VJAM Learning #4: Making it completely personalisable
The web is getting more personalisable by the day. I don't visit websites one by one anymore. I use my Netvibes page to pull in RSS feeds for me. Lots of other people use iGoogle, Microsoft has its equivalent, Live. (And as you see from that link, I can make my page public too and share it.)
This trend will only increase. The vast chaos of information out there in cyberspace is useless to me unless I can find the stuff that I'm looking for and organise it easily and efficiently.
You can already get lots of widgets to stick on a Netvibes page or iGoogle. A widget is smarter than an RSS feed - it's a bit of code that you can integrate into the page. It offers more customisation. You for example use a weather widget to give you weather info for the next five days for wherever you live. Other handy widgets include one that gives you your to do list from your Outlook, one that pulls in your webmail.
So the future of websites for say Virgin Atlantic is not just about Virgin-Atlantic.com. It's also very much about creating widgets that people can stick on personal start pages too.
This is particularly true for existing Virgin customers - especially the frequent flyers. You don't need the background detail about brand and service and product if you've flown a few times before with the company. You just want routes and deals for pre-purchase, and updates about your flight post purchase and before travel.
So if I were Virgin Atlantic, I'd focus on creating a simple, elegant main site that promotes the brand, service and products for new customers (yeah not that easy I know!) and then some really smart, easy to use widgets for regular customers too.
Maybe at some point in the future websites as we know them won't exist anymore. We'll just have smart applications that we can add to our own start pages - customisable any way we want them.