The blunt truth is that most Web sites are a waste of time.
have to be viewed as technology experiments. 99% of all Web sites
today use some HTML, some clickable graphics, email feedback and
that's it. On top of that, most sites don't change much. These
have been called "vanity Web pages," and whether they were
produced by an energetic Webmaster in his free time on spare
equipment or by a group spending $50,000 or more, they aren't
worth a second visit.
On the other hand there now exist a few, certainly under 1000, Web
sites that can be called "commercial grade." Their producers have
spent literally millions of dollars custom building them from
scratch. These sites include Time-Warner's Pathfinder,, Yahooand
other Internet search services, CMP's TechWeb, and Britannica Online.
Among other things, these sites generate repeat usage. Some level
of trust has been established with users that their time will be
well spent. Behind that, of course, is a lot of hard work and
systems development focused on making the user experience
Technically, the best Internet sites offer up-to-date content,
tools that allow frequent users to "personalize" their experience,
and "high availability"-- meaning the services are consistently
available and the process of downloading pages is quick.
Building content is just the beginning of building value on the
Web. Encyclopedia Britannica their service as a gateway to
knowledge, not a static repository. When using the Encyclopedia, a
single user will only see a very small portion of the entire work,
and each person reading a certain page might have entirely
different needs for the information. Knowledge comes from
traversing the service, not just reading a given article. They
work hard to provide a structure on every page that offers a
gentle suggestion that "if you like this page, then you might want
to see these other places you can go from here." Each use of their
service becomes a personal journey, making the service a personal
resource that grows more valuable as it becomes more familiar.
Personalization also works for advertising. CMPlets advertisers
sponsor keywords. Imagine searching for articles about "internet
publishing" from their database of archived stories, and receiving
buttons that link to 3Com, Intel, Corel and other sponsors along
the top of the page containing the stories you retrieve. If you
change your search to "publishing," only Corel's link appears, but
not the others.
In my view, EVERY Web page should have a search option that lets
users take control over their experience of the service at any
time. This isn't just more convenient and customizable, and it's
not just a better way of targeting ads for sponsors -- it's a
whole new kind of relationship between producers and their
audience, based on information exchange.
My personal pet peeve with Web sites is when I can't get to a
site, or it's slow or too busy to handle my page request. This is
purely a matter of bandwidth, and most sites don't get enough.