Part I: Present State of the Web - Who's Succeeding on the Web Today

Important Principles Guiding the Evolution of the Internet

by Pauline Sugarman

This article examines fundamental principles that are guiding the evolution of the internet and that underlie successful websites today.

The Internet's boom in the late 1990s came and went so quickly that most people predicted the web was a short-lived fad with no real on-going value to businesses. But while investors and news media continued to map the demise of large companies and start-up efforts on the internet, many smaller businesses began to have success in this new medium.

What has emerged from their efforts are fundamental strategies or website design principles that underlie successful websites. These website design principles continue to guide the evolution of the internet today. Since these principles are very important we will explore them in some detail.  Once we have reviewed  them we will review examples of the successful application of these website design principles and resulting marketing trends & internet advertising campaigns we see today.

Creating Communities - We Belong

Of all website design principles, this is the first and arguably the foremost guiding the internet. The internet was envisioned from it’s inception as a means to connect people and their knowledge across the world. As Tim Berners-Lee, the developer of the “world-wide web” states, “The dream behind the Web is of a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information.”

This initial vision continues to be the primary impulse guiding the internet. Anyone can place information on the internet, and anyone, with a connection to the internet and the help of a Search engine, such as Google, can search for it and find the information they want. Google refers to this as the "uniquely democratic nature of the Web" and as we shall see in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Overview – SEO Help Files, is an important element of Google's formula for choosing what sites are ranked the highest.

Now what brings us together is not geographical location but the sharing of ideas. No matter where you are in the world, you can now share with and belong to a like-minded group of people. This creates a great sense of community. And community, in modern times, has been sorely missed and is much appreciated when it is found.

Power to the People

This website design principle is also referred to more and more as Interactivity. For the first time in history people have the power, via the internet, to find and choose exactly what information they want, when they want it. This is very empowering. And we like it. We like being able to have choices, to be in the driver’s seat. We are not just handed something and told to lump it or leave it. Instead we can make choices and thus make something uniquely our own, for us.

Give and You Shall Receive

The third of the website design principles is rooted in the pure beginnings of the internet. Not only did the internet make knowledge available to anyone across the world but a lot of it was and still is FREE. In fact up until 1992 it was illegal to use the internet to makes gains of any kind. And, once something is free, who wants to pay for it? People expect you to give to them - something – for free. I think this harks back to community again, because it signals to them that you are part of the web community and thus a part of their community. Once you are part of their community they will consider taking you into their lives, giving back to you via purchases or information.

Integrated Marketing

Of the website design principles discussed here, this principle is not purely about the internet. It’s an important general marketing principle that goes across all mediums. But it has become more important with the evolution of the internet.

Many boom-time ventures envisioned the internet wiping out older mediums, such as books, magazines and even stores. But, if we review the history of emerging mediums, we find each rarely wipes the previous out. We adjust over time and incorporate them into our lives. They co-exist together, in a new way. If done successfully, each marketing medium can work in an integrated manner with other channels.  This principle is now referred to as cross-channel marketing.

Technology Rules

Again, this is not purely about the internet, but it has such an important impact on its evolution that it is included in this article.  One of the main contributors to the tech bust of 2000 was the poor level of technology that was available in the late 1990s. A lot of the possibilities envisioned for the internet were held back by the speed of the connection. As an example, downloading movies in your home is a great idea, but if you don’t have broadband connection, it can take 24 hours. In 1990s, hardly anyone had the technology to use this service. Technological breakthroughs will continue to play an important role with the evolution of the web.  Those that take the time to combine its power with the principles we have discussed above will find the greatest success on the web today.

Having reviewed these website design principles, let's look at few examples of successful websites today putting these principles into action...

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