A Year In Web: 2011

As 2012 begins, the External Web Services team takes a look back at 2011 and what they consider to be the greatest trend or achievement in web development and communications for the year.

One Cloud to Rule Them All

You’ve got a laptop, a PC and a smartphone. What do they all have in common? Hopefully all your documents and files. If you’re using a web-based solution instead of Microsoft Office and a thumbdrive, you’re winning. The trend towards Cloud Computing solutions is an exciting one, especially in our environment. More than four million businesses use Google Apps, and the list of universities making the switch is constantly growing. The UF College of Education has already taken the plunge. Being in the healthcare arena, we should obviously realize that not all data belongs on some random server in California, but for practices such as project management, communication and collaboration, having simple, user-friendly web-based software is a lifesaver. Eventually this trend might take a toll on software companies that primarily focus on client-side software, but if it encourages more open, easy-to-use applications that aren’t platform specific, and can be run in any web browser, it’s a good thing.

– Brad Alderman


I’m a Twitter addict, so it’s probably no surprise that the biggest trend in tech for me is Twitter. Although this micro-blogging platform has been around for five years, it became more mainstream in 2011. We began seeing more brands use Twitter in marketing, promoting contests and “parties”, as well as providing access and transparency through their Twitter accounts. Networks hyped hashtags during high-profile shows and events, encouraging viewers to become part of the conversation in real-time. Twitter helped breaking news travel faster than ever before:  Osama Bin-Laden’s death, the Women’s World Cup finals and Beyonce announcing her pregnancy all set records this year for most tweets per second (8,868 at 10:35pm for the last on the list, to be exact.) In October 2011, Twitter reported handling over 250 million tweets per day, up from 90 million the year before, and reported that 50% of its users were active on the platform daily. Twitter received a bump with the release of the iPhone 4s and iOS5, experiencing a 300% increase in new user accounts just a few days after the launch. We can expect Twitter to continue changing the speed we communicate and the way we market to our consumers.

– Amanda Austin

The End of Plug-Ins

I think one of the biggest Trends in 2011 has been the rapid adoption of modern web standards to deliver plugin-free, rich internet experiences. Music videos, data visualizations, games, and medical applications are just some of the examples I’ve seen abandoning proprietary technologies for modern web standards to deliver rich internet content. The Canvas element (part of HTML5) gains more features and stability every month. It has allowed for web designers to bring dynamic 2D animation to the web like graphs, images, and games. The specification for WebGL was released in 2011. It allows for the generation of 3D interactive graphics right inside the browser, and uses the power of discrete graphics cards to drive those experiences. It has been exciting year for web graphics and animation. These web technologies are still in their infancy, I’m excited to see what 2012 will bring!

– Carlos Campos


2011 has been a banner year in the importance of cyber security. Many headlines were made of proprietary or personal information being compromised because of laxed security.  As we become more and more “hooked in” to the digital world, and details of our personal life becomes more and more accessible.  In the next few years, information security will be absolutely crucial if this past year was sign of things to come.

– Sean Jeng

Trends in Web Creation for 2011

As we can see, more and more web sites are being created. While the biggest push used to be for the biggest, splashiest, eye grabbing sites, increasingly we are realizing that content and accessibility is King! It is not good enough to have a very pretty, fancy website if the content does not drive search engines and thereby viewers to your site. It is not good enough to have a site that looks pretty on a desktop computer but is too difficult to view on a netbook, tablet or cell phone. We are also seeing a big increase in blogging and RSS feeds to keep information current and constant. We are becoming a constantly connected world.

– Diane Millican

The March Towards Mobile

iOS, Android Marketplace, Amazon Appstore, native apps, responsive design, HTML5… o’ my. This year, the march towards mobile has been steady and loud. Everywhere you turn we are bombarded by different techniques to make your web assets available to your portable audiences. In the past year alone, we’ve seen our mobile traffic double on sites that don’t even seem relevant from an on-the-go perspective. In 2012, we will need to take an honest look at where this mobile trend wants to take us, and how do we get there without sacrificing our user’s experience and the utility of our websites. What do your audiences want to do on the run (all of it?), and on what devices are they going to do it on (does it matter? should it?)… o’ my.

– Carlos Morales

Math is Hard

2011 marks a year in which the Web finally fully matured. People no longer consider the Web this weird place where nerds and geeks hang out, and we no longer have to explain that there’s a thing called the Internet. Designers and developers can be confident in their tools, and the long, hard work of standards champions has been realized (IE 9 anyone?). People tasked with creating the Web’s user experience no longer have to worry themselves with the question of “Can we do this?” They can now turn their attention fully to the more important question, “How do we do this right?”

– Greg Turner

The Triumph of Content

The rapid spread of content management systems over the last few years in higher education has finally allowed institutions to reallocate web and communications resources from web development to content strategy, creation, and curation. For too long the content of higher education web sites have been stale retreads of printed content, and often do not meet the needs of their audiences , not to mention goals for admissions, marketing, or research. The advent of the CMS now allows content strategists the ability to break free of institutionalized ways of categorizing information into meaningful paths and groups for their audiences. This is a quantum shift in thinking that will reenergize how faculty, staff, and student interact with their web sites and help to stress the importance of this communications medium, which is too often neglected and seen as a dumping ground for information that can’t be disseminated in any other fashion. The launch of more and more blogs on content strategy, the inaugural meeting of the first convention devoted to strategy, and books devoted to the subject highlight the shift in thinking and underlie how content will become the arms race between higher education institutions in 2012.

– Jeff Stevens

Web Fonts, Finally

James YoungDesign on the web has always been sorely lacking in the font department. The expressive nature of fonts makes them key catalysts for driving home any message. Think about it. Imagine if every print ad, from billboard to business card, was set in the likes of Arial, Georgia, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Verdana or even Comic Sans. Boring, right? Yet that’s exactly what browser makers had promoted until recently. To combat this depraved world of font haters, web designers devised ingenious, labor-intensive, workarounds to spice up their pages, using everything from image-replacement to Flash/Javascript dependent techniques. Thankfully, these have all been supplanted by the widely supported @font-face rule, making it easier than ever to implement custom fonts. I look forward to what is sure to be an exciting year for the blossoming of fonts on the web.

– James Young

Photo by bayasaa, Flickr.

About the Author


Jeffrey Stevens

Jeff Stevens is the Assistant Web Manager for UF Health Web Services. He focuses on user experience, information architecture, content strategy, and usability.

Read all articles by Jeffrey Stevens