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As predicted, we’ve seen the rise of ecommerce and content delivery on apps, and the use of hand-held devices is up, yet strangely the number of websites is still up 250%.
I read a lot about technology. It’s part of my job to follow trends. I predict trends as well. Pontificating and to predicting what will happen is a part of the job I enjoy. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of older content about the end of the website as we know it.
Here are a few headlines to make you smile (the last one made me cringe):
“RIP to Your Corporate Websites” — CMSWire 2012
“The Web Is Dying; Apps Are Killing It” — WSJ 2014
“How Traditional Websites Could Become Obsolete By 2020” — Website Magazine 2015
We haven’t heard much about the demise of websites recently. From my brief research this week, it seems the articles predicting the end of the website all stopped three to five years ago.
The website should declare, like Mark Twain, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Those old articles and blogs all aligned behind a few commons assumptions.
It all sounded very reasonable at the time.
It is estimated that 1.8 billion websites are in existence today, up from about 700 million in 2012. The number of active websites fluctuates, and most are inactive at any given time, but in big, round percentages, that’s more than a 250% increase since the death watch began.
Most of the things that were supposed to harken the end of websites came to fruition in one way or another. Most of these assumptions above were accurate. (Sure, maybe native apps aren’t used as extensively as predicted or business purposes, but the use of apps continues to increase a lot.)
The rest of this is conjecture on my part, but I have some ideas that might help explain the unlikely survival of websites.
Content management is better and so are experiences: Video, audio and other rich content found their way to corporate websites, and marketers and business users were given tools to use them effectively. Responsive design got easier and became more common, so native apps weren’t as necessary (or as cool). CMS, DMS, DAM, and other integration and multi-site capabilities led naturally to intranet and portal experiences that became essential to work in the digital era.
Apps are used differently than expected: They found their niche (in an absolutely huge, game-changing, paradigm-shifting way). Photography, music, social, health, lifestyle, utilities, and gaming (not business) became the use cases of choice. At the same time, internet access has become nearly ubiquitous, making browsers on mobile devices more useful. As more PWAs (progressive web applications) emerge, the rumors of the end of app stores multiply.
Tablets replaced laptops (sort of): Touchscreens let laptops act like tablets and phones and it’s become harder to argue that you need to carry multiple devices anymore. Furthermore, as more of us work remotely and rely on videotelephony and online chat for audio communications, what does that phone do except to distract me during conference calls?
I’ll add one more: I think we just like websites. They are familiar, flexible, personalized and easy to navigate. They remain the main touchpoint for our customers, our place to tell our story, and they are the home base to which our other channels point.
After reading these articles, I have to admit I’ll be a little reluctant the next time I am asked to predict a trend. I’ll be likely to equivocate, demure, pad my estimate of time, and I sure won’t be putting a future year in my headline.
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J.D. Little is a Senior CMS Market Strategist, a creative communicator, an educator and an advocate for change. Beginning his career in traditional media technology, he has been helping business leaders navigate the waves of disruptive innovation for more than 25 years.
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