website changes 2018

Oct 6, 2017

Let's face it, the Internet is ever-changing. Some changes you can’t predict: at the start of 2011, no one realized that responsive would practically be a requirement by the end of the year. But some changes are known and scheduled. Let’s look at some of the biggest changes that may affect the way your company communicates through digital channels.

1. Accessibility Gets Enforced

In January of 2017, Section 508 accessibility guidelines will require conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines. However, a grace period of roughly a year was put in place until enforcement. That grace period ends on January 18, 2018. We’ve already seen some high profile cases of corporations being sued for lack of Section 508 compliance (See Winn-Dixie and Five Guys). The organizations at greatest threat are those with physical locations available to the public (like a store, restaurant, etc).

What can you do to make sure your site is in compliance? You should start by having an assessment of your site completed by a company well versed in web development and accessibility needs. Genuine has these capabilities in house. Additionally, there are some web browser extensions for Chrome that allow you to get a quick view of your accessibility compliance.

If your site isn’t currently in compliance, it doesn’t necessarily require full redesign of your site. Some changes may be made within your existing templates and designs, depending on the structure of your code and how significant the required changes are.

2. Google Site Search Goes the Way of the Dodo

On April 1, 2018, Google will shut down its Google Site Search product for good. Many websites have relied on Google Site Search for good reason: those sites were able to tap into the power of Google’s search results for a relatively low-cost and it was fairly easy to setup.

If you’re using Google Site Search, there’s no getting around it, you’re going to have to replace it with a similar product. Here are some options:  

There are many other options available. Genuine can help determine the best fit for your website and support your team in implementation.

3. Autoplay Videos Are Severely Limited

In mid-2017, Safari started restricting use cases where video could autoplay. Google’s Chrome browser (far and away the most popular browser in the market) will join the party. Version 64 of Chrome will see the browser restrict autoplay videos to those with no sound and those that are deemed of interest to you, the visitor. The latter is a very vague description, but if there’s anyone who knows what videos are of interest to you, it’s probably Google.

To be safe, you and your agency partner (hopefully Genuine!) should conduct a review of any auto-playing videos on your website to determine whether there needs to be a new strategy for their use.

4. Europe Introduces Stricter Rules Around User Data

Come May 25, 2018, the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect. This regulation does two main things:

It requires all international companies to treat the data of European citizens in the same manner European companies have been required to (and expands upon them); It unifies all individual European country data protection laws into one single platform.  

The good news is that this simplifies the many requirements across all the EU countries into one regulation. This will make compliance easier for non-EU companies to meet. The tradeoff is that the data protection rules are more onerous than (especially American) companies are used to. Some of these requirements include:

  • Allow an EU citizen to request that personal data be removed from a site
  • Pseudonymize any identifying data of a user. This requires replacing certain identifying data with “artificial identifiers”
  • Requires consent from a user before collecting any of their data
  • Allow a user to transfer their personal data to another system

Many major providers (like Salesforce, Oracle, Google, and others) are prepared for the coming GDPR change and if you’re a customer of those platforms, they can provide support. For custom applications, companies may need to make changes to their data collection and retention policies.

5. Apple Limits the Cookie

This change will actually be coming this fall, but it’s a big one. Apple’s Safari browser will purge data from a cookie 24 hours after a visitor’s last interaction with a site. This will have significant impacts on this such as: data storage in cookies, single sign-on (SSO), and potentially analytics, as well. 

The loudest voice of dissent on this change is actually coming from ad networks. These changes will put strict limitations on advertisers that rely on third party cookie data - the kind of cookies that track you from site to site. You’ve seen these cookies when you were looking for a product on one site and then you go to another site only to see that exact product advertised to you there.

These changes were made in the name of privacy for the consumers. But they will affect sites that have nothing to do with advertising. If your site is using cookies for legitimate purposes, but visitors to your site aren’t there every day, you may see adverse effects of this change on the experience of your visitors.

Let’s face it, change is inevitable; especially in a digitally-driven era. And while we might not have a say in what changes and what remains, it’s imperative for us embrace the new and use it to our advantage. #InventTogeher.

Want to learn more about Genuine and how we can help you with your next digital, creative, teach and media project? Get in touch with us at

Mike Norman is the SVP, Technology at Genuine, a born digital creative, tech and media agency that believes brands must “invent together” to win in today’s connected economy.