Taking over a new beat or being given a new assignment is one of the great perks of being a journalist. Three months ago I joined the editorial staff at Website Magazine to cover the Internet for an audience of Web professionals. My eyes continue to grow wider every day, simply because there’s so much more information still left to devour. However, I do have some early observations to share after the first 90 days on the job:
Search Engine Optimization
Considering that it’s a multibillion-dollar industry today and in many ways the driving force behind the future development of the Web, I find it hard to fathom that SEO is only 12 years old and still growing exponentially. As someone who casually watched this business evolve until just a few months ago, when I became exposed to some of the real experts in the field, I have a new appreciation for how difficult it must be for Web professionals to distinguish the good information from the bad. I am all for trial and error and flying one's entrepreneurial flag, but my early impression is that this is the area in which I would most want some hand-holding from a proven and trusted expert.
What I love the most about e-commerce is that — unlike so much else on the Internet — the cream will almost always rise to the top. If you set out to provide your customers with the best experience you can, and you treat them with dignity and respect, you will be successful for having done so. If you don’t, and instead you cut corners and dismiss their needs and their feedback, you will have a much harder road ahead of you. My early impression is that the various formulas for success in the e-commerce industry, while changing almost daily to keep up with the technology, are at least out in the open for everyone to see at all times.
It seems that so much has changed in the past 15 years about how we design websites, yet very little has changed about why we design them. A winning website design still has to capture the visitor’s attention in the opening moments and hold onto it through continued engagement and, ultimately, a call to action. The different methods used to achieve those goals and the different forms of engagement continue to change at warp speed, but the fundamental principles of Web design seem to me to be one of the most solid foundations of the Internet.
To be inside the industry walls at the height of social media's grip on our culture both excites me and confounds me. Watching history being made from a seat in the front row is a privilege, and that is certainly what I believe we are witnessing with Facebook and Twitter and perhaps half a dozen other networks still in development. The confounding part is that it all remains such an enigma as to how these platforms are going to be used even a year from now, and even more exasperating to me is the notion that a misguided application could mean the end of society as we know it.
From the latest smartphones and tablet computers to the next gadget that will relieve me of performing even the simplest task, this stuff is a lot of fun to talk about, read about and, especially, write about. How they help us in the ever-developing world of Internet business is where I try to keep my focus, but it’s hard sometimes not to just scratch my head and wonder what in the world will they think of next.
Even cooler than the gadgets, is my impression thus far. Never have I been surrounded by so many bright and creative minds, from those of us who work on the Internet to the people who work ON the Internet. The future of the Web depends on all of us, and I’m just grateful to be a part of it.