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11/28/2006
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David Strom
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Web 2.0: Ingredients For A Site Makeover

Putting up a few links and images doesn't cut it anymore. To bring your site into the Web 2.0 world, you need to know about Ajax, ActiveX, RSS, and other key technologies.



Web 2.0 Makeover


•  Long Tail

•  Ajax Deployment

•  Active X

•  Project Management

Web 2.0, The Long Tail, social networking, tagging, Ajax -- so many new catch phrases, but so little time to understand their value. Yet you ignore the new lingo at your own peril; enterprises that put up plain-Jane Web sites today risk turning away the more discerning browsing customer.

Consider that it just might be time to do a Web site makeover. However, matching your needs with the right Web 2.0 developer isn't an easy task. The problem is that nowadays, just putting up a page of links and a couple of images isn't engaging enough to attract visitors to your little spot of cyberspace.

"Google has lifted expectations for Web applications," said Bob Matsuoka, the CTO of RunTime Technologies, a Web tools and software company. Today's sites need more interaction and have more complexity.

Hiring Your Next
Web Developer
1. Find people who understand why they're building Web apps. The objective isn't to be "cool," but to solve business problems.
2. Look for good communication skills.
3. Seek out proven experience, with examples of previous apps.
4. Talk to users of the developer's work.
5. Make sure developers know they have to think as a team.
6. Keep the business and customer in constant communication.
7. Above all, be flexible and willing to learn new tools and evolve with them.
Tips from Jacob Good, senior consultant for software developer Inetium
Ajax -- or Asynchronous JavaScript and XML -- "is the 'new new thing' and I'm sure it will be used unnecessarily in a lot of instances until the hype dies down," said George Olsen, the principal of Interaction by Design, a user-experience, design, and consulting firm, with his tongue firmly in cheek.

More seriously, Jacob Good, a senior consultant for software developer Inetium, noted, "Ajax also gives the user a more familiar experience as the interfaces to [the] Web have typically been static and not as interactive."

But first, buyers beware. "The 'Web 2.0' label means little and is being used by unscrupulous marketers to dress up all sorts of vaguely Web-related technologies," said Tim Bray, director of Web technologies for Sun Microsystems. "The right question to ask is: 'What will it do for ME?' " Above all, as Matsuoka noted, you should, "embrace the Web as a new application interface with its own unique characteristics. Don't try to replicate desktop interfaces or printed brochures."

If you're considering a makeover, keep the following issues in mind. First, think about buying the right kinds of expertise versus building it yourself. The experts are split on this one, but most come down on the buying side when you don't have the skills in-house. "Unless you have a dedicated Web IT staff, look into leasing software as a service," suggested Martin Focazio, formerly director of sales and marketing for software vendor ScribeStudio, currently a strategist at MCD Partners in New York.

Next, deploy Ajax and its collection of technologies slowly. Replace any Active X portions with more open solutions when the time has come to update those portions of your site. Finally, know your programming team and manage them carefully.

Let's examine each of these issues in more detail:

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