Monday, November 19, 2012

The Internet is Forever: The importance up front planning when building your brand

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Google on 2 Dec 1998 courtesy of the Internet Wayback Machine.
We've all heard the stories about wild spring break pictures coming back to haunt people years later or Facebook statuses from long ago taking down someone's political career. It's likely going to be a bigger problem for Millennials and their children. Although cliché; the internet really is forever and someone, somewhere has that picture or rant, even if you've deleted it.

Gizmodo's Attila Nagy recently posted a different take on the 'internet is forever' theme that is far more amusing and teaches those of us in the IT field a bit of a lesson about up front planning. Nagy dug up '23 Ancient Websites That Are Still Alive' that range from still functional search engines from the mid-90's to some classic gems.

After reviewing the list of sites, and admittedly checking some of them out along with the source code, I realized that, at that time, the web was relatively 'new' in terms of mainstream usage and some of the innovations brought forth were state of the art. Even though the first domain name was registered in 1985, fewer than 15,000 were registered in 1992. (Today, there are over 233 million.)

No solely internet-based company has existed for more than about 18 years, yet we all depend on the web, at least in part and certainly in IT staffing, for our livelihood. I looked back at a few sites that I was happy to see still exist for nostalgic reasons. I also realized that just because you can make something blink, create an animated gif, or know some groovy flash tricks; sometimes it's better to sit back, think on it, and just say 'No!' (Google's cached pages and the Internet Archive Wayback Machine can offer some other prime examples.)

This run down memory lane brings to mind the fact that The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (a novel series developed from a BBC radio program) has always been one of my favorite books. Recently, though it dawned on me that if I were to try and explain it to my six-year-old daughter, that this guy has a guide which can tell him anything he needs to know about anything in the universe instantly, she would probably say, 'You mean like Google on your iPhone?' (Note: Altavista came up nowhere in this fictional conversation.)

The internet made Douglas Adams' masterpiece largely non-amazing.  (Or perhaps it shows how genius he was in predicting what technology might exist in the future. If you take his explanation as to the origins for his idea, this was likely not the case, or was it?)

Sensibility and taste mattered then and it still does today, whether you're engaging in social media or building your business. When you're branding your domain, blog, or yourself to the outside world, some up front planning and design work can go a long way in the success of your efforts. A halfhearted effort, or the latest and greatest widgets don't mean a thing if they're not relevant to your users/followers.

Some of the most visually engaging sites in the world became irrelevant overnight when Apple decided that Flash was not safe for its mobile platform (Hitchhiker's iPhone anyone?). Some of the earliest Flash art itself was subject to user bandwidth limitations and, when you have only a few seconds to engage with a potential site user, a long load time could make or break your brand or cause a recruiter to bypass you on the way to the next candidate.

The point is; maintenance, generating new content that is relevant to your audience, and keeping up with technology changes can make all the difference in the success or failure of your web-facing initiatives. What seems relevant today can quickly become forgotten or, for better or worse; a lasting reminder of what used to be.
What do you think? Does one need to be a vigilant planner when preparing an online branding initiative, carefully considering all facets of your site on the front-end, or, are you of the school of thought that the web is always evolving and adapting your online persona professionally or personally is an inevitable part of technology advancement? Do you think outdated, sometimes iconic websites and messaging are perfectly acceptable if they remain relevant or have a large following?

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.