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The Marketing Unleashed Podcast – Where is the digital world of websites, mobile apps, augmented and virtual reality going?

Joel: Hello and welcome to the show. Today, I have Nathan and Jerry with me. So what’s up guys?

Nathan: Hey Joel.

Jerry: Hello.

Joel: We’re going to talk today about where is the world of websites and digital information going? Now I know that that’s a mouthful and that’s probably a hundred different directions, but lets try and talk about where we are with mobile devices, how they’re affecting the website world and website development. Maybe get into some augmented reality, some virtual reality, and just kind of talk about where we see things going.

Nathan: Well, for the first thing I think, one of the big things design-wise is for UI animation. You’re going to see a lot more interactive type websites that have elements that move around, that slide into place, that jump around … There’s a lot more tools that are becoming available with HTML5 and PHP7 and up that are going to make things like animations on websites easier to do. So you’re going to see a lot of new designs that use animation, you’re also going to see a popular design now are card-type designs, where they have, basically, a little text, a little graphic or a video and it’s all sort of self-contained in a card. Makes it easy. These are common for drag-and-drop website development tools. They use card designs quite a bit.

In terms of design, I think you’re going to see a lot more animation and a more, what I would consider kind of a ‘widgetized’ card design for website development.

Joel: Okay so whenever you say animation, and Jerry, maybe you can speak on this a little bit, is this going to be video driven or … I mean, I don’t know exactly how you make a gif, I know they exist, but I don’t know how they’re made or what technically they are.

Jerry: Yeah, I guess that’s the ultimate challenge is to turn some type of motion into a file that’s small enough to load without losing compression. I think, I mean we’ve been battling that for years. So in terms of that, I really don’t know. If it comes down to … If it’s mostly, I guess it’s two things. Are we talking about video or we talking about animation? Animation usually tends to be smaller in file size, video tends to be bigger. So I think that’s the ultimate question is, is the file going to be small enough without losing the compression, the quality of the video and/or animation?

Joel: Well Nathan, whenever you said animation, are you thinking more in terms of what animation what Jerry’s talking about or video?

Nathan: Well, probably more along the lines of what Jerry’s talking about. When I say animation, something you may have seen is … Say you load up a new website and you start scrolling down and you sort of see how new sections sort of slide in, and pop in, and fade in. Those are the animations that I’m talking about. And all of those kinds of features are built into the new HTML5 and new PHP7 tools, so you’re going to see a lot more that just because in the past you couldn’t really do that very easily without a lot of programming overhead. And a lot of people weren’t really very good at developing those types of styles. Now the tools are part of the standard and so people are going to use those a lot more.

When it comes to video, I think video’s always going to be important. Especially as we move more towards mobile. And that goes to another thing that Jerry mentioned was the trying to get the file size down and compression issues. So much of the digital landscape now is headed towards mobile development. Mobile has definitely overtaken desktop and that’s going to bring back an interesting thing for me as a programmer. For many years, you didn’t really worry a whole lot about optimization because the speeds were there on desktops, you were downloading things so quickly that really you didn’t have to worry a whole lot about optimization.

But now, because we’re going to more mobile networks and you have to have things optimized for the phone, their data transmission is usually much slower and so you have to have things much better optimized. For someone like me, who’s a programmer, who’s used to that from training to keep things optimized, that actually is an advantage for us because we were trained originally, whenever I was trained to be a developer, that everything had to be optimized because this was back in the day when you didn’t have much bandwidth, whether you were on mobile phones or on a desktop.Everything had to be fully optimized in order for … Not to take up too much room. So websites would load with good speed.

So I think as it move more towards mobile you’re going to need to have better optimizations so these animations that come through, having them part of the standard is going to allow them to happen quickly. Now in terms of content, when you’re talking about videos … Videos, like Jerry said, have always been a challenge to keep optimized. I mean, if you’ve got a 20 minute video, to shrink that down to a usable size on a mobile device is pretty tough without losing some of the quality.

Joel: Yeah, I know mobile web browsing is like 60% of all web browsing now. It’s something like that number. So we’re talking about the animations. Will those animations be available on the mobile devices? Is there going to be any difference?

Nathan: Yeah, so I mean one of the issues with animation has always been … A lot of animation in the old days was made with Flash, and Flash is basically just disappearing. Most mobile devices don’t work with Flash. I don’t know the last time I ever worked with a client that had Flash animation. Jerry might be able to talk more about Flash animation and his experience, but that’s kind of disappearing. Because these are part of the standards that are being developed, there will be things that are fallbacks. For example, if you’re on a mobile device and this particular animation technique that you’re using takes a lot of overhead and they don’t want that to work on mobile, there will be some sort of static callback that works on mobile. You may not get all the same type of animation tools on mobile that you have on a desktop, but for the most part, you’re going to have a lot more available.

