Dot Bomb - Trend or Lesson?
In these days of the "dot bombs", there are a number of us who are getting nervous about the future of the WWW as a viable means making a living.
We have been made very aware through different forms of media that some of the big names on the Internet have closed their doors. The sale of personal computers and IT job availability in many countries has slowed down.
After every boom; there has to be a bust... it's just the way of things.
Is what we are experiencing currently a "bust"????
Should we all start closing our websites and calling it a day?
During my training, one of my mentors drew a Chinese character on the whyteboard. It was the pictogram for the word "crisis". This pictogram has two elements; one representing "danger" and the other was OPPORTUNITY. This very much applies to the current situation of Internet eCommerce.
In this geeks humble opinion, all we are experiencing on the WWW at the moment is a bit of a cull. Consumers are becoming more net savvy and somewhat impatient with sites that are constantly ramming "buy me" messages down their throats. Investors are no longer rushing to the stock exchange to buy shares at grossly inflated prices in IT start-up companies that are purely based on promotional hype. Search engines and indexes are becoming tighter and tighter in their submission rules to combat the amount of spamming that is occurring in their databases.
The average Internet surfer has put across a message to us, loud and clear, "we're as mad as hell and we aren't going to take it any more!". People use the Internet to locate information suited to their needs. There is nothing more frustrating than to search on a particular subject or item only to find sites that are 99% hype and 1% information, or to spend half a day navigating complex menu systems, ducking misleading banners and links, in order to locate the information required.
While on the subject of web site design, a survey was recently carried by Knowledge Systems & Research Inc between March 30 and April 3, 2001, based on responses from 990 online users. These results were compiled into a report entitled "What Makes A Person Want To Come Back To Your Site?" by the highly respected Arthur Andersen company.
The ratings were based on percentages, the higher the percentage, the more important the aspect:
Ease Of Use/Navigation: 74%
Fast Download Time: 65%
Regularly Updated Information: 58%
Quality Of Content: 57%
Organisation Of Content: 40%
Access To Customer Service: 40%
Quantity Of Content: 30%
Search Engine At The Site: 25%
Front Page Layout: 20%
Look And Feel Of The Site: 18%
Inclusion Of Animated Graphics: 9%
I found this survey to be particularly interesting in that there seems to be a strong message that people are growing weary and wary of our "eye candy" tactics to attract visitors and to hold them. If this survey is a true indication of the general mood of Internet users, then it is clearly showing us that people want quality information, they want it quickly and they want it easily. We need to understand that our visitors want to make informed decisions based on sound information before making purchases through our sites rather than us telling them what they need.
The recent closure of many major eCommerce based sites is not the "Grim Reaper", it is simply a lesson to us all that the consumer is king, and needs to be treated as such. We all need to focus on what I call the 4C's:
Customer Service: How long does it take you to respond to your visitors feedback or enquiries?
Content: More quality information, less hype, less bandwidth sucking eye candy.
Credibility: Would you buy something from someone in a dark alley? We need to gain the trust of our visitors before they will make the decision to purchase from us.
Coding: The quality of our coding needs to improve (yes, I'm guilty as charged ;0)..) to allow us to migrate relatively painlessly to emerging standards such as XML and XHTML. This will also ensure maximum compatibility with the myriad of browser versions and OS's now in use and to make our sites more easily integrated into other applications. Stricter coding practices will also decrease load times of our pages. WYSIWYG applications such as the one that I use for this site, while effective in rapid page development, have a tendency to include many lines of superfluous code.
With these points in mind, we will benefit from the Internet and provide benefits to others. Hopefully we will see some sort of return to the Internet "community" concept.
Greed may make you a few dollars quickly, but is not a good approach for longevity. Small web site owners now have a golden opportunity to step in, learn from the lessons of the dot bombs and become prosperous - it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.