Throughout the years, even in its relatively short existence, the Web has evolved several times. At first, it was exciting but somewhat useless. A great deal of not-so-relevant information for an even smaller audience to see. Once people started to see some benefit, there was a phase when many companies literally transposed their existing collateral materials (whether it was their corporate brochure or an annual sales report), and posted that up online. Not very exciting. Then, we went to the opposite extreme: Flash and other flashy-type sites were popping up everywhere. But what purpose did these sites serve?
Then came the rise and fall of the dot.com era, a time when smart entrepreneurs (and some not-so-smart ones) decided that they could become overnight bazillionaires like the next guy now that the Web could be used as a global marketplace. I met one girl who was convinced she was going to "go public" in three months by starting the first e-commerce site for pantyhose. Amazingly, I keep trying to see her site, but I keep getting the response "Site Not Found." Funny, it must be a server problem.
Then people started getting smart. They realized that there is a need and purpose for cutting out the crap and developing some real added-value content to their sites. As more users begin to access the Web each day; and technology gets faster, better, and cheaper, the need for businesses to put some serious emphasis behind the purpose, development, and implementation of their Web site continues to grow. Each business' needs differ, and therefore the focus of each Web site will vary.
That said, however, I believe the Web has made its way into the mindset of people, and is here to stay permanently. Whether it's to order parts from a distributor, research a company on its latest product releases, or simply check the local weather in a city you will be flying to tomorrow, one thing is clear for most businesses and most industries. The World Wide Web is a powerful resource only if it contains accurate and timely information. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to get updated information from a Web site and then finding out that it was incorrect.
Information at the Speed of Light
The world of e-business has changed the pace at which we define "acceptable time." Decades ago, getting something in the mail within three or four days was "good enough." Then, it wasn't. Then, overnight-shipping services took off, literally. Millions of packages a day fly all around the world to get to a client by the next business morning.
Oh, did I mention the premium price we've become accustomed to paying with these services? And many times, the people receiving the package don't even use it or need it right then and there. I can't tell you how many times I've incurred the cost to get a package to someone "because it was urgent," and they wanted it there the next day. Guess what? When I called to check on them and make sure everything turned out okay, they were either too busy to get to it then; were out of the office; or realized that something else "just as important" popped up, and they would have to put my package on the back burner. Such is life. But with the instant accessibility of the Internet, we expect things done right away. Although timeliness is often critical for a business to operate, not every company needs the information updated on its Web site as fast as the stock market changes.
Keep in mind: Timeliness is a relative term. For some companies, having information change every minute of every hour of every day is how they stay in business. For those industries, it is imperative that they have a team of people available to make all necessary changes. Otherwise, they go out of business.