IMC 2004 – A website is a website is a website.

Helicoptering the IMC 2004, one impression that hit me was the different perspectives of the speakers and the majority of the audience members. The speakers are accustomed to dealing with websites of 1000’s of pages. Many members of the audience were business owners dealing with websites with less than 50 pages.

Any website is complex and different people will see different aspects as being important. It’s almost like those 6 blind men touching different parts of the elephant and trying to describe what they’re feeling. (It’s a tree trunk. It’s a wall. It’s a hose. etc.) My mental picture of this assembly is of 12 blind men. 6 of them are around a huge African elephant and trying to explain to the others what they perceive. The other 6 are grouped around a sleek antelope and trying to explain what they perceive. Clearly the confusion may be even greater than if a website was always the same entity.

A natural question then becomes, “What can either group of 6 blind men learn from the other group?” To use a technical term, what are the scaleable features that apply to both. Scaleable is defined as follows, “A scaleable system is capable of growing through additions of modular increments, without necessitating major modification to the original system.”

My own view is that one of the most important scaleable features is one that the antelope group will more easily recognize than the elephant group. This was illustrated by a fascinating question and response that was raised about an IBM website.

The most scaleable feature for me is created by something that is both a strength and a weakness of the Internet. This is the hyperlink. It is so easy to create another web page and give a hyperlink to that web page from your starting web page. Not surprisingly, if a website is being constructed by a committee the easiest resolution of a conflict is to add more hyperlinks so that everyone is somewhat satisfied.

The discussion at one Search Engine Optimization session at the IMC 2004 got on to why IBM has a problem getting good SE rankings for some of its desired keywords. You can illustrate this by a search for – notebook computers. I’ve just done a Google search and the first IBM page that comes up for Thinkpad is #75. An IBM representative acknowledged they had a problem in coordinating the efforts of different work groups working on different web pages. They had realized this and were now working on methods to overcome this problem.

So what is the most scaleable feature? My vote goes for, “Focus, focus, focus”. What is the competitive advantage you’re offering to your potential customer in your target niche? The antelope group relates to this almost instinctively. The elephant group may only see it when they run into problems caused by their lack of focus.