Purposeful Technology

Almost my entire adult life has been spent designing and building websites for companies of all shapes and sizes. I have been professionally involved with the web since 1995. I’ve lived through every trend, every ebb and flow of the industry, and every technological advancement. In the early years websites were nothing more than novelty advertising, competing over advertising dollars with hot air balloons and inflatable gorillas. But the web is more than hot air, and it has grown into a legitimate channel capable of supporting business in a way no other channel can.

Facilitating this growth from gimmick to legitimacy is technology. Early on companies wanted a website because it was trendy and cool, and there has been an unending succession of cool new technology to feed our interests and our customers’ desires ever since: audio, animation, javascript, flash, CSS, video, etc. Almost every day there is some new way to make a statement online. To an extent, technological growth and change has always fueled customers’ demand for web services.

Web professionals are no better in this regard. We are drawn to the hip factor every bit as much as our customers, if not more. So we adopt these rapidly emerging technologies as quickly as we can. When every day brings new technologies, opportunities, and challenges, the only real constant is change. We can now design and develop sites that are more sophisticated than anything we could have even imagined in the early days.

Our challenge as web professionals is no longer answering the question ‘How?’ but answering the question ‘Why?’. How we implement a technology is fairly straightforward, but why do we use this technology? Why are we using this technology in this way? What is this accomplishing for our customer? Just because you saw something cool on some other site is not a reason to do it on your site.

Everything on your site should be communicating a message. Everything should be accomplishing a goal. There has to be a purpose. Sometimes a customer needs to communicate that they are forward thinking and technologically adept, and that can be reason enough for using some flashy technology. The implementation of that technology must communicate something that would have gone unsaid or otherwise not be given the weight it deserves.

Using technology for technology’s sake is foolish. The technology returns to its place as a gimmick, and it is a waste of both your and your customers’ time. Using technology to communicate in a more purposeful way is wise, and it enables you to accomplish more than you could without it.

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