The website as we know it is about to get killed off. What started as an electronic brochure is headed for the trash bin as a relic of the first phase of the Internet. It will be replaced by the “appsite”…the location(s) where an organization’s messages and offerings are delivered across any platform as digestible, personalized content and functionality that replaces the corporate billboard…and in some measure, the sales person.
Why the change and why now? First and foremost, the website must go because it is an awful skeuomorph and as Seth Godin says, Skeuomorphs = failure:
…a skeuomorph is a design element from an old thing, added to a new one. I think that printing a cork-colored filter on a cigarette that no longer has cork involved is just fine. But when skeuomorphs get in the way of how we actually use something or build something, they demonstrate a lack of imagination or even cowardice on the part of the designer. (Sooner or later, just about everything, even the alphabet I am writing with, could be considered skeuomorphic… my point is that embracing the convenient at the expense of the effective is where the failure happens).
Godin hates skeuomorphs for the same reason I do…they represent a missed opportunity for creativity. Skeuomorphs are lazy. Most importantly, the winner of transformative innovation isn’t the thing that looks like the old thing, “eBay doesn’t look like Sotheby’s. Amazon doesn’t look like a bookstore.” Godin points us to @Craigmod, who waxes poetically about design simplicity and breaking free of mental paradigms.
Digitization of everything
The second reason websites must go has to do with the digitization of everything. When people sought information or services in a non-digital world, they found what they need as catalogues of results (think: notes on paper, the rolodex)…still today, a search engine’s output is a report with some paid advertisement sprinkled in. When the Internet is primarily a digitized brochure, this makes perfect sense and a website is a static report of what will appeal to the masses. But in a world where digital information breaks free from the past, the Web experience can be far more personalized, guided, media-rich, and targeted. That won’t be found as search results…it will be found through content.
Apps serve that need beautifully as device-agnostic, encapsulated functionality.
Sell first, inform second
Open the Amazon website and you won’t see a digitized brochure. To find <investor relations> and <contact us> requires going well below the fold because Amazon uses its real estate to begin the business relationship immediately. They don’t ask users to click through before the sale starts.
If you think this is just a B2C model, think again. Highly compensated sales reps bringing in the vast majority of revenue is a skeuomorph from the days where a company existed in one place in the world and sold across many geographies. Complicated things needed to be explained or demonstrated in-person. There was no Internet. This model is expensive, inefficient and needs to compete with a direct selling model where the customer finds value from digital interaction and moves to the brand without a human being pitching and closing the deal. For software companies, cloud computing makes this an urgent need.
Are you ready to throw out your website and start over? You can do it before the cliff looms ahead or you can wait until your competitor forces you to. Playing catchup is a tough game.