want to remain the number one content management system for small business.

If you’re looking at a redesign of your online website(s), your first concern should be to make sure it looks and performs on the phone impeccably and you’ll reap the benefits and applause from your visitors and customers.

That’s my thoughts.  What do you think? Feel free to #sayhello (@browserweb on twitter) or email me personally if you have any questions or comments.

Cheers

Mark Burke
Browserweb.com, a Digital Media Company