Coming Soon: The Death of the Web Page

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You may not know it, but the viewers' screen -- the viewable real estate -- has gotten incredibly larger. I'm not talking about the fact that 19" or larger screens have become increasingly inexpensive, I'm talking about the fact that -- regardless of screen size -- there's a lot more visual real estate to work with.

Prices are going to go up for prime properties, so be prepared for increasing real estate values.

Things are changing, evolving, and what has been the web page for over ten years is probably going away on certain sites. Do I think that the web page as we've known it is gone forever? Not right now, no, and probably not for quite a while. The more important change that needs to occur is this: it's not the page that matters; it's the presentation and how people interact with that presentation that needs to be your focus.

Let's take these items one at a time. First, is the web page as we've known it going away? I don't think so, because its usefulness hasn't gone away just yet. Some companies simply don't need anything more than a "page" presentation format to get their message across. This last part is important. Most companies simply don't need to present their information in anything other than a page format because they're not presenting all that much information in the first place. Also, as more and more individuals and businesses come online, the traditional page format is going to be the least expensive entry point for them. Technology will change that, certainly, but there's far more people buying sites out of a box than spending money on the newest technologies.

Given that a website is really a presentation of information (from a cognitive psychology perspective), when does it make sense to create presentations more complex than the traditional web page?

High rises, skyscrapers and portals-- Oh my!
So far web interfaces have been like the Great Plains-- broad and flat. There may have been several screen elements on any given page, but by and large web pages have had a "delivered on demand" methodology to them. You click on a link and you get information sent to your browser, which covers the browser window. This methodology had one great thing going for it: everything in the browser directly related to everything else in the browser.

It's this last part -- everything is directly related to everything else -- that is changing and evolving into another great thing. It's changing because RIA (Rich Internet Applications), Web 2.0, portals and a few other things are changing information delivery.

Take a look at Figure #1:

This shows a traditional web page. On the left is your browser window with various screen elements on the page. On the right is what your page is from a dimensional perspective, i.e., flat.

Now consider Figure #2:

You, the visitor, are seeing the same browser window, and the same elements are in it. What you don't necessarily know is that this time each element is in its own box, or container.

Instead of the Great Plains, your browser window has turned into a city block, and there are different buildings on that same piece of screen real estate. Each of these buildings (or boxes or containers) is an applet that is delivering that screen element to that position in the portal (I've sometimes heard these called "portlets").

Next: Delivering new content without leaving the browser