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Future Web: Skating to Where the Puck is Going

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky attributed his success to a simple philosophy: "Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is. It ain't where the puck is, it's where the puck will be."

What your company is doing with the web is a lot like a hockey game. If your only focus is a web site based on an assumption that all your visitors are sitting at their desks viewing your site on a 1024 x 768 resolution desktop monitor, you're skating to where the puck was. Even if you've begun to toy around with making your website more mobile friendly, you're still skating to where the puck is.

As an early adopter of the Internet as a powerful marketing tool, and founder of one of the Midwest's first Web development firms, I remember the days when 87% of all businesses polled said they would never have a need for a website. My challenge for over 16 years has been to be chasing after the future and dragging clients kicking and screaming behind me, hoping they'll keep up.

And it's about to get even harder.

Over the past few days, I've been spending time with the presentation Stephanie Rieger gave to the Breaking Development conference in Orlando, Florida. It's an eye opening look at how the web is evolving. Where it used to be something you'd go to the computer or your mobile device to "do," it's rapidly becoming something that's always on, connected to everything we use to provide us with any knowledge we need just as we need it. As Brad Frost aptly put it:, you need to get your content ready to go anywhere because it's going to go everywhere. Skating to where the puck is going means moving to a world where internet touch points go beyond browsers, smart phones and tablets to now include treadmills, refrigerators, cars, and a million other "smart things" that we haven't even begun to imagine. A world where search engine queries are replaced by contextual information fed to us based on our interests, needs, and location, the keyboard having been replaced by GPS's, our voice or even our retinas. The journey to where the web is headed has shifted into hyper drive, and in the process is shattering the paradigms. And it's about to leave many businesses, and even some self-professed "web development firms" in the dust.

That's why I'm so fortunate to have the team here at Trivera. While still understanding the need to provide superior, best practice web experiences for our clients (delivered on time, scope and budget), we take regular time out of the office every Friday to talk about, and plan for, the technologies, platforms, tools, ideas and directions that will help us embrace the future web.

As a result we've continued to push the envelope and come up with some pretty amazing stuff:

  • You have an e-commerce-enabled B2B website but still achieve your highest sales with your independent distributors? How about a fully integrated tablet-based tool for them to use in the field to coach them real-time to up-sell, cross-sell, check inventory, lead times and create and submit an order.
  • Your customers are voicing a common complaint that's not your fault, but due to their forgetfulness? How about a reminder with the appropriate information sent to their mobile device when it detects exactly when and WHERE they need it?
  • You have a brand with a huge community that needs Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter and Flickr functionality, but has huge archival resources you don't want to trust to those Social Media sites? How about an online community with full desktop, mobile and tablet compatibility with check-ins, photo uploads, topic threads, member chat and any other features the members say they need?
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I've always been totally flabbergasted by traditional ad agencies who say "Oh, yeah, we do web too." Many are still trying… and still failing…to embrace even 10 year old best practices, and thus skating to where the puck was. A few conceptually get it but don't have the breadth, depth and length of experience to hire, manage or direct a team with the necessary skillsets, and so also are still skating to where the puck is. In the minority are the brave, visionary few who not only are embracing concepts like responsive web, but even seeing that as an experience we'll one day look back on with the same quaint nostalgia that we have for stuff like Cue Cat, Flash, 56k dial up and AOL.

I guess there are parts of the marketing world where a business just needs a small desktop-sized brochure-ware website, and the agency that does their direct mail, yellow page ads, and print handouts can create a cute little site for them. And there are other parts where an agency is able to convince a business to pay megabucks for a pay-per-click-supported big honking Flash landing page.

You won't find Trivera or our customers there. We're all too busy skating to where the puck is going.

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