“…Traditional websites will one day disappear in favor of interactive portal pages.”

That’s me being quoted by Michael Scott Scudder in his recent newsletter article “Your website: product of the past or focus on the future?” Michael was writing about a subject near and dear to my heart – the development of websites that are compelling, artistic and yet fully functional in the job for which they are created: to draw customers and potential customers into the heart of your site and give them the ability to explore, discover, enjoy and ultimately to purchase what the site is offering, simply and easily.

In the early days of Websites, designers clunked out thousands of pages that used all kinds of emoticons and animated .gif files, huge headlines and tables with colored borders. Back in the day, these pages seemed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but were, in reality, ugly and cumbersome. The pages were locked into HTML code and there was only so much the designer could do to modify the layout. You could change the size of the headline, add a background image, and divide up your page into sections using tables, but that was about the extent of it. Most of the pages in these sites looked exactly the same, the only difference being in the content.

With the development of Cascading Style Sheets, web design began to move, albeit slowly, toward the design promises prophesied by the early users and coders. But developments in the world of web design remained fairly static until recently. Then programmers began implementing a new coding tool called PHP, or PHP Hypertext Preprocessor, a scripting language executed on the server side of the interaction. PHP generated HTML code on the fly, made extensive use of CSS and modified the code and the layout depending on what the user requested. Users could swiftly change from one layout to another with completely different styles and fonts with the click of a button, but the sites were still stodgy – dispensing information about things, but not really usable except as a technological product flyer. So until recently, even the implementation of CSS and PHP had its limitations.

Then came WordPress, an open source, simple to use web design software that made thousands of ready-made themes, style sheets and plugins available to users. Suddenly a whole brave new world of design opened up. Older, more static and user-unfriendly software such as Drupal began to be cast aside by consumers who were tired of paying a programmer $95.00 an hour to add two columns to the newsletter page on their site. Plugins that made websites informational, entertaining, and eventually, e-commercial were made available to WordPress users by the hundreds and suddenly everybody had an online store, many of which were built by the owners of the sites and not programmers.


Check out our interactive member-portal website…

At the same time, the use of the IPhone, tablets and other smart mobile devices began to explode throughout the world and users began demanding apps that would allow them to use their smartphone to buy online from these new stores. The created an unlooked for dilemma. Most of the e-commerce sites were redundant pages filled with pictures of items above “add to cart” buttons directing the user to a shopping cart where they deposited their selection and returned to the catalog. The problem was that the page did not fit on a smartphone or tablet screen and the mobile phone user had to scroll up and down and left to right to see the page or get onto a pc with a full-size monitor. The answer to this quandary was another development: ‘responsive’ pages that actually changed shape and order and rendered the content according to the size of the instrument being used to view the page. Now users could actually see each item quickly and easily by scrolling in one direction.

Okay, so now we have a whole new world of websites that are smooth, colorful, useful in many ways and “responsive” to the devices being used to view them. But while this was happening the buying public was changing. A youthful demographic entered the ranks of consumers. These new users are part of the ‘immediate gratification’ generation. Raised on X-Boxes and Mortal Kombat, these buyers don’t just want to buy, they want to have an “experience.” Websites that just stand there are exited in a hurry while sites that offer interactivity – the ability to get inside the website and make it do something exciting and ultimately, useful are sought out. These new interactive websites are starting to proliferate on the Internet and users are responding to them enthusiastically.

In our next blog we will take a look at some of the more useful of these websites and give some advice on how they can serve your business. In the meantime, take a look at our own interactive site, northbayfitness.com. If you are the owner of a member-driven business such as a health club you might just see the solution to your member management and receivables needs. If the functionality of the site interests you, contact me at pecraig@moneymovers.com and I’d be happy to give you an online demo.

The New Website Paradigm – ©2014 Money Movers, Inc.

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