Thursday, April 03, 2008

Barely a website at all

That's the description of the new website for Modernista, a general-market ad agency. Like Ron Paul's website, it barely exists:
Upon punching in the URL, a small navigation bar appears, redirecting visitors to a host of the best-in-class Web 2.0 services. Click on the agency's "about" section, and you're taken to its Wikipedia entry; "work" displays a TV reel via YouTube, print examples via Flickr and web executions on Agency news is delivered through Google News, and a "contact" section lets users get in touch via AIM or Skype.
In some ways this decision is too clever by half, trying to prove that Modernista "gets" Web 2.0 and consequently giving up the control over branding that one would expect from an ad agency. But on the other hand, it also makes sense from the standpoint of cutting costs and boosting user experience:

"The thing about the web these days is there's all these great tools out there, you're just not going to be able to come up with a better way to share photos than Flickr or a better way to build community than Facebook," so it's wise to tap into what's already out there rather than build from scratch, said David-Michel Davies, executive director of the Webby Awards, which each year honors excellence on the Internet. "They're putting their best foot forward in saying we get Web 2.0," Mr. Davies said.

I'm flagging this article partially because it points to decisions we've been making at the academic level, particularly in the CWRL, for some time. At TTU, I built the English department website as a web app in ASP (not a great idea, since I'm not a programmer and the site had sustainability issues). When I took over as CWRL director, we implemented an open-source content management system, Drupal, to take over most issues. But I began thinking in the direction Modernista has taken, and currently our instructors take advantage of a lot of sites such as Flickr, Google Maps, Google Docs, etc. on an ad hoc basis. But our core site remains in Drupal, where we can (a) back it up easily, (b) keep it within accessibility guidelines, (c) guarantee uptime, (d) control branding, and (e) secure data.

Does that choice make sense for other organizations or individuals? Probably less and less. My personal site is at <>, but I barely touch it; most of my activity and "branding" is in FriendFeed, Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. The personal site becomes more and more vestigial. As we continue to move away from large hierarchical organizations and toward temporary federations, it makes more sense to organize our professional presences in this way as well.
Modernista Makes a Break With the Past - Advertising Age - Digital
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