Every year Ave A/Razorfish puts out a yearly report highlighting research and trends in digital marketing. The focus this year is on the expanding role of social apps and how people use them. Not only is the report extremely insightful and provides a glimpse of where the internet and it’s users are headed, it also is beautifully put together.

There are 13 articles including, Designing Experiences for the Facebook Generation, How Micro-Interactions are Changing the Way We Communicate Online, How Tiny Applications are Remaking the Future of the Web, A Look at Games as Tools Not Toys, and Data Visualization for the Online Era. Below are some key takeaways – this is not meant to be a complete summary, just an excerpt to give you an idea of the contents.

Meet the Connected Consumer

  • All signs point to the continuing disintegration of “one-stop” digital destinations… We’ve found that [consumers] don’t want a one-size-fits-all solution for their needs. Consumers prefer using multiple destinations, and then aggregating media and services, via simple tools like RSS, into a highly personalized view of their digital world.
  • We were most surprised to see widespread acceptance and frequent consumer usage of Web site widgets… This development reinforces our belief that distribution of content and services will trump destinations, as both consumers and Internet technologies continue to evolve. Additionally, it will provide significant challenges for publishers (primarily media and entertainment companies) who currently have no clear path towards monetizing content distribution across the Web.
  • Digital Behavior Defies Age: We found today’s connected consumers equally distributed across all age ranges, with a slight skew to older segments. No longer are we seeing Internet technology adoption rates limited to only certain segments. Our study found widespread acceptance of these new service offering and finds older consumers much more likely to spend money online.

Designing Experiences for the Facebook Generation

  • What is happening is that the concept of social networking is evolving and morphing. It’s now about making the entire Web social instead of just creating a ghetto of destination sites where people have to go to socialize (a la Facebook Connect).
  • People want to feel special and tend to reach out to the things that make them feel that way. So, it’s no surprise that people flock to social networks in droves; they make users feel like the star of their own lives.
  • The most recent rapid expansion on the Facebook and MySpace sites came when they opened up their systems and allowed developers to make applications for their sites
  • Design for multiple levels of participation
    • Low-level: rating, poking, tagging, commenting, subscribing
    • Mid-level: writing statuses, twittering, playing games, adding widgets, uploading photos
    • High-level: making videos, writing blog posts and reviews
    • Expert-level: moderating groups and message boards, creating applications, running feeder businesses on the social network’s “economy”

Putting Jakob Back on the Shelf

  • Stop launching your design activity around pages as the medium… We need to build frameworks that power both storytelling and answer-seeking to occur.
  • Design the new customer experience as a map of interactions. The new experience might be a conversation; it might be a series of decisions made by the user; it might be an interactive storytelling session. Understand what the customer needs, and just design that.
  • Let’s not limit our vision to effective Web editorial styles, properly ordered Cancel and Save buttons, and left aligned lists of mixed capitalization blue links. Let’s design customer experiences that start and end with, well, the customers’ goals and needs—and let’s start with a blank slate. Use storytelling and interaction building blocks—not the building blocks of desktop publishing.

How Micro-Interactions Are Changing the Way We Communicate Online

  • At the heart of micro-interactions is the belief that immediacy, simplicity, voyeurism and constant communications matter. The success of the tools lend credence to the notion that quick, possibly frivolous, short bursts of communication are just as useful as more measured, reflective communications.
  • Web experiences will need to support communication dynamics that allow users to engage in something and report back to their communities in a Twitter-like fashion. Because they have the portability of a social graph, these micro-interactions will take place anywhere on the Web as people interact with their friends in more locations.

How Tiny Applications Are Remaking the Future of the Web

  • One could argue that we are seeing a third wave of software properties—propagated by RockYou—that is differentiated from previous waves based on customization, interactivity and viral distribution.
  • We believe that widgets provide the purest glimpse into the new, improved networked future. It’s an interconnected world where people will select, personalize, share and consume Web services wherever and whenever they choose. Effortlessly.

A Look at Games as Tools, Not Toys

  • Get to know the product by imagining it as a game… Use game-inspired techniques to create a better experience in non-game products.
  • People love instant feedback. It creates a sense of reward through a series of small, doable steps. In games, the steps to “winning” are visually represented and easily accessible. This may look like a coin-counting meter, a halo around your avatar or many other things. Mint.com’s dashboard provides instant feedback on your financial goals. It monitors how every swipe of your card affects your budget and net worth, and even how your spending compares to others in the same city.

Data Visualization for the Online Era

  • The next time you are tasked with providing users with consumption or performance information, or a way of comparing the past, present and future, think of the questions the users are trying to resolve. Then get creative and provide the answers visually. Consider how quickly they can use the information to decide to buy, change, stop or reconsider. Ensure the style of the visuals reinforces a brand personality. The result? Users who will feel empowered, engaged and appreciative that you have saved them precious time and allowed them to make a decision with confidence.

In case this report isn’t enough reading for you can download last year’ report: Desigining for Constant Change.

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