Volume 43 Number 6
Website of the Month: The Great Website of China -- Tackling a Monstrous Market with www.h2ochina.com
Setting aside foreign policy issues for our country's news media, we take a more positive spin on China by examining its latest foray into the heavy traffic of international water websites. You may remember when this space of the magazine reviewed India's latest portal website. Well, if one nation of a billion people can do it, why can't another? Four months in preparing for h2o-china.com, its designers launched the site in October 2000. The following will track the progress made in that short time.
One thing is clear-there's nothing pretentious about the site. Even the main buttons to home page's left are direct and, at times, vague and ambiguous (possibly something lost in translation). For example, the words Science Paper take me back to the days when I was expected to embark on a two-month homework assignment for my fifth-grade class. In this case, however, the words refer to written reports that detail topics such as surface water pollution in Shanghai and urban water management in China.
Other less than descriptive headings include Business, Project and Water Magazine. First, Business is broken down into three different categories-"Technical," "Investment" and "Advertising." It's clear that the Chinese version of the site was loosely translated into English. The short text in this section exemplifies that. Spacing between words is off, and some of the grammar can be confusing. Still, you can get through relatively trouble-free and ask for more "details." In short, though, you discover this section is basically a contact information request where general comments and inquiries are welcome.
The written word
The last button to the left is Water Magazine. A click here serves as a great resource for additional information on magazines dedicated to wastewater and water treatment issues in China. Five publications are listed along with their addresses and contact information (phone and fax numbers with email addresses). A bonus is that more website addresses are listed here on China's water treatment market (see FYI -- China). On the downside, you're only given access to two of the magazines' contents and, even then, only the first couple of months for each of the last two years.
The other buttons on the home page are direct and easy to follow. About Us contains nothing out of the ordinary. It outlines the mission and target audience for the site. Today's China is a cacophony of water-related themes associated with the country. Like the Project button, certain themes are tackled such as water pollution, seawater desalination and the environment. Unlike the Project button, however, you're presented with a full-length article on about 10 different topics. Some of the stories even include endnotes (or references, if you prefer). Without a doubt, it's one of the more interesting and informative features of the site.
Abundance of news
Keep in mind, a search button sits near the bottom left of the home page. If you see enough websites, you get accustomed to the fact that the search button usually means the end of the page or at least buttons with hyperlinks.
At h2o-china.com, a "Water Links" button is found precariously under the search function with little to distinguish it. "Water Links" takes you to over four printed pages of material. In a way, it almost reminds me of a site within a site. It even contains its own buttons including, you guessed it, more news items. For editorial support, this segment of the site relies on the academic publication, Water Industry News. The majority of items are culled from U.S.-based water-related companies. You're also invited to join the Water Industry Council. In hindsight, I see why the reason behind putting the links where they did. This button would only clutter the main thrust of the site. Plus, it's called h2o-china.com, and not h2o-usa.com.
It's extremely difficult to cover a segment as monstrous as the water industry and condense into one navigable site. Throw in the fact that it's a country with nearly 20 percent of the world's population and you could set yourself up for a fall. But, instead of falling, this site comes to you with a full gallop and is near the full-sprint stage.
For those of you still digging that proverbial hole to China, I have a few words of advice. You can go back and read this column over and safely introduce yourself to water in China. Or you can dig far enough in the ground until you hit water anyway.
www.h2o-china.com-Savoring the morsels
Carry out: Sure, you have a search button, but if the home page buttons were more specific, the need to chase after certain subjects would be minimized.
Sit-down meal: The news content pertaining to China involved here is more than sufficient. Throw in the international items, and you got a bonus.
Five-course dinner: The water links page could almost stand by itself as a viable site. Yet, it serves as a great complement to the main site without de-emphasizing the China angle.