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What Twitter's Simplicity Can Teach Online Retail

I've been playing with Twitter over the last few weeks. I'm still dubious as to its value as a marketing channel. But, as a micro-blog, Twitter is oddly addicting.

What makes Twitter interesting is just how easy it is to use.

Here's my rough timeline of web ease-of-use.

In 1989 comes the web. Putting content on the early web is hard. Getting a server, learning apache, hand-rolling HTML, maintaining consistent headers and footers and navigation. Many steps, difficult to execute manually.

In 1997 comes blogs. Free (or nearly free) web-based content management systems. Suddenly, all the tedious HTML and CSS details vanish. Web publishing becomes easy. Web publishing explodes.

In 2006 comes Twitter. Type a sentence, and blam -- it is online. Reach the entire world, instantly, for free. Zero complexity.

Twitter's rapid growth, I think, owes much to its blinding simplicity and speed.

Taking an online order will never be as simple as Twitter's 140 characters. Bill-to, ship-to, gift options, multiple payment types, shipping options -- e-commerce is a complex beast.

But.

There's a lesson for online retail in Twitter's growth: people prefer easy-to-use fast web apps. And so use them more.

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