Joel: Jerry, you seeing any Flash out there on websites anymore?

Jerry: No.

Joel: No?

Jerry: Never really. I learned Flash in school and as soon as I got into the working world they said, “Flash is dead.”

Nathan: It died out when the iPhone couldn’t support it. That killed it.

Joel: Sorry, what was that Nathan?

Nathan: Oh I was just saying as soon as the iPhones decided they weren’t going to support it, I think that really killed it.

Joel: Oh yeah, okay.

Jerry: Yep.

Joel: All right. So how and websites and apps going to either work cohesively or interchangeable, or is one going to take over the other?

Nathan: I would say … The one big advantage that I like to app development as opposed to websites is you can work offline. So if you’ve got a website, you can have the best mobile website in the world, but if you’re not online all the time, then it’s not going to work. Whereas if you have an app, you can program all those tools in, people download them ahead of time, and then if they’re, say … A specific application, maybe they’re out in the field. Maybe it’s a farming type app. You can be out there on the farm, where you might not have much of a cell signal and you can still use the tools.

I think there will be a place for both. Of course mobile websites are going to be the direction everything’s heading in, but apps will definitely still have a place. And one of the reasons I like them is just because you can use them offline.

Joel: Okay. Jerry, what do you think man?

Jerry: How much in the future are we talking about here? We talking about a year, we talking about a couple years?

Joel: We can-

Jerry: Because I think, and we can actually rewind and the big game changer’s going to be when 5G becomes the norm because 5G, the download speeds are just going to increase tenfold. You’re going to be going from 100MB down to 1GB down. That’s going to change what you can load and … I mean, I’m not talking about uploads, but in terms of downloading, collecting information and data from websites from apps … And I’m assuming it’s going to take, I don’t know, let’s just say 5 years, to get it to all major metropolitan areas, even some rural, probably not all rural … So in terms of that, what are we talking about, we talking about apps?

Joel: Yeah.

Jerry: I don’t know, I mean, I think there’s always going to be a need for apps. I think once apps came out, I think everybody wanted to develop an app. But now I feel like it’s more honed into only certain services that really need apps, you know?
Joel: Yeah. Well, I mean, real life use is, I think the big thing now with apps, is how are people actually going to use it and benefit from it instead of, “Hey, we’re cool. We have an app.”

Jerry: Right. I think everybody wanted to dive into the app world whenever … Pretty much when apps just exploded. I don’t know what year that was, 2011, 2012. But you don’t see many people promoting their own apps if you’re just a regular business or a car service or something like that.

Joel: Right. Okay. We’re already seeing the voice technology come into play. On our cell phones, I mean, all you have to say is, “Hey Siri,” or “Hey Google,” or whatever the command is. Or even through our home devices. Through the Amazon … Amazon Echo and all that. The Google Homes. So how should people be thinking in terms of their website with the voice? The website and app or just anything else out there with voice search?

Nathan: Well, I know that WordPress, for example, has some plugins that integrate with voice search already. So there’s developers out there that are already setting up tools to work with websites that use the voice search. I think a lot of what voice search is good for is not necessary around a website though. I think it’s mostly for asking questions, for interacting hands-free. It’s kind of handy to ask the weather or to say, “Schedule this,” or make an appointment for that, or ask a question and get an answer as opposed to sort of a more traditional website where you search for the information visually.

I think that that trend will only continue to grow, but also there’s a lot of privacy concerns around those voice tools. You basically have a wiretap in your house all the time for Amazon to listen to every conversation you have. There’s anecdotal evidence, people say all the time, “Hey, I was having a conversation about some particular product and then all of a sudden, everywhere I go on a website now, I get an Amazon ad for that.” And so I think there’s some legitimate privacy concerns about the voice talk, but it’ll only continue to grow.

And a subset of that that is a little bit probably further out would be the tools that they’re developing now called chatbots. One of the things that I’ve read about recently is called conversational e-commerce. And that’s where they use, basically, chatbots that appear to be human and you’re able to have, essentially, a conversation with … And they act as like a concierge. So you say what you’re looking for and then these chatbots can have conversation with you to narrow down what you’re looking for and then they’ll be able to provide a product or something, or a suggestion for where you might find what you’re looking for.

