Recently, we were honored as a Bronze winner for the Asia Pacific Stevie® and an Honorable Mention for our online newsroom at the PR Daily Awards. We accept those gratefully as a recognition for our nearly 20 years of hard work on web development.
It may not occur to many, especially small businesses, that in the Web 2.0 era, we have at least 3 big boys to thank – Apple, Google, and WordPress (or Drupal or any other CMS of your choosing).
Flash and hand-coding
When Internet first became commercially available in 1996, we were among the first to jump in deep. We started offering web design and hosting to small and large businesses, including many multinational corporations and even government agencies.
The early days of web design was challenging. I hand-coded all the websites, so that they would run fast in the narrowband days, and tweaked the graphics to optimize to the lowest color palettes possible. Not many web designers did that, choosing the easier (and lazier) way out instead. But the reality was that most people could only connect to the Internet then with analog modems (remember these screechy sounds on connection?) and only large commercial and government entities would be using ISDN or leased circuits, and then even, we were looking at 128kbps lines.
Then Flash came, and we started to code parts of websites with those too, just for simpler things like interactive games. However, many large agencies started to design entire websites in Flash. I could not agree with that approach, as Flash effectively blocked people with visual disabilities, and those with non-compatible browsers, or people with limited bandwidth, from seeing such Flash-only websites.
The troika of empowerment
Google was a rising search engine, along with many that came and went. But Google was refreshing in that it kept improving its search paradigm to make searches as relevant as humanly and mechanically possible for humans. That means content is the key.
Likewise, when the late Steve Jobs (memory eternal) of Apple announced that iOS devices would not run Flash, it was a small but significant nail in the coffin for Flash content.
And then the whole web phenomenon was changed again with the arrival of open source CMS (content management systems) like WordPress and Drupal, which liberated the delivery of web content with the combination of a database, a visual presentation layer, and content. The antiquated concept of hand-coding and using proprietary web authoring tools became apparent, compared to the dynamic and easily modifiable CMS paradigm. I dropped my hand-coding tools and dived into exploring all CMS platforms, eventually settling on WordPress, for its adaptability and plug-in capabilities.
So suddenly, small businesses, with little resources, can effectively create a template-based website, populate with useful content, and reach out to the masses without expensive authoring tools and human resources. That is the very premise of the original Internet – to empower the people. Small companies can stand shoulder to shoulder with the giants, by simply employing simple and effective web deployment strategies.
In fact, our corporate websites were all developed, delivered and maintained ourselves, using off-the-shelf CMS and templates, with our own content of text, images, and video. With the right templates, all our websites are mobile-friendly and responsive, conforming to the smartphone generation, and Google’s algorithms. It is laborious, and occasionally daunting due to *NIX and website maintenance, but all worth it (if at least for the education and learning, at least to a geek like me).
Imagine this fictional alternate reality. If everyone decided that Flash is the ONLY viable web platform going forward, and if search engines decided that size matters and content is irrelevant, and that open source is not possible, then small agencies and businesses like ours, would have found ourselves peeking at the glory of the Internet with no point of entry.
But the current reality is that search engines like Google is wise enough to balance the odds, recognizing that content is king. And that wise move by the late Steve Jobs meant that textual content, which incidentally is searchable by search engines, has triumphed over proprietary formats. And the rise of CMS means that even a non-developer or non-designer, can easily erect a decent looking website, and then labor to populate useful content to face the world. In fact, the team of one person, with the right content, can also create a viable website in no time at all.
I like this reality, and I thank Apple, Google (and other current search engines), and the good crop of CMS (like WordPress and Drupal), for making the Internet platform a viable one for all.