d.Construct and Web 2.0

Paul Boag

Some random thoughts on the subject of the next generation of websites and my questions about how it will influence the mainstream.

So here I sit, at the d.Construct conference on Web 2.0, waiting for it to start. This seems like the perfect opportunity to jot down some random thoughts on the subject of the next generation of websites and my questions about how it will influence the mainstream.

What is Web 2.0? Hell if I know!

To be honest I do not want to be drawn into the debate about what makes something Web 2.0 and what does not. That kind of abstract discussion does not interest me. However, what is clear is that something is happening on the web and a new generation of slicker, user focused, and application like, websites are emerging.

How does Web 2.0 become mainstream?

What is of interest to me is how the innovations on these sites are going to filter down to your average rank-and-file website. Let’s face it, most of us aren’t involved in developing cutting edge websites that push the envelope of what is possible. We develop websites for businesses or organisations who have much more mundane objectives like making money, rather than spearheading technological development.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow as I am hoping this will help me to clarify how Web 2.0 can move to the mainstream. I have some initial ideas but I am not sure how commercially viable they will prove for my clients. For example, one of the driving forces behind Web 2.0 is AJAX and DOM scripting. These technologies provide the more “application like” experience we have come to expect from sites like Google Maps and Gmail. On these sites, you do not constantly have to wait for the page to reload. Instead, the whole user experience seems a lot “slicker”. However, when I sat down and thought about it I could not think of an easy way to “sell” this to my clients. What does it give them in real terms? In a few cases, I could see the value where you were dealing with ecommerce sites in a highly competitive marketplace. Small changes that improve the user experience can distinguish you from the competition. However, beyond that I could not imagine my clients paying more for this enhanced user experience.

Selling Web 2.0

I guess the latest time I went through this process was with the move to web standards. However, there I had a clear list of benefits I could take to my clients. With Web 2.0, AJAX, DOM scripting and the numerous other buzzwords currently flying about I cannot see as clearly defined benefits. I guess that at the end of the day it just might be a question of the herd mentality. You might be forced into making your site more application like because that is what everybody else is doing and it will look dated by comparison. However, this seems like a bit of a lame reason to upgrade.

Come on, help me out here. What cold hard business reasons are there for adding that slick, application like feel to your run-of-the-mill website?