As we get further and further into the future with machine learning and AI, those are only going to continue to get better and better.

Joel: Yeah. Chatbots are pretty widely used on Facebook now on a lot of company pages, and also on websites. I mean, anytime you ever see that little box pop open and say, “Hey, can I help you?” That’s pretty much a chatbot, right?

Nathan: Right, right.

Joel: Yeah. All right, so let’s try to look into the future a little bit. You know, augmented reality, virtual reality. I mean, it may not be that far in the future, it’s kind of out there now, but it’s not widely used yet.

Nathan: The big problem with virtual reality is the entry point. It costs a lot of money to get into virtual reality. To get a headset, if you’re going to do it on desktop, I mean you probably can’t buy a desktop computer that supports virtual reality for under $1000. And then on top of that, the equipment itself, to get like an Oculus Rift, you’re looking at at least $400, $500. And these are all what I would consider solid first, second generation systems. So they haven’t even gotten all the bugs and all the kinks worked out of these things yet. So virtual reality has definitely got some price point issues in terms of becoming more widespread.

But WordPress is already working on virtual reality systems. There’s some pretty big names out there in the web industry that are already using virtual reality. RayBan has an interesting, what I would consider a virtual reality style e-commerce tool that will allow you to see the sunglasses on your face and be able to sort of turn the picture and look from different angles and see what they look like. Another common one that we talked about before was the virtual tours for real estate. That’s pretty common now. But really what that is is producing a video that works in 3D. So you can turn it around and move it around and there’s a different technology, but when I look at those I think of, you know, that’s more of like a YouTube embedded video. True virtual reality, like an immersive experiences is still quite a long ways off.

Joel: Well-

Nathan: There’s little niches where it will fit. Especially e-commerce and those tours. But it won’t really work for everything. At least not yet.

Joel: Okay but augmented reality though. I mean, we’re already seeing that in pretty common place. I mean, any like Snapchat filter, for example. A lot of those use augmented reality.

Nathan: Yeah. I mean, augmented reality is pretty cool and I think there’s some really good marketing ideas around it. Some people do it really well, it’s hit and miss, but I think it’s more of a novelty right now. But 5-10 in the future it’s going to be commonplace. You’ll hold up your phone or hold up your virtual reality device and look through it and it’ll use the camera to show you back your area and then it’ll overlay digital products and allow you to do some really interesting things. But it’s really hit and miss and I think to do some cutting edge work with that, you’re going to have to have some really high end development tools to make that work.

Joel: Okay. Jerry, what do you think about the virtual reality future?

Jerry: I kind of agree with Nathan with the virtual reality. I think that’ll take place more of an escapism like in terms of gaming. Anytime you want to … I think the gaming world will try their best to make that to where it’ll be 100% escapism if you want to, I guess, play games or escape. We’ll just call it that. But yeah, back to the augmented reality, I think that’s going to be more in the marketing. Trying to sell products or show, I think Nathan used the example of sunglasses, I’ve seen where Home Depot uses it for paint or frames on the wall. I just think that’s just going to get better and better because these companies are going to invest, I believe, heavily into using the technology to put your products in your home before they’re actually in your home to sell those products.

Joel: Oh yeah.

Jerry: Yeah.

Nathan: One interesting thing to contemplate here, and this is, they already do this now, and I consider this augmented reality … If you watch a baseball game on TV, a lot of those signs that you see are not real.

Jerry: Yeah.

Nathan: They’re placed in digitally during the broadcast.

Joel: Yeah, through green screen.

Nathan: Yeah, through green screen. And I think you’re going to continue to see that kind of thing grow because, say for example you’ve got a Walmart. Say it became ubiquitous and everybody had a device where they could see these augmented reality tools, you could have an ad space in Walmart that Walmart could change depending on who the user was that was looking at it, and it wouldn’t be a physical ad. It would just be a space that they left for the ad to appear.

There’s a lot of options there that will be appealing towards marketing groups in terms of what they can do with augmented reality. But like I said, I still think augmented reality is a little ways off in terms of being widespread and working out all the kinks.

Joel: Yeah, I mean I could see augmented reality being huge in the fashion industry. If you take a picture of yourself and then you can … If you’re trying to find a shirt, for example, you could actually place the shirt over the body and kind of have it move around with the body and so it gives somebody an idea of what it would look like on them. I see that as where it’s all going.

