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Issue Date: June 2004

The Web: A waste of time or invaluable?

July 2004

Since the collapse of the dot com bubble, Internet business models have been quietly and steadily working through the consequent trough of despondency. The Internet has rebounded, but as a more sober and strategic channel for businesses. It is time to look afresh at what models have emerged as successful and why. The best way to do this is to ask those who are using the Internet.

Dr Andrew Thatcher, a psychologist within the School of Human & Community
Development at the University of the Witwatersrand, in conjunction with BlueRiverStone an independent research project based in the School, have been commissioned by Financial Mail to run a survey of Internet users. The focus of the survey is to determine which sites save users time and money. We all know that the information available via the Internet is virtually limitless - both in volume and variety. But we want to know which are the sites that make all of our lives easier - because they short-circuit manual processes; because they show us how to do things we could not do before or because they provide us with totally new ways of doing things.
We would like this to be one of the SA Internet's premier annual surveys. Respondents are able - indeed invited to - submit nominations for more than one site. They are requested to provide some basic profiling information - purely to see who is using what on the Web. All respondents will get FM's guide to the web based on the research and in addition HP have contributed prizes worth R20 000 for respondents. We also ask a few questions regarding the use of the website, why it is being nominated and what the user experience is like.
Possibly one of the best examples of online time and money saving benefits is banking. "Online Banking without doubt provides users with significant benefits," says Thatcher. "Previous research conducted by ourselves shows that respondents preferred banking online to any other means of transacting with their banks - with the exception of cash withdrawals and deposits of course." "Online banking", he says, "gives users more control over their finances, makes banking more accessible and is more convenient; overall it gives the best value for money."
This may not hold for all industries. "Our research into the traditional travel and tourism industry's website offerings has shown that functionality is weak, less easy to use to accomplish tasks and not about to upstage traditional channels any time soon".
The Financial Mail will be publishing as a special insert the FM100, a list of the best 100 websites for saving users time and money. Best of all - it is nominated by the users themselves.


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