No more free love on the web

The internet’s hippy era is over, according to an Irishman whose web design company, Nua, was once worth a paper fortune. Today, Gerry McGovern makes a living talking about web publishing, with emphasis on “publishing”.

“I don’t take a major technological focus,” says McGovern, whose message is that designing a website should not be left to the IT department.

“That should be liberating for IT. After all, you don’t become an IT manager to do proof reading.” Some respond to the web challenge by becoming “drunk on the power of new responsibility”, however.

In the wrong hands, website design is treated as a data management process. McGovern prefers to see the task in simpler terms, likening the intended result to the index of a book.

His hippy reference is to the notion of free love; when the web first caught the public imagination, users were excited by having access to free information. But McGovern says organisations should be taking a more deliberate approach to what they publish; that much of what’s available online is mere clutter. “A lot of websites have been built; a lot has been learned.”

Consolidation is the trend today, he says, as sites are pared back to information that’s essential for the intended audience.

The experience of nearly a decade of widespread web design also means organisations don’t need to spend large sums attempting to be innovative.

“Amazon spent a $1 billion on its website — why not learn from it? Geniuses steal, beggars borrow.”