This is one of those “Kim is thinking again” posts, just to warn you ahead of time. Sometimes it feels right to just stop for a minute and take a look around. We come up with all kinds of excuses to do that. I have a few, so let’s skip that part and continue.
Talking in Full Sentences is Becoming Extinct
I’ve been on a huge “save the planet” kick for years, and recently it became so noticeable that my family is afraid to chuck a plastic bag or bottle. Instead, they figure it’s too scary to know what Mom wants today (as opposed to yesterday or maybe tomorrow), so they leave everything on the kitchen counter for me to decide.
This small, but screamingly obvious action is part of the new way of communication that has taken over since the birth of IM, email and Twitter. Nobody completes a sentence anymore. It’s rare to see sentences with whole words. I need a de-coder ring to understand my own offspring, but when I email my parents, I edit and fuss.
I was asked to write a letter of reference for a teenager who is applying for a job. I know her and a little about her skills and character, so I agreed. I asked her to email me a reminder, which she did. It was a paragraph of abbreviated words like “pls” for “please”. Several words I skipped over because honestly, I’d never seen them before in my life. I wrote my letter for her, with alarm that I’m referring a young person who may be capable, but can’t write in language employers understand.
Is Web 2.0 creating a shortcut to meeting others that requires its own language, its own groove and its own acceptance guidelines? What does the future look like when an entire generation of people type in the new 3-letter word format?
In 5 or 10 years, will I understand web site content? Will language and the art of speaking to one another in person be unpopular due to lack of use?
For the first time ever, I removed blogs from my list of blogs I visited every day. I noticed mine is being removed from lists too. My tastes have changed. Needs have changed. But what really stands out are the changes in the blogs themselves. Some change direction. Some rode off into the sunset and forgot to untie the horse, so there are old posts, but no sign of life now. Most are just search engine teasers, intended to attract robots but not engage them with anything worthwhile for the long haul.
Almost as soon as the headlines read “billions” of blogs are online, I noticed a lack of interest in them. As if the thought of that many blogs is akin to ordering a huge hot fudge sundae and then realizing there’s absolutely no way you could possibly eat the whole thing.
Bad Information in Forums
I caught a blog post the other day that complained about the inaccurate information by search engine marketing “experts” in forums. The writer recommended checking their sites to check on the credibility of the writer to see if they really knew what they’re talking about.
Internet forums, clubs, email lists, newsgroups and online chat groups have been available since Day 1 of the Internet (actually, technically, before the Internet was born). All these years later and people still write to warn everyone about bad information in places where people congregate online?
I needed to remind myself that not everyone in the world has had access to the Internet, or even a computer. Maybe they weren’t even born when Dejanews was around.
With several generations of people using the Internet, we’re now in a different place from one another. This will contribute to the exploding niche markets and filter into optimization for websites that target different levels of experience. Keywords typed in by Baby Boomers may be very different than keywords selected by Generation X or Y.
They’re all looking for your website, but are you blocking their access?
As site visitor needs change, websites have to adapt. They’ll need to learn how to persuade the person who trusts doing business online, as well as the person who doesn’t know whom or what to trust yet, because they just learned how to type or use a search engine.
Who Are Those People?
Noticing subtle user behavior changes fascinates me. Tools available for SEO/M’s, web designers and usability industry specialists are abundant. Too much so, in fact. How do you know what to use? And doesn’t it seem as though as soon as you learn one of them, it’s already not robust enough and you need to either upgrade if you can, or search for other software?
We have a long way to go to make websites user centered for everyone that visits them. We’re nowhere near the moment where we can stop and relax, believing we’ve met every standard or user need.
Not only is research releasing new data on a regular basis, but bouncing around the blogs, I see great comments and suggestions from everyday site users who aren’t satisfied yet. They still can’t see web pages. This is so basic, and yet font sizes, backgrounds, colors, contrasts, and font styles are an issue.
With TV commercials, somebody remembered that women come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Finally, I’m starting to see other women who look like me as I am now, rather than how I was before. (Thank you Dove!)
This hasn’t translated in any major way to the Internet however. Stock photos for corporate websites still feature more men and I guess women became extinct at around the age of 30. Quite honestly (Ask my husband. He thought this was odd behavior…) I spent about three days looking for women who look like me on the Internet. I found them alright. There are loads of them on adult sites when you search for “big boobs”, “older women”, “my old lady”, and “fat women”. Add the word “nude” or “naked” to any of those searches, and holy cow!
There I am!
Or there we are, to be more exact.
I shouldn’t have to go to adult sites to find my niche market or women with laugh lines or anyone for which a ride in zero gravity would be a great time to bring out the bathroom scale.
In print publications, I don’t have to. There are two magazines I subscribe to that target older women who kick butt and wear clothing. There are websites too, of course, and blogs. But, like the magazines, they are tightly focused on their target market, to the point where they’re sometimes too exclusive and I don’t feel comfortable there either.
I’m looking for information and being welcomed in more than just a couple little corners of the Internet.
All I’m trying to say is that when you’re in the planning stages of your website, take some time to consider the present, but also remember there is a past and people who lived it.
We’d go bananas trying to meet every human need, but you would be amazed at how small gestures communicates to your site visitors that you know they’re there, even if you didn’t quite hit the mark to totally please them. You can score points with your site visitors by making an effort because people respect hard work. Being acknowledged counts too.
Errors are not the end of the world because we have the power to fix what we mess up, and even turn it into something positive.
For example, I had a spelling error on one of my web pages. Someone emailed me about it with a beautifully warm note. After I emailed my thanks, I clicked on his website and was so impressed that I emailed him again to ask permission to refer his services because his company filled a growing niche need in the area of seo with usability services.
Thankfully, his first email was written in full sentences.
And kindness is a language we all understand.