It’s 2003, Ireland’s Celtic tiger era is in full swing, the cool kids are watching season 1 of Arrested Development on digital TV, a bitter war wages between the Xbox and the Playstation 2, Google is a mere 5 years old, everyone emails, those early adopters who can afford the crippling bills are all tinkering away with the first wireless application phones (WAP), kids in Ireland are lugging one fifth of their body weight to school and back every day and they’re praying that they get a little go of the enormous desktop PC in their classroom.

Fast forward ten years and you’ll see that a new wave of economic strife has washed over the world yesterday’s cool kids are watching the 4th  season of Arrested Development on Netflix, Microsoft and Sony are releasing the 4th generation of games console that many speculate could be the last of the consoles, Google is a publicly trading behemoth that is approaching its 15th year in business, email is passé, everyone you know has a data plan and is on their 2nd or 3rd smart phone and the kids are bringing their tablet computers to school.

Enter Generation Y, the techno savvy teens and twenty-somethings who don’t remember a world without computers. These digital natives have brought with them great change and “browsing the internet” is dead. Gen Y tours the internet in search of content is interesting, amusing, educational or entertaining and if they find it, they will tell their friends about it, all 500+ of them.

Millennials on their phones, are you ready for the mobile web?

More sophisticated users require a more sophisticated website

Take the average SME website from ten years ago. You would be hard pushed to find any of the following:

  • Active Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Forums
  • Live chat
  • Ratings
  • Site Search
  • Advanced E-commerce Integration

All of this functionality is available to SMEs and the turnaround time of creating a highly functional website has also been reduced. However, the complexity has increased in several key areas and more and more new technology emerges at an incredible pace from the large tech companies and from the open source community. What this means for businesses is that they now have 100’s of configuration options and functionality to choose from. You also must consider that your website is not your only space on the internet nowadays and developing sound social media strategies and having something to say about your products is now more important than ever before.

Gen Y has a voice and they’re not afraid to use it!

Throw social media in to the mix and the broadcasting power of your website now stretches far beyond just your SEO and offline marketing muscle. Fundamentally, Social media is a system of trust in a network that is fuelled by referrals and key influencers. Companies can write about themselves and their “highly customisable solutions/products” as much as they like but there is nothing quite like a recommendation from a trusted outsider to solidify your decision to purchase. On the other hand you have the viral effect of negatives. If a company steps out of line in any aspect their business you can bet that a lot of people will voice their opinions regardless of whether or not that company is engaged with social media. This emphasises two important parts of the modern web, first consumerism has never been more powerful and secondly companies should take the time to talk to their customers through the good times and the bad, if you are not involved in the conversation you have no chance of controlling it.

Gen Y has an Eye for Detail and Appreciates Functional & Beautiful Design

The user experience sounds like a typical marketing term to most business people who have not crossed a socio-technical gap. It isn’t mystical marketing terminology. It is a very real and very difficult aspect of the web to capture. The graphic designer of ten years ago has ventured in to web territory adopting front end technologies. We’ve all been on that one retro website itching to make a purchase and bounced within seconds because it just didn’t look like what you we’re looking for.

Companies should be aware that they are no longer building just one site anymore; there are tablets, phones of various levels of performance and each with a unique screen size and technological set up. The web is becoming more standardised but designers and developers have thrown out the rule book of ten years ago in order to meet the needs of Gen Y.

Companies wanting connect to Gen Y can’t pick and choose their functionality

Perhaps the most important point of all is that consumers subconsciously expect this level of complexity to come as standard with any website they visit nowadays. If they cannot access the information they are looking for quickly, if they get one negative review too many from an outsider, if you don’t have them on your social media radar or if the technology you use is as old as the Playstation 2 your business is missing out on a massive opportunity to connect with gen Y.