Did Mobile Kill The Website Star?

If video killed the radio star, did mobile kill the website star?

I saw you on the Netscape back in ninety- two
At my desk intent on tuning in on you
Sixty mega-hertz didn’t stop you coming through…
Oh-a Oh

I’ll leave the rest of the spoof to the experts at collegehumor.com, and get back to my point.

There was a time when the traditional corporate website was at the center of how a company communicated with their customers. I’m already implying past tense, so you know where I’m headed here.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. People have been talking about the demise of the world wide web for years. But unlike the technologies of the late 90’s, or even the 2000’s, two major forces are pulling the traditional corporate website away from the center of a company’s digital identity.

1. The browser is dying. Apps do it better.

As early as 1997, Wired magazine proclaimed the end of the browser in its cover story, Push!. Maybe they called it a little early, but in 2011, the world wide web represented less than 20% of all Internet traffic, compared to around 60% in 2000. Fine, a lot of that has to do with the increase in video, but the fact that we’re consuming content differently today than in the past is undeniable.

I don’t think I’ll ever visit a news site again. WSJ.com, NYtimes.com, BBC.com? There’s an app for that. In fact, why go to three separate apps when Flipboard will consolidate hundreds of news sources for you in a beautiful, easier to consume interface?

Checking email, LinkedIn or Facebook on your laptop? Banking? Ordering food? There’s an app for that, too. If the television remote has taught us anything, it’s that the couch is a much more comfortable place to conduct business. Or if you’re too busy for TV, check it on the way to your date (just don’t check it ON your date, that never ends well…).

2. There’s no longer a center.

What a tangled web we’ve weaved (pardon the pun). It started with search, which pretty quickly did away with our obsession over navigation. Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Get over it and re-do the search. Then came social media, which blew up the center entirely. There’s no linear path to how people consume content anymore. Any attempts to force people to engage in a certain way will fail. People will engage with your site when and how they like.

So is the website dead?

Well, no. So don’t go cancelling your domain registrations. People want what they’ve always wanted; the path of least resistance.

Mobile apps are great for simple tasks like paying bills, moving money, ordering lunch, or booking a flight. Or for consuming content such as news, research, magazines, etc. But it’s really painful to plan a vacation, comparison shop, or do anything that requires heavier administrative work or more intense research using a tablet, never mind a mobile phone. Companies need to re-evaluate what their site’s being used for, and re-build the experience accordingly.

And that beautiful website you’ve built? Well, it’s no longer the center of your digital identity. It’s not even the starting point. More companies are promoting their Facebook pages or Twitter handles on their TV advertising rather than their own websites. They’ve recognized that sparking conversation among the community is a better starting point for attracting future customers. People will always want a place to go for the ‘official’ company position. But know that by the time they get to your site, they’ve already consumed quite a bit of content from potentially ‘unofficial’ sources. Understanding this context will be key to delivering a relevant experience for your visitors.

So did mobile kill the website star? Not entirely. The website’s certainly not the ‘star’ anymore, but it has a role to play (after all, we do still have radio).

Social media also had something to do with it, but “Did Mobile and Social Media Kill the Website Star” isn’t as catchy a title…

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