Wired! Philippines All about Internet in the Philippines



Building Interactive Websites for Business

by Migs Paraz <map@internet.org.ph>

It seems that the Philippines has taken over the Portal craze.

The trend started out with search engines, but when the US-based search engines morphed into the term they called "portals", their local counterparts followed.

Complementary to portals are "destination sites" which are the end target of the web surfers' attention. Combined, they drive the increasing amount of local content which is poised to increase the amount of Philippines-centric content. Instead of being just information consumers or just "surfers", Filipinos are becoming net producers of content.

A cursory search through any of the local engines would reveal that, but currently only a small percentage of sites are actually "interactive" or "data-driven."

These sites can be considered as actual applications, since they are really programs that are running on the web server, executed by the browser.

Interactive Data Driven Sites

An "interactive data-driven site" is one where the pages are not just fixed or static, but come from a dynamic source of data. Search engines are the prime example of these. Another example are the emerging "financial portals" which have time-sensitive data on financial information such as on stocks.

You might find that these sites require a lot of work - and cash - to produce, but in reality they do not. With the right skills and enough patience you can construct your own.

One resource that can get you started is http://www.internet.org.ph which has some reference examples of applications with free source code available, like the Philippine ISP Directory.

The tools you need would include programmng languages to firm up the logic of your site, methods for generating dynamic web pages, and database engines to store your data.

For all of these, open source tools are available so that you need not pay for any commercial software to build your site.

The App is the Content (or Vice Versa)

When constructing your application, you need to consider what service you need to provide. Sites with mostly static content rely on staff-written or contributed articles and works to engage the readers into a meaningful experience. Sites such as catalogs need someone to take in surfers' submitted information and catalog it.

For instance, the world's most popular catalog Yahoo, and the local counterpart Yehey, have content staff who organize the large amounts of information, while the engine simply manages the content.

On the other hand, auction sites such as the world's largest, eBay, and a local one called PH Auction, http://phauction.hypermart.net, neither create nor manage content. The heart of the site is the algorithm - the system or method in programming-language-speak - which matches the buyers and sellers.

Where's the Biz?

Transforming your web application into a business requires that you find a way to effectively deliver it to the users. In your favor, Internet infrastructure companies and broadband service providers (which I tackled in other articles) build up the interconnections necessary to form a robust local Internet. This is the platform for your applicationn, as you become an Application Service Provider.

A motto to follow, considering that there are other e-service providers competing with you, is to do it better, or not do it at all. If you do not do it better, or put in a new twist, then you will just be another wannabee.

Then, after building your application and your site, you need to get the word out, whether by commercial marketing, or just by letting your reputation spread.

To conclude, the tools are there, the audience is growing, and the numbers of companies that can help you are increasing. You can refine that idea into gold.


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