Thursday, September 18, 2008

September is redesign month!

It's called 'legacy migration'.

When a website or blog employs newer technologies to enhance the user experience, and, in the larger picture, hopefully gain a larger market share.

This month, some of the largest websites (and many of the oldest) have introduced wholesale web redesigns.

CNET, one of the first 'mega' websites on the Internet, has an all-new look.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal launched their new look, and yes, Yahoo! is testing yet another new version of their home page as well. (Note: Not all users will see the Yahoo! changes yet).

Many are employing newer content management software to drive fresh, up-to-date, any yes, search engine friendly content .... while introducing what they perceive to be new, more interactive layouts.

"Hey Google, take another look over here.  It works now!" 

Almost everyone is 'going social' if they haven't already .... with the 'hope' their product will become sticky (retain users).

In the Web 2.0 sphere, TechCrunch, Mashable, Facebook, and numerous others have redesigned as well.

The question becomes ... Will any of this work?

Facebook got hit with a HUGE petition on their own network that delayed the 'permanent' switchover.  User habits are hard to break.

With RSS feed readers now in use by many busy people and offsite commenting (IE:  Disqus and Friendfeed) becoming more common, the landscape is changing....and fast.  It's only a matter of time before this becomes much more mainstream.

In a recent poll, I asked the question 'What is your start-up page set to'.  Although it was more of a tech and early adopter audience, over 100 responded, and the answers were surprising (at least to me).

While I have always felt more than half your audience should come from 'search', I ran a two week test on the social networks this month as well.  Unique visitors to this blog (not RSS subscriptions) tripled and that was with a very mild amount of bookmarking (and sharing) across 5 of the primary off-site social networks.

'Professional social marketers' KNOW .... every channel hits a different audience. Why create your own?

The web is more dynamic than ever.  I call it 'hyper dynamic'.    It has to be confusing to even the best of marketers right now.

Will any of these changes bring new users that come back in significant numbers?

With THOUSANDS of brand new blogs, new ventures, and websites hitting the Internet globally each day, it's very likely that these redesigns, that while they're 'pretty' and 'more sale able', this will pass as fast as the wind.

What will work?

Direct user engagement, on other sites, microblogging and lifestreaming (and the new multi-media engagement we're seeing in it's very early stages now for larger companies).

Delivering a product that delivers on a consistent basis (and/or provides real value) is still the key.  Make it easy for people to interact, and if at all possible, let them know they're being heard.

On-site comments to many Internet marketing professionals has already been relegated to linkbait.  How many times have you gone back to a blog or website to see if someone commented on your comment??  Think about it.

The mad rush back to Twitter is a great example.  If you can't answer on the moment on Twitter (or Friendfeed), it's considered OK.  You're engaging a new and growing audience, still limited somewhat in scope, but not for long.

It's not enough to 'partner' or even buy companies anymore.  Want page views?  Put 'direct interactivity'  on your list.  People want to know your listening.

What still works from 'the old school'?  Babies, Pets, and yes, Sexy people.

Update: With thanks to the 50 or so of you that immediately reminded me it's September, not August  (It's been a long week :) Fixed!