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Do you need a Web 2.0 facelift?

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The latest and greatest online marketing ideas are often adopted by savvy businesses from the creative breeding ground of the consumer web. Web 2.0 is no exception. So what organisations would benefit from a Web 2.0 makeover and just how do you get the “Web 2.0 look”?

Web 2.0 consists of a number of interrelated parts, from audience-driven content, to new technology approaches. These have combined to shift the way we perceive and utilise the web. Search engines, blogs and social media have moved the web up another gear, making it a more democratic, human and arguably more engaging place.

As the Web 2.0 bandwagon moves on, it is bringing with it a fresh new look, a look that is distinct enough to be defined and “replicated”. It is also a look that is being adopted by organisations who are not strictly Web 2.0.

The Web 2.0 look has a number of attributes that are less formal and tend to simplify web pages for quicker consumption. Web 2.0 design is elegant, fresh and bold. But how is this implemented at the detail level?

  • Distinct page layouts, specifically meaning that pages are divided into sections containing bold banners and elegant design features.
  • Simplified design with reduced levels of busy (often textual) content, and simple menus and navigation.
  • Bold and fresh colour schemes.
  • Incorporation of embellishments and design features (not just in logos), which has heralded a revival of the icon.
  • Over-sized text both in headers and body copy.

Is the Web 2.0 look for you?

As with all forms of communication the primary consideration is your target audience: who are you talking to?

The Web 2.0 look is more appropriate for a younger, less conservative viewer. People more used to reading newspapers than websites are likely to view simplification and fresh colour schemes as ‘dumming down’.

But even in traditionally conservative fields, a handful of brave companies are using Web 2.0 design features to differentiate themselves. For example, Egg (www.egg.co.uk), a UK-based internet-only bank, launched with a look that, in retrospect, is quite “Web 2.0”.

For many technology companies, providing a fresh and fun look helps to communicate that their products are not complex or intimidating. Presenting large text, tab navigation and segmented pages containing design embellishments, are portraying a message of simplicity. Companies with more “in-depth” products or services could also benefit from taking this approach.

If you do decide to pick up on the Web 2.0 look, then adopting other Web 2.0 communications would also be of benefit: starting an “insider’s blog”, or publishing news and announcements via RSS. Perhaps even launching a customer rating system/feedback forum.

A word of warning

There is an ironic fly in the ointment of the Web 2.0 look, which is its potential alienation of search engines. There are two main factors in this; the first is the trend towards graphics and white space at the expense of textual content.

Search engines love pages that are text heavy (and keyword rich); a significant element of their ranking algorithms is dedicated to analysing the viewable textual content and ranking the page as a result.

The second is in the use of new technology approaches including AJAX (Asynchronous Javascript And XML). AJAX is a clever combination of Java coding and XML data storage. Search engines cannot reach the content that is stored ready for display on a page following an interaction; they can only read and store content that is displayed in the relatively simple presentation formats.

If your business relies heavily on search engines as a means of generating new business, or has recently invested significantly in a search engine optimisation program, then adopting the Web 2.0 without care could have a negative impact on sales and revenues.

Whether Web 2.0 or simply “best practice” design for marketers, there are lessons to be learned and tradeoffs to be aware off.

Luke Farley is a director and co-founder of online strategies and tools consultancy Lcubed:Online Marketing. The full version of this story appears in this month’s issue of Marketing magazine.

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