Nathan: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great point because one of the problems with marketing and selling, e-commerce, for example Amazon is, it’s really difficult to buy clothes without seeing what they look like on you. And augmented reality will be one of the ways that they fix that. Now, I think Amazon has a way that they’re trying combat that issue is they’ll just send you clothes in the mail and you can try them and if you don’t like them, you send them back. But you can imagine how expensive that would be. Not to mention now you’re generating a lot of clothes that have probably been worn once by someone. And then if they don’t want them, they send them back, so what do you do with all that?

Whereas if you had this augmented reality, people could check out what the clothes look like and see how they fit on them without having to ship anything back and forth.

Joel: Right. All right guys, so just kind of a fun thing. Put your science fiction goggles on. You don’t have to use any reality based or factional things behind this. When are we going to get these floating computer screens that we can manipulate with our hands and all that good stuff that we see in movies?

Jerry: 100 years.

Joel: You think it’s going to take that long?

Jerry: You would think that that technology would be available now, but there’s so many terms and you have it to make it somewhat affordable. Fine, let’s say 50 years.

Nathan: Well, just imagine. So the first plane flight was about 100 years ago.

Jerry: Yeah.

Joel: That’s true.

Nathan: So I mean, we’re sending spacecraft to Mars and whatnot now. I mean, 100 years is a long time for technology to develop. It’s sort of hard to predict where things would go, but you know, computer technology is always going to be driven by sci-fi stuff. I mean, you go back to Star Trek and you see the tricorders and you see all that kind of stuff. I think you’re going to see medical, your phone is going to be a medical device. Before too long … They’re already developing apps now where you can use it to do things like check for an inner ear infection. There was just a news article on the other day talking about a new app that’s waiting for FDA approval where you’ll be able to basically hold your phone up to your child’s ear and it’ll play a couple of tones and tell you if your child’s got fluid behind the ear drum, which is a sign of an ear infection.

I think your phones will continue to develop and may be integrated in your body. Instead of having a phone that you carry around, it’ll just be a like a little chip that goes in your wrist and you’ll kind of flick your wrist and your wrist will light up and it’ll be the screen on your skin or something like that. There’s a lot of science fiction out there, I think we can all come up with some interesting ideas.

Jerry: Yeah, I believe that a lot of that development is going to go into the mobile devices more so than a screen. In terms of desktop, Nathan kind of hit it on the head that you obviously see mobiles everywhere and it’s just going to get smaller and smaller and smaller even though the phones are getting bigger and bigger and bigger. But in terms of usage, like you said, it’s going to be implanted in us at some point. At least the technology, but I don’t know if people are actually going to do that but …

Nathan: I think the Google Glasses is a good example of that. If you’d had a … I wear glasses and if you had glasses and you could project augmented reality or your phone screen onto your Glass, then you could have really high resolution without having to carry around a device at all.

Joel: Yeah, you know-

Jerry: Google Glasses failed.

Joel: Well, that’s what I was just about to bring up. I mean, two or three years ago you heard a lot about it and now it kind of went away.

Jerry: I think that’s the thing, I mean, the technology, the ideas are there, but you have to bring it down for people … Let’s just say a big part of the marketplace, it needs to be affordable. People need to be … Yeah, multimillionaires can buy this or big giant businesses in the big cities can buy this stuff, but you got to bring the price point down and you can see the advancements in technology is showing that technology is becoming more affordable, but it also … People need to A, have the money to do it, and B, have it useful for the everyday person.

The idea of Google Glass was great. I’m really surprised it didn’t take off. But …

Nathan: I think there were probably some technology challenges there where they were trying to cram a whole lot into what they were. It may have been an overly ambitious project, but I don’t think it’s completely gone. I mean, I think you’ll see some iteration of it come back. It may be a completely different form, it may be … Who knows, like a little chip on the side of your eye or something that you don’t even need to have the glasses piece. It just projects it into your vision somehow.

I think you’re going to see that eventually. You won’t need to have the phone device that you carry around anymore. I think they’ll continue to do away with and shrink those devices. If you can get a monitor that you can project at a high resolution, I think phones would shrink. One of the reasons why phones keep growing is because people want more screen size and I think if you could project the screen without it, then you could have a really, really small phone because you wouldn’t need all that space for a screen.

Joel: Yeah, yeah.

Jerry: Agreed.

Joel: All right, all right guys. Well, I think we’ve covered a lot of ground here. So I want to thank you both for coming on here and talking with me about this.

Nathan: Thanks Joel.

Jerry: Yeah thank, thanks for having us Joel.

Joel: Yeah, no problem. All right, and we’re going to take a short break, and when we come back we’ll have can’t let it go for this week.