This is not another 2021 predictions post

At this point, anything could happen in 2021… So why even bother getting a crystal ball out? Here's what our Research & Strategy Director, Nadine Clarke, would LIKE to see in the digital space.
When I started writing this piece, I thought it could be about industry predictions for the year ahead. Then I realised I arrived at that “trend and predictions” thought-leadership party a bit late, so decided to do what we all did in 2020: pivot.
At this point, anything could happen in 2021… So why even bother getting that crystal ball out?
Which means I’m going to pass on the predictions and share what I’d personally LIKE to see play out in the digital space, instead.
So pour yourself a glass of something festive – making sure it’s more than half-full – and join me in some positive imagining for the New Year.

1. Digital friction for good

It’s about time we thought about how friction on websites and digital platforms can be used for GOOD.
I’m not talking about the dark UX-type you see on a national coach site, that opts you in for its insurance from one screen to the next without ever really asking you – and adding it to the cost.
I’m talking about the kind of friction that SHOULD make you stop, think, and re-evaluate your actions.
Twitter introduced “friction for good” in 2020 by blocking and adding disclaimers on Trump’s tweets:
But let’s forget social media for a minute and think about where else friction could help people make better, informed decisions.
How about ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) products like Klarna, Clearpay and Laybuy?
Klarna, in particular, has made a lot of headway on eCommerce sites and is now the most highly valued private fintech in Europe.
Retailers love the boost in conversion Klarna effortlessly offers, but should it be that easy to pay for a pair of trainers in 4 instalments? Especially given the state of the economy right now and the fact BNPL is targeted at young people on lower incomes?
In 2021, I’d like to see retailers add extra clicks that give you the price of 1, then 2, then 3 late payments.
Understanding the real cost of those trainers would be the kind of friction clicks that would be better for people’s bank accounts and their financial education.
And when the BNPL explosion inevitably comes back to bite people next year, many retailers may be forced to either remove these options or offer them in a more ethical, transparent way.
Which leads me nicely on to the next point on my wish list...

2. Technology to counter deep fakes

Fake news dominated the headlines in 2020 with the US election controversies, the explosion of COVID conspiracies and Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma.
In response, we saw a rise in online fact-checking across social media.
As we move into 2021, there is a growing need for more widespread technology to help tackle the growth of deep fakes.
Deep fakes are synthetic photos, videos and media that are generated by AI. This excellent New York Times article proves how realistic they can be and how easily they can be used to fool people.
As the author explains, “If you just need a couple of fake people to make your company website appear more diverse – you can get their photos for free on ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com.”
What I’d like to see in 2021 are industry-standard ‘trust badges’ that help people decipher what’s true, offer transparency and build trust.

3. Web accessibility and inclusivity finally going mainstream

As our very own Sam and Andy covered in their excellent article, “Don’t be short-sited”, 1 in 5 of the working-age population in Britain (over 7.7 million people) report they are disabled and many more have a temporary disability.
Yet up to 70% of sites and apps still aren’t designed with accessibility in mind.
This is a real problem when (during a global pandemic, let’s say) the ability to order food and handle basic needs online is a matter of life and death.
It’s a moral imperative to make your website accessible, but it also makes commercial sense.
Not only is Google now increasing priority in search rankings to accessible sites, but an accessible site marketed at people with disabilities means attracting valuable, loyal, customers.
At our October Lunch and Learn event, Robin Christopherson from Ability Net explained that an astonishing 86% of people with a disability are willing to pay more to use an accessible site and 83% would remain loyal customers despite the price difference.
Thanks to our ageing population, by 2040, 63p in every £1 will represent the ‘purple pound’, i.e. be from a household where someone has a disability.
It’s high time inclusivity was brought front of mind and for those businesses with long-term growth ambitions, it’s the right call for 2021 and beyond.

4. The user experience revolution we’ve been waiting for...

Since lockdown, we’ve seen some retailers soar and others plummet into oblivion.
From April to June 2020, Ocado saw a hundred-fold spike in demand, while in the last few weeks both Debenhams and TopShop went into administration.
The death of the high street and ongoing lockdowns mean there’s never been a bigger need for better user experiences – both for brands and consumers.
As my colleague Rich highlighted in his recent piece on the science of CRO, you need to genuinely meet your different customers’ needs if you want to drive conversions. It can also help dramatically reduce costs.
A great example of this is the way brands such as ADAY illustrate how their clothes look on people with different body shapes.
Given the fact that changing rooms are closed and the high cost of managing returns, surely helping customers get the right fit the first time is a no-brainer?
Frictionless user experiences are something that we’ve been banging on about for YEARS and now the need to prioritise digital has been forced upon all sectors, 2021 may well see the revolution we’ve been fighting for come to pass.
Sidenote: Of course, to get this part right you need to do customer research, which isn’t easy in the era of social distancing and masks. Thankfully, Tangent has your back with our Complete Guide to Remote User Testing.

5. Digital events that genuinely give you chills

2020 saw us go without events, gigs, parties, in-person meetings or pitches for the first time ever. And there’s no sign of them returning to the way they were for a long while.
Yet we’re still trying to recreate face-to-face experiences online using Zoom – and it doesn’t work!
Sadly, as much as I’d like to be wrong, I don’t have confidence that SXSW online will capture the spirit of one of the best and biggest arts and media festivals the world has to offer.
To engage hearts, minds and souls, digital experiences need to go beyond clicking a video link.
Fortnite gamers have had a little taste of what digital experiences can be like with groundbreaking in-game concerts. But what about the rest of us?
Whether it’s business or personal, delivering the design pitch sparkle or the feel of your favourite tune being played on a heaving dancefloor, it’s time to bring more of the human touch to digital events.
Don’t you agree?


The New Year naturally brings new energy and drive to do things better.
So, what do we want our new normal to look like? How can we do more to champion inclusivity? What innovations will bring more spark to the online event experience?
We have the opportunity to reimagine how we work and how we live; the question is – who’s going to adapt and who’s going to be left behind?
I’d love to hear your learnings from this year and what you want to see happen differently in 2021. Please comment on social or email me so we can have a rant over a virtual coffee.