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Idea: Get Ready for an Internet With No Screens

According to the analytics we use to keep up with Idea Email, we know there’s a 25 percent chance you’re reading this on a smartphone, most likely an iPhone. More important, those analytics remind us there was only a 15 percent chance that you’d read Idea Email on a smartphone in 2013, when we advised you to “Design first for the smallest screen.

We hope you followed that advice. Today, a website’s design must be friendly on small screens or the site will disappear from Google’s mobile search results. (Google’s rationale: If the user can’t view your site comfortably, why lead them there with a high-ranking link?)

You may think we’re about to suggest that you devote resources to developing content for an even smaller screen: the Apple Watch. But that would be so, well, 2015. We’re going to jump past the tiny screen era and advise you to start considering what customer content will be like when there are billions of devices with NO screens hooked into the internet.

Entrepreneurs leading the charge into this future call it the “internet of things.”

Tony Fadell, formerly one of the key product developers at Apple (and known as one of the fathers of the iPod), is the CEO and founder of Nest, the internet-enabled thermostat and security system acquired by Google. He recently pointed to a near future (2020) where 25 billion devices that don’t currently fit within our understanding of the internet will become as smart as any screen device. “With smaller processors, wider networks and more sources of energy, it won’t be long before everything around us becomes a computer, from our headphones to our chairs,” Fadell says.

In other words, it’s important to begin thinking about smart products that don’t fit around wrists or into our pockets. Soon, more products (such as Fadell’s thermostats and security devices) will come pre-loaded with all the technology necessary to allow the products to interact via the internet with one another, with you and with anyone or anything that its owners designate.

What does this mean for marketers? It’s time to move beyond the popular understanding of content as a means to tell customers about products and realize that both data and content will be embedded into the products themselves. For instance, have you wondered why QR code stickers are appearing on rental car driver-side windows? We hadn’t either, until we discovered the code leads to information about that specific model of car.

In the future, such helpful content won’t require an iPhone, Apple Watch or a QR code printed on a sticker to access. A granddaughter of Siri will be able to answer everything about the car we’ve rented with no screens involved.

At some point, content will not be about promoting your products. Content will become one of the most important features in your product.

*For a few examples of Hammock-developed and managed content-rich projects that look great on screens of any size, visit SmallBusiness.com, HealthTrust’s reSOURCEs site, and Hammock.com.

Photo: Rex Hammock via Flickr, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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