Is the Internet truly making life easier?

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As society continues to evolve and technology continues to advance, it appears as if history has started to repeat itself here in the Digital Age. Newer, bigger, better products and updates are constantly coming out. We have access to everything at our fingertips. With the vast amount of products and choices out there though, how easy is it really to find exactly what you are looking for?

In the past when you were looking for a particular item — let’s say shoes — you drove around from store to store until you found a retailer that carried the shoes you wanted in the right size and color. There was no sophisticated technology that allowed you to locate every store where the shoes were sold, whether they sold more than one color combination or even if they had the shoes in stock. You simply didn’t know until you physically drove yourself to a location and checked for yourself.

Later, the advent of telephone directories meant one could easily locate the phone numbers to various stores around town and call with questions regarding the particular styles, sizes and colors they had in stock. This advancement expedited the shopping process, making it a little less painful by saving you time and frustration.

Now, the accessibility of the Internet allows us to buy nearly any consumer good and have it delivered to us, all from the convenience of our couch. You go online, choose from a variety of retailers claiming to stock the exact shoes you want, add the product to your shopping cart, go through the checkout process and purchase. Four to five business days later, your package is conveniently waiting for you at your door. Sounds simple, right? Not always.

Sometimes it seems we are just “driving” around the Internet, spending as much time as we used to driving around town, searching the vast seas of the web for the products we want. We often don’t know where some of this stuff comes from or whether the transaction is even secure, but we know we want it when we do find it. To me, this is almost as inconvenient, if not more so, than driving around from store to store on the off chance they might carry what I’m looking for. As a customer, I know what I want, I have my money ready, so why is it not always as easy as pointing and clicking?

Here is an example:

I was shopping and saw a girl wearing these shoes that I really liked. I asked her where she got them and she told me the brand and department store. Unfortunately, they ended up being the previous season’s style. The department store still carried the particular shoe I was looking for, just in different colors; so naturally, I set off to the Internet. I found at least 40 websites that claimed to have the shoes I was looking for in the exact color and size I wanted. However, once I clicked through the links to each of these websites, the style and color combination I wanted was out of stock. After about an hour I started to get very frustrated because I only wanted to see if these shoes were still available. After a couple hours I finally found a website that did in fact stock the style, color and size I needed. In the end, I was a little disappointed that I had wasted so much time for a single pair of shoes.

How do we cut through this clutter of useless links and false information on the Internet to find what we really want, without compromising our sanity? Simply put, how do we make it easier to find what we are looking for?

I foresee in the near future, a better system for organizing and presenting the relevant information we seek on the Internet. We have all these wonderful tools at our disposal but we just haven’t quiet figured out how they all fit together. I believe search engine optimization will only continue to gain traction and people will get better at truly optimizing the information they have on their websites. I believe technology will continue to advance so that our physical and digital worlds work together to actually make things quicker and easier.

I am excited to see how we will take the technology at hand and make it better. Though we may be driving less around town from store to store, I see this online “driving” as a growing concern and it will be interesting to see how we harness technology to solve this problem.

Image Credit: David Castillo Dominici

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