Week 4: Taobao

On this week’s lecture, we learnt all about e-Business and e-Commerce. E-Commerce refers to the buying and selling of goods and services electronically (through any electronic means). On the other hand, e-Business specifies the use of the Internet to conduct these businesses.

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According to this graph, we can see that China is a rising player in the e-Commerce scene. I am not surprised considering Alibaba Group, one of the largest and most successful group, originated from China.

Today, I am going to talk about a Chinese e-Commerce, Taobao. Being an avid shopper myself, I like to source out cheap yet fashionable clothings. (If not I might become broke at the age of 25!) Taobao is my shopping heaven because I can get in-trend clothes at a fraction of the price sold at branded stores such as Forever 21, Zara etc.

So what exactly is Taobao?  Firstly, it is an e-Commerce that facilitates C2C (consumer-to-consumer) retail. Buyers put up online shops to sell their products to consumers who mainly originate from Chinese-speaking countries (China, Taiwan etc.) since their website operates with Mandarin as their communication medium.

This is how their website looks at first glance:

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Overwhelming isn’t it? This was how I felt when I first used Taobao. In fact, the layout of the website as well as Chinese as the main language medium was what discouraged me from using Taobao for many years. I only started being receptive to Taobao after learning how to use it from my friend. This brings me to the topic of web design in e-Businesses/e-Commerce.

Web design is of utmost importance, especially for e-Businesses/e-Commerce. The webpage will be the first thing consumers encounter, therefore making a good first impression is essential in making customers stay.

So what can Taobao do to improve their web design?

1. Less is More

Take a look at Taobao’s main webpage that is shown above. It just screams CONTENT OVERLOAD to me. This can come off as overwhelming to consumers that visit the page for the first time. They wouldn’t know where to click to get to where they want. Instead of overpopulating the main webpage, Taobao should keep things simple. This can be done by placing only the basic/necessary links on the first page. These include:

  • Simple navigational menus (5-10 navigational items)
  • Sub-Categories under each navigational link
  • Search bar

That’s all. Remember – simplicity is key!

2. Relevant and Clear images

Next, Taobao should use clear images that is relevant. As we can see in their page, some images do not correspond to the words they represent. For instance, a discount for Valentine’s day gifts is represented by a cat necklace. Although yes, the cat necklace may be part of the discounted items, it has no direct relevance to the idea of “Valentine’s Day discount”. This may confuse users, undermining the quality of their user experience.

Also, clear images are recommended because no one likes looking at pixellated or low quality ones. Businesses must understand that appealing to customers’ visual senses is very important in order to ensure good user experience.

3. Strategic Product Placement

The main page is the first thing that consumers see when they enter a website. Space is valuable on the main page, therefore it is essential to utilize it strategically. This can be done by placing top selling items on the front page and or inform consumers about new product launches. However, this should be done without overcrowding the main page. Thus, I suggest Taobao advertised their top sellers/new items through a big picture on the main page. Consumers can click next to view more photos, so we only have one photo showing at a time. (Prevents crowding of photos)


The web design should not be overlooked. Although Taobao is lacking in the design area, they have proved to have done better on other aspects.

For instance:

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  • Taobao has created a mobile application that facilitates the use of their webpage on the mobile phone. In society today, where people are becoming more reliant on their phones, Taobao made a smart move by having a mobile application. This allow the commerce to be available to a wider audience.aliexpress-china
  • Taobao also extended reach to the English speaking countries such as USA by coming up with AliExpress (also known as the English version of Taobao). Using this, English speaking consumers can purchase products from China even if they do not know how to speak or read the Chinese language. This helps to expand the consumer reach hence expanding the business.  maxresdefault
  • The creation of Taobao opened up businesses in other sectors such as the logistics sector. More shipping companies have emerged due to the demand for Taobao products. International consumers use shipping services such as Ezbuy to ship their items from China over to their home country.

Taobao is one good example that proves the success of e-Commerce. Like Taobao, many businesses have gone online, selling products such as clothes, electronics, home furniture etc. In the clothing industry, I have seen many online stores emerged in the recent years. These online stores proved to be competitors for traditional stores as I witness their rising popularity over the years. It is of no surprise considering how convenient online shopping is. Just a few clicks and the product will be delivered to your house doorstep – how easy!

Despite the popularity of online stores, traditional stores still seem to be holding strong. This might be due to their advantage of having a more personal touch. In this sense, consumers can interact with the retail workers and can also try on clothes to make sure they fit. This cannot be replaced in the online world therefore it is an edge that traditional stores can retain hence survive in the clothing industry.

Personally, I like to shop both online and offline. But who knows in the years to come, everything (businesses) might be shifted online. Anything is possible right?

“Without internet, there would have been no Jack Ma, and no Alibaba or Taobao.”

– Jack Ma

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Week 3: Tweetdeck

This week, it’s all about social networking and social media managing applications. I’ve chose to talk about Tweetdeck because I utilise it often in UGC 111. During UGC 111, our Prof. encourages us to use Twitter to tweet about our ideas and/or comment on other classmates’ tweet. But in order to do so, I have to open up so many tabs to keep up with the online discussion. An effective way to multi-task on Twitter would be to use Tweetdeck!

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This is how my Tweetdeck looks like. You can customize each column to display what information you’d like to see from Twitter.

For instance, for my first column, I displayed my “Home” screen. This means that the tweets of people I followed will appear here. This includes the tweets that I post as well.

