In the past week, I’ve come across two though-provoking articles about the future of Web sites.
In AdAge, Pete Blackshaw asks whether we still need Web sites given the growing corporate use of Twitter, Facebook and “cool” applications.
Jay Baer, one of the most thought-provoking people in social media, suggests Facebook is killing Web sites. He declares that:
“Like print newspapers, basketball players under 6 feet tall, and the McRib sandwich, the website as we know it will soon be a thing of the past – a quaint reminder of the original Internet era.”
So, the question is whether Web sites are doing the way of the dinosaur? With social media becoming a way for companies to engage with existing and potential customers, do Web sites have a strong role to play?
While Baer may disagree, I believe Web sites will remain a vibrant corporate tool. But, like Blackshaw, I believe how Web sites are created and used will change to complement social media. Blackshaw talks about how Web sites will need to be agile, flexible and easy for people to leave feedback. He believes Web sites need to become a solid foundation upon which social media, e-commerce and mobile services leverage and support.
From the work I’m doing with clients, the evolution of Web sites is already happening. Rather than simply being places to get information about what a company offers or makes, Web sites need to engage, entertain and educate. A compelling Web site should encourage people to do something – ask for more information, watch a video, subscribe to a blog, “like” a Facebook Page, follow a Twitter account, or even purchase a product or service.
The messaging for Web sites (something I’ll post on later this week) needs to quickly and clearly capture the visitor’s attention, and tell them why they should stick around (aka What’s in it for me?). If a Web site fails to immediately deliver a company’s mission statement and value propositions, time-strapped and multi-tasking visitors will move on without thinking twice.
The reality for many companies is their Web sites will need to be overhauled or built from scratch. Before the global economy swooned, many companies didn’t think twice about their Web sites other than making minor changes. After all, there was little incentive to make changes when sales and profits were booming.
Today, however, the emergence of social media is prompting more companies to re-examine their Web sites, which have become tired, outdated and uninspiring.
It’s not that Web sites are going to disappear; it’s more that Web sites are going to need more than a fresh coat of paint to stay viable. Companies will think to re-think what they want their Web sites to do, and how they are going to be aligned with their social media efforts.
So, long live the Web (Site) 2.0!