By Casey Strouse, Web Application Developer, Business Services and Virtual Assistant Firm Virtual Assist USA

In 2012, we will see a number of changes in web development and how that affects small businesses and entrepreneurs. You do not have to be an expert web developer, but you do need to have a Virtual Assistant team with one on staff!

1. Wider adoption of HTML5 and CSS3 Over the last six months, our team has asked by clients more and more frequently to use HTML5 and CSS3 on their sites and this appears to be the trend when it comes to developing new sites. Some people use the HTML5 document type to save on typing, others use it because it’s new and surrounded by buzz. Another plus yet is because it allows us to markup our site and content in a way that not only conveys structure but also meaning.

2. Responsive design We live in a world where most people are connected to the internet throughout the day via their mobile devices (phones, tablets, laptops, etc) and we need to make sure that when we pay a designer and developer to create a new site for us that it will be useable on a multitude of mediums. Your small business website should be navigable, easy to read, and visually appealing no matter the screen size, or the device’s capabilities. Responsive design allows for your site to rescale, reposition, and adapt based on what the visitor is using to access your site.

3. Vector characters/mascots The latest craze in branding has been to use characters and mascots for your site and services. Businesses are now building stories around their brand and using the characters as actors. We should use tactics to immerse stories in our brand, make potential clients feel like they’re a part of it, and keep them coming back and staying involved.

4. CSS3 animations and moving away from Adobe Flash towards javascript/html5 Flash has had a good run and annoyed many people along the way. In 2012, Apple gave them the boot on their popular iOS (which runs your iPad and iPhone) and that was the end of Flash for many. The advent of CSS3 and HTML5 animations allowe the Virtual Assist USA team to duplicate the fancy transitions and animations, that in the past we relied upon Flash to deliver while making pages load faster and allowing search engines such as Google to index content that in the past their crawlers could not understand.

5. Custom font stacks We’re no longer restricted to the “web-safe” font faces thanks to Google Fonts and a multitude of other methods for adding any fonts that we want and making them accessible on everyone’s computers via their web browser. Our tip in 2012? Explore new fonts and see how an improvement in your line spacing, character, spacing, font styles, and typography can impact people’s desire to read your content and come back for more.

6. Infographics Illustrators have been creating absolutely stunning graphical representations of statistics and other data in formats that regular people could understand at a glance. These infographics are no longer reserved for government agencies and propagandists with large budgets; you can have these made for you through Virtual Assistant services  and really give your data a chance of being read and understood by your sites’ visitors.

7. KISS and UX Pioneered by companies such as 37Signals, simplistic designs and superior user experience have created many successful products and services online. In 2012, we suggest our clients go over the way we get people into our marketing funnels, the way we sign them up as new customers, and the way that we provide our services to them and come up with more usable, more simplistic methods and workflows. Attention spans are short; don’t be one of the services that is a hassle to use.

8. OAuth/Single sign on Many people are already using services that gave them access to single-signon credentials using OAuth such as Facebook, Twitter, and others. Over the last 2 years, sites have been allowing people to register using their existing accounts which reduces the amount of typing required to signup; you just login to your Facebook (or other) account and allow it to provide the new site with basic information about you. No muss, no fuss and in today’s day and age we need to do everything in our power to make signup easier for potential customers/viewers to complete our process for getting onboard.

9. Disqus for comments WordPress commenting is rife with problems ranging from spam, to design, to our site’s visitors having to contend with scores of different commenting forms and layouts. Disqus allows us to easily integrate a commenting system into our blogs and other sites that most people are familiar with and to provide them with a consistent way to leave comments and become active in the social communities that we build around our sites.

10. Less PPC (Pay Per Click) In 2012, we are moving away from ad networks (adsense, chikita, etc) to other monetization models such as freemium services, affiliate links, hand-curated ads

11. Moving away from native phone apps to HTML5 web apps The cost of developing apps that run natively on iPhones, Android phones and Blackberries has become prohibitively expensive for some small business owners. The use of HTML5 web applications for mobile sites is popular because it allows you to focus on developing the best app that you can and having it be universally accessible. You can reach more people with a responsive HTML5 site than you ever could with a native iPhone app. Also, when you make changes it’s much quicker and cheaper to have your developers do it in a single place than to have to do it for each version of your app.

12. Microformats (such as hcard) Microformats were designed to enable developers to use HTML markup to represent metadata (such as contact info, event info, locations, etc) in a more semantic way. This helps to describe the meaning of data in a way that other machines can process. Search engines can use this to better understand your content.

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Virtual Assist USA is the leading Virtual Assistant firm in the United States based on it’s team’s reputation, leadership, flexibility and skill range. Learn more about our services by visiting: www.VirtualAssistUSA.com As always, ask us anything you like!