The digital space hasn’t always had it as easy as it does today. In fact, its journey from the age of the ‘dot com’ boom to present day has been like that of a toddler going through the paces to become an able-bodied adolescent. At the start of the millennium, a typical website generally served the sole purpose of doling out information to its visitors. The old school approach involved going to a website to simply assimilate information, and that was it; the whole user experience was pretty much non-existent, a direct consequence of the market being majorly product driven. The choices that a consumer or a user could make were confined to a limited few. The users had for long sought change, a change in the fundamentals of how websites and web-developers thought.
Once the dot com bubble burst, the IT industry faced its worst crisis till date. This prompted the whole industry to conjure up new ideas and a whole new outlook. Subsequently as time passed, people had both good and bad opinions to share online. Negative reviews go a long way in denting the reputation of a company; a reputation which might have taken years to build and consolidate. Such scenarios need to be handled in a very subtle yet effective way by the concerned company. Amazon was one of the first companies to identify the path that had to be taken. It initially managed to wade through the crisis of the early 2000s but an overhaul of its strategy was imminent. Expansion of its product base (which hasn’t stopped growing since) and choosing to listen to the needs of the users were two of the initial steps it took, apart from improving the tab-navigation model its website already had. This was succeeded by the introduction of many consumer driven reforms like free shipping of products. In a similar fashion, Dell faced a lot of heat from its customers with many negative reviews about their products. To dissolve this problem, Dell started a campaign online by the name of “I hate Dell” wherein all the negative reviews were posted by the people. The company followed it up by making sure that the major issues were attended to. Many companies followed suit by increasing direct interaction with its customers (and potential customers) on the much more accessible online space. In hindsight, it could be called the watershed moment, the juncture where the digital space went from being product driven to consumer driven.By this time even Youtube, a video sharing website had amassed a huge amount of hits. Youtube let its users upload videos, comment on any videos and share videos. It also referred to their home pages as ‘Channels’ and with this video blogging also grew in prominence. Web syndication again played a big part as it took Youtube to basically every nook and cranny of the internet. This also made it easier for users present on different social-media outlets to integrate all their online domains with each other. Once these sites started attracting people in huge numbers (which meant an impressive amount of online traffic coming its way), many brands found it viable and economical to use the social-media to increase and consolidate their online presence. Interaction with the public (for whatever purpose) had found a new means. Despite Facebook and Twitter having become the major mainstays of any brand’s online strategy, maintaining a suitably designed, official website was, and still is mandatory. Many have integrated their social media domains with their official websites, leading to favorable entwining of their online domains. With content sharing added to the mix, all this has made the online facet of a brand’s operations a major revenue churner.
As the focus shifted towards promoting interaction between people, more and more social networking sites sprung up. Myspace, Hi5 and Orkut were among the first social networking websites to flourish. These sites showed that allowing people to socially connect and engage with others was an idea everyone took to with ease. Nonetheless their oomph fizzled out after having done well for a few years. This was a precursor of what was to follow. No one could’ve predicted the impact that the social networking site ‘Facebook’ and micro blogging site ‘Twitter’ had on the social-media scene. The attention now being paid to the aesthetics and the ease of use of the website itself showed a marked increase.
The user-friendly and communal nature of the digital landscape in today’s scenario has indeed helped in revitalizing the IT industry per se and at the same time also opened up newer avenues for various firms/brands to exploit. In the next few years you will have people paying for most day-to-day amenities and commodities using just their phones if the initial hype around Google Wallet is anything to go by; also, 4G (and reasonable pricing) will see people embracing smart-phones and tablets more readily thereby moving digital media to the forefront of mass communications. With a bit of foresight it is easy to infer that the digital age is well and truly here, and it is here to stay.