With a growing number of online tools and software, it’s never been easier to create dynamic digital experiences. At the same time, this means that brands need to be even more creative when it comes to making their sites stand out.
This year I had the opportunity to participate as a judge in the 2017 Webby Awards – the international awards that honors excellence on the internet.
Presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS), the Webby Awards – which first launched over than a decade ago during the early days of the web – has evolved alongside the internet. Today, categories range across the digital spectrum, including interactive films, mobile, websites, advertising and media, social, podcasts, and beyond.
The entire experience was truly inspiring for a number of reasons. Not only did it broaden my awareness of experiences and technologies used today, but it also provided a great view of the internet beyond the walls of my RSS feed.
Technology trends to watch
Brands today realize that their digital experience is their user experience. This has pushed them to create digital with the user in mind. With the inclusion of machine learning in the MarTech stack, marketers today are leveraging the AI functionality to elevate their user experiences and take their brand to the next level.
We are starting to see more and more brands invest in AI and machine learning to cut costs for their businesses and build more personalized and predictive user experiences. Over the past year, I’ve seen the brands I work with become more and more interested in this space. From Facebook Messenger bots, to Alexa and Google Home interfaces, interest is rising across the board in conversational interfaces.
Unsurprisingly, machine learning and AI were two of the biggest technology trends in the Webby Awards this year – from retail sites that used machine learning to recommend products for their customers, to a site that included a customized mapping system to provide recommendations on places to go in New Orleans.
I also much enjoyed the purely content-driven and interactive projects. The sites that really pull you into the story. National Geographic for instance, who has won several Webby Awards in the past, has two projects that have made it to the final voting in the Best User Interface category. Both A Bear’s-Eyes View of Yellowstone and Around the World in 24 Hours offer the perfect combination of science, exploration and storytelling – transporting visitors into their story. These projects use the power of their content to draw you in and keep you engaged.
Additionally, and probably as an effect of the social and political climate today, I saw a growing trend in projects that have to do with social activism and charity work. It’s great to see technology used for good, and I was glad to see the Women’s March win the Webby Social Movement of the Year award.
One technology trend that I didn’t see as much, but definitely still lends itself to elevating the storytelling experience, is 360 photo and video. As brands start to embrace this new content type, and consumers start buying 360 products, this will become the new norm. I believe at next year’s Webbys we will be seeing a lot more projects with 360 content.
Though certainly not a new trend, a powerful and compelling narrative remains the heart of the experience. With new technologies and channels emerging regularly, the brand story will only continue to manifest itself in different ways throughout the digital experience.
Looking beyond the RSS feed
Things have changed since the early days of the internet. There are more than a billion websites on the internet today making it impossible to take notice of all the amazing experiences out there. We all have our daily feeds and content sources. We’ve become accustomed to getting our news and information from a set of bookmarked web destinations.
The Webby Awards bring awareness to the best on the internet and remind us that there’s so much more outside of our daily RSS feed. The Webbys invite us to take a look at what’s out there, and be inspired. The experience of being a Webbys judge gave me an inside look at some of the best digital projects out there, and has taken me outside of the comfort zone of my daily content sources.
What does it take to win a Webby?
The winners of the 2017 Webby awards were just announced. Of course, every applicant would like to know the answer to the question, “What does it take to win a Webby?” I don’t think there is just one single answer, but there are some consistent attributes I’ve seen across the projects that were successful.
To win a Webby Award, your experience needs more than just good content and a beautiful design – the internet is full of beautifully designed websites today. In the end, it comes down to storytelling and your site’s ability to tell that story in a concise, creative, and compelling way.
Technologies like 360 photo/video, Virtual Reality (VR), AI, and machine learning can help, if used not just for the sake of using a new technology, but where it becomes a natural way to tell the story. To win a Webby, your project should be unique, inspiring, and should leave users wanting more.