Gerry McGovern // New Thinking

There is no such thing as the Internet or Web anymore

November 25, 2012 -- Gerry McGovern

The Internet has become so pervasive that people don’t think they are on it anymore, even when they are.

An online study by Forrester Research of 58,000 U.S. adults found that in 2011 they were spending an average of 21.9 hours per week online, while in 2012 they were spending an average of 19.6 hours online. Can that be true? No.

“Despite the fact that they always have connected devices and are always online, they don’t really realize they’re online,” said Forrester analyst Gina Sverdlov. “They’re using Google Maps or checking in on Facebook, but that’s not considered online because it has become such a part of everyday life.”

Most of the time, you just can’t trust what people tell you. You have to observe what they do, not what they say they do.

For most people does “online” and “offline” even exist anymore? When someone’s phone is always online are they always online? Are they only really offline when they’re asleep? And does it matter?

I hear a lot of debate these days about what to call the intranet. Many intranets have gotten a really bad name among employees. They are a place where you waste time at work trying to find that thing that’s hidden among layers and layers of unsearchable and unnavigable junk. So, we need to change the name of the intranet to something like digital workplace and maybe we’ll start getting some respect.

But does it really matter what we call the thing? Does it really matter if it’s an app, tool, content or whatever? When is a website not a website? And just what is mobile anyway? Is a laptop mobile when it’s sitting on your desktop? If you keep your mobile phone in your office does it stop being a mobile phone?

Customers tend to focus on the task. When you want to book a flight you’re thinking about where you want to fly. You don’t think about the tool, app, or content. When you want to check the weather you’re not thinking about how you’ll go online to check the weather. You’re just thinking about checking the weather.

In the early days, the Web, the Internet, tools, apps, content, websites, search engines; all these things can seem exciting because they are new. But as you go online more and more the act of going online becomes more and more invisible.

While the customers’ world is becoming more and more intertwined, organization structures and disciplines are becoming more and more siloed. There’s customer experience, user experience, information architecture, app and tool designers and developers, graphic designers, content strategists, managers and editors, people responsible for social content and marketing content and support content.

The customer doesn’t think like most organizations are organized. They’re just doing stuff; keeping in touch with friends, solving problems, living their lives, trying to get some work done. Neither online nor offline, neither content nor apps.

To succeed in the customers’ world you need to organize around them and their tasks. Sure, it’s easy for a writer to focus on writing and a coder to focus on coding. But the big opportunities lie on the outside in the world of the customer.

Nobody “Goes Online” Anymore