Web 2.0: Are You Focusing on the Right Aspects?

It’s hard to go a day without hearing about how Web 2.0 is changing the way people interact with Web businesses. Much of the buzz focuses on new technology that companies tie to Web 2.0 because it’s the newest, hottest thing out there.

When thinking about how it affects site visitors and actual site performance — meaning how Web 2.0 can help make companies more successful on the Web — I started to consider what most people are talking about when it comes to Web 2.0.

A quick Google search for “Web 2.0” shows there isn’t one consistent definition or even really an agreed-upon description.

Wikipedia describes Web 2.0 this way:

Web 2.0, a phrase coined by O’Reilly Media in 2004, refers to a perceived or proposed second generation of Internet-based services — such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies — that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users. O’Reilly Media, in collaboration with MediaLive International, used the phrase as a title for a series of conferences, and since 2004 some technicians and marketers have adopted the phrase. Its exact meaning remains open to debate, and some experts, notably Tim Berners Lee, have questioned whether the term has meaning.

The last, compact definition of Web 2.0, according to Tim O’Reilly, is this one:

“Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (This is what I’ve elsewhere called ‘harnessing collective intelligence.’)”

This is where things get interesting. Clearly, there are two ways people view Web 2.0:

  • Business aspect: A business revolution, leveraging new ways of sharing information and communicating with customers and prospects that help satisfy customer expectations and better meet overall company goals.
  • Technical aspect: All those cool new things you can be doing with AJAX (define), video, blogs, RSS, and so on.

As you read most of the Web 2.0 buzz, it unfortunately almost always revolves around technology or products that can help you take advantage of Web 2.0 tech.

Certain aspects of Web 2.0 have been around for a long time. Many sites have allowed people to review and share opinions on products (Amazon.com, Epinions, TripAdvisor, etc.) for quite awhile now. And many sites are obviously focusing on community aspects, blogs, and the like.

The real question is how the Web 2.0 hype helps make your site a better experience for your customers and prospects, and how it can help you be more successful and meet your business needs.

I personally love thinking of new ways to communicate with customers. And I do find a lot of the new technology pretty exciting. I’m continually tempted to find a way to leverage it. But I also force myself to return to the question: is this the right way to spend resources to improve site performance? Meaning, does it make more sense for a company to spend $100,000 on leveraging a new Web 2.0 technology or concept, or could that money be spent better elsewhere?

There isn’t always a correct answer, of course. It depends on your business, your customers, and what technology you’re looking to leverage.

As we prioritize opportunities for our clients, we look at the initiative’s opportunity cost as well as the estimated monetized effect to the overall business. We then prioritize opportunities based on the initiative that has the highest forecasted ROI (define).

This can help you avoid getting caught up in the technology hype and force you to truly consider what it can do for your business.

Be sure to consider the business impact, not just the technology hype from Web 2.0 product vendors and the media.

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