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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Understanding Web 2.0

Web 2.0 – is it a meaningless buzzword or a new form of “web wisdom”?  The actual term describes a way of interacting with the web, transforming a user from a “reader” into a “doer”. 

In the past, most users simply read the content of websites, none of which required any involvement from the user on more than a passive level.  However, users weren’t satisfied with just the ability to read the information they encountered; they wanted to possess it.  So the web began to offer its users ways to store what they found online and more importantly, to participate actively in the online environment.  The key word became: interactive.

Andrew McAfee, research scientist at M.I.T., coined the acronym SLATES to refer to qualities of Web 2.0 websites:
Search:  Searching by use of keywords

Links: A meaningful network of useful websites and information

Authoring: Creating content online together, being able to edit each other’s work to make sure that the most accurate and helpful information is available.

Tags: Short descriptions to help users quickly find what they are searching for

Extensions:  Software that enables web interactivity as software, as well as document storage: Flash, Quicktime, etc.

Signals: RSS Feeds and similar ways of pushing out updates to users 

Web 2.0 offers a world of interaction: social media and social networking websites, video, music, blogs, cloud computing, document and file sharing, and instant communication with anyone, anytime, anywhere.   Static webpages have given way to sites like Google, Myspace, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Spotify, and Pinterest.  You can interact with these and virtually any other website with your laptop, smart phone, tablet, mp3 player, e-reader, and more.  With so many possible ways to interact online, the web can be very confusing to the uneducated user.  So how do you make sense of Web 2.0?

3 Web 2.0 Tips for Developers and Designers

As a developer or designer, the goal is to make your website as interactive and user friendly as possible.  This basically takes place in three ways:
  1. Reach the user.  Your website should be tested thoroughly for cross browser compatibility, as well as for use with mobile devices, tablets, etc.  It should include versions of Flash, Quicktime, or similar software only when necessary to display content to the user (e.g. video).  It should also be hosted on a cloud server like Rackspace if possible, to ensure that the data is safely stored and readily accessible.
  2. Allow the user to reach you.  Provide contact forms, allow your users to subscribe to RSS feeds of your latest news updates, provide social media links (like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter).
  3. Give the user motivation to tell their friends.  Be active on Facebook, Twitter, Digg or Delicious, Pinterest, or whatever makes sense in your industry.  Give your user both the reason and the ability to share your content with others virally.  Find a way to take part in the conversations that are taking place around you and about you through social networking. 

3 Web 2.0 Tips for Users

As a user, probably the three most important aspects of Web 2.0 are blogging, social networking, and social bookmarking.
  1. Blogging.  This means sharing your life, your interests, your points of view.  Blogger, Live Journal, Wordpress, Tumblr – know these names and use them.  Whether you’re a business owner, a celebrity, a politician, or an average web user, you have a voice and a blog is a perfect way to share that with the world.
  2. Social Networking.  If you’re below the age of 60, you probably have a Facebook, Myspace or Twitter account.  If you’re above the age of 60, your peers are using these websites anyway, so you probably should too.  Connect with friends and family, business associates, or people you may find interesting.  Stay on top of what’s current.
  3. Social Bookmarking.  Share, share, share.  Websites you like, photos, memes, news, movies, blogs, music, and videos.  Use Digg, Delicious, Flickr, Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc..  Many of your friends rely on each other to find out what’s hot, current, and of interest.  You can contribute to that too.

The key to Web 2.0 is a worldwide user interaction; in essence we are creating platforms that allow us to work together to provide the best user experience possible.  Part of the responsibility that we each take on as active participants on the web is a promise of quality: because we each want to find the best of the web, we must make sure that what we put out meets that same expectation.  Using Web 2.0 functionality together, there is virtually no limit to what is possible on the web.

Jonathan Martin is a Magento developer and SEO professional who believes that informed clients are key to effective site monetization. When everyone is speaking the same language, good decisions are made.

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