Criteria for using Web 2.0

Whether you think the term “Web 2.0” is a passing buzzword or a useful umbrella term for a range of concepts, I’ve been hearing some strange requests from clients.

Things like Can you make my site Web 2.0 compliant? Or the slightly more realistic: I’d like to add some Web 2.0 features.

A little later in the conversation you realise that what they mean is usually either a fancy interface, or some kind of blog or forum. Occasionally the requests are a good idea, but much more often the cost/benefit ratio of what they are asking is not good enough.

After a few of these conversations, I distilled the main issues down to three criteria. I’m not claiming anything new here, but I do keep having to stress these:

  1. The end-user must have a motivation for using the functions.
  2. The functionality must not hinder the business.
  3. The functionality must be feasible within the technological and resource constraints of the website.

User motivation

If there is no motivation for the user, nothing for them to gain, virtual tumbleweed will soon be blowing through the site. Whether that motivation is to share your thoughts & experiences (blogs, MySpace, Flickr etc.), a way of saving (and sharing) your favourite sites (, Digg etc), or putting your videos online (YouTube), there must be a motivation for using the functionality.

In fact, creating that motivation by enabling something is just the start, the best next-gen sites do something with the aggregated ‘sum’ of the content. For example, people sharing favourites can then see other people’s favourites that relate to the same topics.

Business issues

A large part of “Web 2.0” is user generated content, which at the simplest could be comments or forum posts, going up to multimedia and articles. This poses quite a risk for some businesses, and it can be very off-putting to realise that anyone could put (negative) comments on your site.

General motors gives a great example of this risk, when they launched a competition for people to create their own adverts for a car. The problem was then that hundreds of people used the Internet to circulate thousands of videos that charged GM with contributing to global warming, protested the war in Iraq or just demeaned the Tahoe’s quality.

I think GM did the best thing they could, they removed any sexual or obscene content, but did not censor any other videos. You could argue all publicity is good publicity, but this kind of example does make site owners flinch! (Not to mention the cost of policing things.)


An obvious criteria, but often a client won’t realise the difficulty some things can be to ‘add’, perhaps even meaning switching technologies or hosting. The cost of adding or changing needs to be weighed against the benefit the feature(s) will bring.

Some clients also have quite strict requirements for accessibility, and whilst Web 2.0 (and more specifically AJAX) shouldn’t be a problem long term, currently it ain’t easy, and costs.

Just a little dose of common sense to put the buzz into perspective.

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One contribution to “Criteria for using Web 2.0

  1. You’ve hit it right on the head here, definitely well done.

    The problem with Web 2.0 is people tend to be easily persuaded into this stigma that if it has flashing lights and looks shiny it must be incredible, which is simply not true. Without the smoke and mirrors, at the core you still need something worthwhile otherwise you’ve got nothing. A lot of people forget that without content, the most incredible system is useless.

    I’m waiting for web3.0, it seems to be a lot more based on reality rather than redundant features.

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