12 August 2008

What the Web 2.0 crowd still has to learn...

DISCLAIMER: I am part of the Web 2.0 crowd!

I had a very humbling experience at FNB today. Mike Stopforth wrote recently about the phenomena of the "Web 2.0" crowd starting to invade the business world - both as entrepreneurs and corporate bunnies.

My experience today proved that this is indeed a critical step in the future of the "social web" making it mainstream in South Africa. The corporates have a lot to learn from us, and funnily enough (ego aside), we have a lot to learn from them.

Today, I met with FNB Online, who are responsible for the website and other front end projects. Watch this space - redesign tweaks coming this weekend!

Like a typical 2.0 obsessed strategist, I climbed in with my theories of "conversation economy", participation, talk with customer not talk at them. Blah blah. Sometimes, when you're in such an exciting industry - it's hard not to sock it to the 1.0 guys...

There were a couple of things I learned in that meeting which made me appreciate the distance we still have to travel in order to integrate the new web principles into our SA corporates. And how the experience requirements of the tech industry, can be very different to the man on the farm who hobbles along on a 56k Z-MODEM protocol.

1. AJAX and rich media is great, isn't it? But how about if a percentage of your audience is colour blind - and you need really plain, clean XML / HTML site content in order to reskin the CSS on demand?

2. Embedding YouTube is taken for granted in our world. Learn by video. Experience moving pictures. But did you know embedding YouTube videos comes with it's own packet of security vulnerabilities? Not a problem for blogs. A big problem for banks.

3. Rounded corners. Ah. The quintessential "look at me - I'm 2.0" design requirement. Don't turn your heads. Look at your blogs. Look at your wiki's. All full of soft, rounded goodness. Will the REAL 2.0 designer please stand up? Now... what would you rather have? A square box with a Javascript drop shadow? Or 2 tables, 4 divs, 4 corner images that don't scale with a zoom function (for those with visual accessibility needs), a partridge and a semantic pear tree?


That last one really got me. I love rounded corners. I think the web should just inherit rounded corners. But it didn't occur to me what I was sacrificing in order to achieve them. Functional priorities vs audience needs are going to be an interesting challenge.

I raise this point again. What would you rather have? A knock-me-over design with wanky videos embedded? Or your money in your account every Friday? :) I exaggerate for effect.

A bank has very real concerns around its web presence and functionality. The balancing act begins...

SECOND DISCLAIMER: Oh. This doesn't mean I've thrown in the social towel. Quite to the contrary. If anything, this a sparked a keen desire to see the BEST parts of our industry succeed inside a structure that prioritises speed and security above digital relationships with customers.

Daphne & Filippo from FNB Online. You win round one. I'm suitably impressed. But my semantic ass is coming for you - we'll be engaging the social sphere yet...