The Destination Web is Morphing – Pay Attention!

I’ve been reading and thinking about websites lately (oh really David? Who would have guessed?). Organizations simply don’t have one nice, tidy website to manage anymore. First, take a gander at these three articles:

OK – read those? Good. I think these guys are on to something. Some people are finding tools that work better for them. More social tools are appearing. Take blogs, for example. Some people were just blogging for the interaction, which they were getting, in a convoluted way, from comment boxes and RSS feeds. Twitter and Facebook status updates meet those needs much better – the interaction is there, it’s easy, and they can pass on fun remarks and pass URLs back and forth easier than through blogs and comments.

But the end of the destination era, like Steve Rubel claims? I’m not so sure about that. Instead of saying “it appears the destination web era is drawing to a close,” I’d say it’s morphing. Our traditional destination websites are not as important anymore. Why? Well… assuming you’ve placed your organization in all the current social media tools that your customers use … there are now more options. Want to find out about something at the library? You can go to our website. Or our Twitter tweet. Or our Facebook event. Want to read a post? You can visit the website to do that – but that’s not the best way to read blogs. Much better to subscribe to the feed.

Blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, SlideShare … those sites are created so you don’t have to visit the actual destination page. Instead, through RSS and embedding tools, it’s really pretty easy to subscribe to the content you’re interested in. Your destination isn’t the organization’s website – your destination is your feed reader.

But I said “I’m not so sure…” The destination site is still there for some things. Want to create a YouTube account? Gotta go to YouTube. Want a new library card? Have to fill out our form … on our website. Want to buy a book at Amazon? You can certainly browse elsewhere, but when it comes time to put in your credit card number, you’re (hopefully) doing that at amazon’s actual website.

And all that is not taking one big thing into account – our customers. Yes, at my library, some of our customers tweet. Some use Facebook. But right now, anyway, probably a majority of our customers still need to visit the website to do stuff (and I’m not even mentioning those that only walk in to the physical library).

You’ve heard it many times – go where your customers are. For libraries, the majority are still on our destination websites and in our buildings. But that is definitely spreading out. Some parts of our websites were really never intended to be destinations (conversations better suited to Twitter or a forum, for example). And those parts are going where they’re better suited. But some parts ARE still destinations. Why? Because those are places you can do the stuff of the organization (checking out, signing up, buying, filling out, etc).

photo by bitzcelt