It’s 2014 and according to Google, 55% of small businesses still don’t have websites. Ridiculous, right? This is even with technology like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace. Most websites are still desktop first so they’re going to have to be re-written for a mobile only world soon anyway. Responsive design is a great stopgap, but it’s really a way to shrink down all the desktop logic into a mobile form factor. It isn’t saying: Most people are going to be consuming web content on mobile and most will be coming from either Facebook or Google on these devices.

Identifying the problem: People want information delivered to them in a simple easy to consume manner

We shouldn’t be looking at websites as the problem being solved, websites are actually a solution. They’re a solution that we came up with over 20 years ago. The real problem is: People want information about a business such as a restaurant, a service, or a product delivered to them in a simple easy to consume manner. Websites don’t put the user first, but cards do. People don’t care much about the unique design or fancy flavor to a website. They’d rather see the restaurant menu, see the pricing for a service, or just know where it’s located. On mobile, it gets difficult to deliver differentiated design in a browser due to the limited screen real estate. So the real problem we need to be solving is: how can we let businesses deliver information in the easiest way for the world to consume as possible?

Websites have a paradox of choice

Websites by themselves are a paradox of choice. What platform to use? Well, there are hundreds of “website creators”. Then once you have one, how do you “design” it. WordPress has tens of thousands of themes and Wix has hundreds of themes. Once most realize they can customize, they’re going to want their own snowflake. This results in a mental burden of the paradox of choice and it results in a long arduous process of “creating a website”. This mental overhead means that most never get a website finished, put it off, or let it linger over time. We have website rot because once it’s done, most will not want to spend the time or money to update their website. The Flash Restaurant websites are the perfect example here. Flash has been dead for a long time, yet most with flash websites aren’t going to update them.

Signing up for Facebook is easier than creating a website and requires a developer

Displaying your information on the web should be as easy as creating a Facebook page, though that by itself has gotten more difficult than it should. Websites on the other hand feel like this blackhole that requires a “developer” or “tech guy”. Many of the build it yourself websites have taken this head on with WYSIWYG builders, but it then runs into the paradox of choice problem. Give them a complex tool and they’ll want to customize until it becomes so burdensome they need a developer. The website should be standardized and center around simplicity. How can

Cards are the best solution

Cards seem to be the best solution here. To get a primer on Cards, you should read this Recode article . Another great article is the one here from Intercom. Lastly, Wildcard is doing some great work around cards and you should follow them on Twitter – . I think of cards like this: Focused pieces of information that replace webpages. They allow for standardization of the information and make it easy to consume.

Cards are mobile first and focus on delivering information about a business in a quick way. Cards don’t think about the desktop, they only think about mobile.

Cards allow you to take action and do it in a standardized way. Why can’t a restaurant have an Opentable card? A doctor have a ZocDoc card? A photographer have a Flickr card? Why doesn’t my local pizza shop should have a Seamless card?

Cards are the best end user experience. Users don’t want to load a large chunky website that may or may not have the information they want anyway. Users want the key information and actions needed while on their mobile device. Cards deliver that.

Cards are the best user experience continuity from Google, Twitter, and Facebook. Data I saw internally at Onswipe said that about 25% of webpages are opened inside of apps. Twitter already uses cards and Facebook is continually moving there more and more. Google’s search results display small business information in a card format anyway. In reality, it would be great if the small businesses website could be shrunken down into an official card that just showed up in Google results. Then just click into more complex cards like the Menu card for more information.

Apps won’t replace websites due to Time to Content

Apps are great for software such as Uber or OpenTable. Websites will always exist for link driven content such as websites or news/information. Most consumers will not have the app for the long tail of websites installed and will not want to wait for the time it takes to install it. Time to content is a critical metric here and the time to install the app, even if it were temporary, is likely to be more time consuming than just opening a card in a web browser. To many they may not even know it’s a web browser, they may just see it as that link that opened inside of Facebook.

Sidenote: If they do happen to have the app installed, then it would just deeplink into the website. Every card should have a deep-link equivalent to an app if it exists.

Cards allow mobile advertising to make sense for a wider audience

Mobile advertising is driven in large part by app installs and the CPI economy. Many businesses like Uber or Games are creating empires on mobile and a major driver of distribution can be mobile advertising. We haven’t seen anything yet though. The two largest forms of mobile advertising that still haven’t taken shape are brand advertising and local advertising.

At Onswipe, we worked with hundreds of the world’s best brands. Almost every single one wanted a solution to make the landing page or wherever they landed after the click a great experience on mobile. We never tackled it because it’s a different publishing problem than news/information. If brands had a way to create a bundle of cards as the new landing page, they would be able to start spending a lot more money on mobile. If it were a movie campaign with a trailer, let the landing page after be a book your tickets card from Fandango. If it were a campaign for a consumer electronics device, let it be a locate the item card.

Local businesses can benefit heavily from mobile advertising. The Yellow Pages revenue was still 23.4 billion in 2011.
It’s declining, but it’s massive. Combine that with local tv, print, etc. and there is much more advertising that needs to go online. Having the landing destination be a webpage is way to complicated for an end user and even then, most local business won’t have one. Users ultimately will want one of a few things – a menu, an ability to book an appointment, coupons, or information like hours.

“WordPress for Cards”

So what’s the solution? I think it’s a WordPress for cards. Replace websites with bundles and what used to be individual URLs with “cards”. Create a very simple publishing platform that comes out of the box with a standard set of cards, but an ability to extend the cards made available through a developer platform. If a new startup comes along, they can offer cards. WordPress:Plugins::”Cardpress”:”Extended Cards” Keep things fairly standard and simple though – no crazy customization on themes and always make sure everyone is up to date with the latest platform. This is a controversial point, but I believe simplicity wins here. I’m not saying everything should look the same, but I am saying, that the choices in terms of UI/UX need to be heavily constrained. The average end user would rather a great experience with easy to consume information than a highly customized one because the owner wanted to go crazy with javascript or flash. It’s about putting the end user first. The business owner would have their own unique feel due to branding, colors, and most importantly the cards displayed.

If we never had desktop computers and mobile phones were the first devices we ever owned, what would be the publishing platform we’d create? Odds are it would be the WordPress for cards. Funny thing is that with smartphone adoption set to double in the next 5 years, many folks are going to be coming online for the first time ever and it will be via a smartphone not a desktop. . We shouldn’t be building the web for a world which many people will never encounter.