A Web Site is No Longer Enough

By  |  Friday, February 26, 2010 at 2:48 pm

The way in which we interact with technology has changed dramatically over the past few years. The era of light computing has begun, and social media is big enough that the average person can shape perceptions. A Web site is no longer the most meaningful way for us to interact to tell companies about their products or to use online services.

Smartphones are selling in droves, and people are using apps rather than visiting Web sites for everything from buying movie tickets to checking stocks. At any given time, it is likely that conversations about big businesses are happening on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and those conversations can be initiated by anyone from anywhere.

This week, Apple announced that a 13 year old from Connecticut had downloaded the billionth iPhone app. Over 34 million iPhones have been sold to date, and sales of Android smartphones are surging.

What’s more, smartphones have become more affordable, as economies are scale are reached and competition heats up among platforms.

Developers are focusing on Android and the iPhone, which provide excellent tools for writing apps. Microsoft is reinvesting in Windows Mobile in a big way, Symbian has become open source, and an industry effort has begun to deliver standardized Web apps that work across platforms.

The momentum of smartphones has become irreversible, and so has the resulting change in consumer behavior. I use a Twitter app to tweet on my iPhone instead of logging into the Twitter Web site. If I’m in a rush, I’ll buy movie tickets with Fandango’s app– it’s a lot easier than zooming in to see the tiny buttons and fields on its Web site.

Web sites don’t cut it functionally, nor are they longer the best way for businesses to reach people on the Web. A mobile Web site is not the answer either, and here’s why –they limit imagination, and hence the potential to interact with customers.

One of the top selling iPhone apps is “I Am T-Pain.” T-Pain is a musician who is famous for using the auto-tune to distort his voice. The app lets people sing into their iPhones so that their voice sounds like his. A Web site gives T-Pain a presence on the Internet, but it couldn’t offer T-Pain the same recognition that his app provides.

It is also shortsighted for businesses to assume that a Web site will offer a clear picture of customers’ desires, or that the world’s greatest experts on your products are working for it. Sometimes we know better as consumers. Businesses can’t and should not prevent it from happening, but they can join the dialog.

Social CRM is an emerging discipline that recognizes that the traditional two-way channel of communication between business and customer should include interactions among customers themselves. Numerous start ups including Bantam Live and established vendors such as Salesforce offer solutions to make that possible.

Good luck having that same interaction on a company’s Web site. It likely won’t happen in corporate-run forums. Companies including Comcast recognize this, and have begun to address customers through Twitter. We can only hope that they are really listening.

How people access information is changing. It’s time for businesses to think big while thinking small to provide us with the best possible service.


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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Jonas Says:

    These are some relevant points – the corporate (or personal) website will have to emerge into a hub or transaction-endpoint. Also, user-interaction transcends mere search-find-click-leave. But one thing is for sure: As long as there are no real people ready to work with interaction-requests coming through the website in near-realtime ( as it is in most corps) the current email/process-centric workflows will remain wan dwill not challenge common webdesign paradigms.

  2. Charles Lau Says:

    interesting analogy. It makes me realize that the internet is really not just about using computers to check information…

    This brings us to look at the various market rather than just being computer-centric..

    I’m very sure a lot of big companies are still not looking into this sector yet… Simply because their whole infrastructure is not ready..

  3. David Hamilton Says:

    I only recently acquired a smartphone (iPhone) for the first time, and the experience provided by some of the apps has thrown into sharp relief how poor the desktop web experience is for many sites.

    The best example (at least for those in Britain) is the website for UK railways – http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ – which provides live departure and arrival information, something that regular commuters find really useful. The site was originally poor, then much improved, and now, as of a new version 3 months ago, worse again.

    The iPhone app, however, allows me to find the information I need much quicker than the website. For train departure information at my local station I would estimate that I can get the required information via my phone in a third of the time I would need for the website – assuming, that is, that the website is running smoothly!

    Another point to note is that sites optimised for small screens (the iPhone help microsite is a good example) actually display information clearer and in a less cluttered form than they do in a desktop browser. That focus on just the information that the user needs is a breath of fresh air for those of us fed up with trying to read complex, busy web pages.

    As Joe Friday said in Dragnet: “All we want are the facts, ma’am”.

  4. Louis Vuitton Says:

    Greattt! Thank you!!!

  5. Steigerwald Says:

    And this is one of the many things I love about Open Source. Paul and Susan had a need: embed VoiceThreads in their web site. FrmBLue Sxe Wall Hack

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