For my second column, it displays a search results page. Students are asked to tweet their posts and hashtag it specifically (eg. #hwc111 #c13). So in order to keep in track with the discussion ongoing in class, I will search up the hashtags #hwc111 and #c13 to see what is being tweeted. Also, you will be notified if there is any new tweets, so I can keep up to date with the discussion without refreshing the entire page!

As for the third column, I included a notifications page. It simply shows who have liked my tweet and/or retweeted my tweets. I can also see who have commented on my tweets so I can reply them promptly.

Lastly, one good tool that Tweetdeck provides is the ability to schedule your tweets! And I must say, it is a really useful tool that saved me many times. Why I’d say that, you ask. Well, it is because I usually run late for this class. Yet, we have to do entry tweets, which means that we have to tweet our thoughts about a question posted during that start of the lesson. But being late means I might miss out on this entry tweet. Therefore, in order to submit my entry tweet on time, I’ll schedule my tweet the night before to tweet exactly when class starts. This way, I do not have to worry about missing the entry tweet. Good idea isn’t it? hahaha. But disclaimer: Can I blame my lateness on the public transport? (hehe, good try Regina.)

All in all, I recommend anyone who uses Twitter to try out Tweetdeck. It’s basically the whole of Twitter just on one page! You do not have to open up multiple tabs just to keep check of what’s happening online. What more can you ask for?

giphy  Oh just one downside though, I can’t insert gifs while using Tweetdeck ):

Week 2: Is your data really private?

Just recently, I came across the movie “Snowden” whilst on a flight to Tokyo. Based on a true story, it depicted how Edward Snowden had leaked classified government documents which consisted of many global surveillance programs. People realized that they were being “spyed on” by the government constantly and this brought up controversy about mass surveillance and highlighted the issue of data privacy.

With the advent of Web 2.0, consumers are now “prosumers” – on top of consuming, they can now produce information as well. At the same time, social media sites were introduced to the Internet. People could utilize these platforms to share information and ideas. They could share anything and everything yet most did not consider the repercussions this freedom could entail.

So how can your data be compromised?

First of all, many know that data breach can be attributed to hackers. These people utilize bugs and exploits to break into fortified networks or systems. Then with the data they have obtained from the sites they have hacked, the hackers either choose to use it for good (i.e. exploit corrupt corporations) or for bad (i.e. misuse data of others). Most of the time though, they hack for their own benefit, meaning the data collected will be used unethically.

Secondly, and less commonly known, data breach can be due to internal factors. This means that someone within the organization had intentionally or unintentionally leaked the private data. By unintentionally, I meant that a worker in the organisation could have been careless when handling the data, or had accidentally download dubious content online hence allowed viruses to infiltrate their system database.

By intentionally, I meant that the organisation itself had the intention of spreading personal data or that an individual in the organisation had leaked data to sabotage the company. Ever thought what happens to your data after you checked “I agree” to the terms and conditions of the organisation? Most people do not actually think twice or even read through the lengthy T&C. They often end up giving organisations the go ahead to use and share their personal data. For instance, Telco companies have been reported to sell their subscribers’ phone numbers to several other companies. Now you know why you keep receiving random texts or calls even when you didn’t give them your number.

Some Examples

Yahoo!

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In 2016, Yahoo had revealed about a data breach issue that they experienced once in 2014 and another in 2013. The former affected around 500 million users whereas the latter affected 1 billion users. Data in the form of names, email addresses, phone numbers, date of births and passwords were leaked. Hackers could access many accounts without having the password to it.

Facebook

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In 2012, Facebook had allegedly exposed the phone numbers and email addresses of 6 million users. This happened when users used the “Download Your Information” tool but received information other than their own. This apparently went on for a year – imagine how many trunks of data would have been leaked?!


So from this we have see that one’s data is extremely vulnerable once it is out in the Internet. With the increasing reliance on the Internet and Social Media, it is hard for anyone to prevent their data from going online. What we can do is to be more careful about the material we upload and practice vigilance all the time.

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About: First Lesson

Coming to COM 125, I’d thought, “What else could I learn about the Internet?”. My generation has been exposed to the Internet for the bulk of our lives, hence we naturally assume that we are adept at using it. But other than knowing how to navigate the Web and use several social media apps, I realized that I know almost nothing about the Internet; or rather, I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. There are so much more things for me to uncover about the Internet, such as its history as well as the potential it could have.

“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”

– Eric Schmidt

That said, I was intrigued when I learnt that the Web has three phases, namely Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0. So then what are the differences between these phases?

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Web 1.0 At this stage, the Web was a “read-only”. This means that users go to the Web to only receive information. It is a linear form of communication without any feedback.

Web 2.0 The Web becomes more interactive at this phase. Users can now have more interaction with web sites. Users can collaborate and share information with one another. Under this phase, we see the emergence of social networking sites such as Facebook.

Web 3.0 Termed as the semantic web, Web 3.0 is the “executable phase” where data can be processed intelligently by machines.

Reference: Choudhury, N. (2014). World Wide Web and Its Journey from Web 1.0 to Web 4.0 . International Journal of Computer Science and Information Technologies, 5(6), 8096-8100.

The possibilities that the Web can reach are endless and we might in the future, experience a Web 4.0. Machines and the web will only become more intelligent and start to achieve things that we wouldn’t have thought it was possible. Exciting isn’t it. 😉

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As for me, I’ll be interested to see what else the Internet has to offer. Until then, don’t be that fish that is scared of the net. (:

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