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December 2002: Volume 44, Number 12

Reading the Web at a Genius Level -- A Middle East Site Features Water
by Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Managing Editor

In this space, we’ve dedicated entire columns to water portals around the globe. Two prior reviews, for instance, covered portals from China and India. So, cognizant of this, we felt it was time to visit another portal -- this one from the United Arab Emirates. It makes sense. Who knows more about the importance of water than habitants of a desert oasis where the mercury consistently rises above 100°F? I live in Tucson, Ariz., so trust me on this. Aside from the camels (not to mention oil reserves), I am right there with these people.

Portals, generally, are broadly based websites such as Yahoo.com, About.com or any main website used as a homepage or stepping-off point for more specific topics. By definition, water portals are a tricky proposition in that they may call any country home but are judged solely by how well they cover the whole spectrum of water quality and quantity issues around the world. This month’s challenge falls to WaterGenius. A tall order, but the first two aforementioned websites were up to the task.

An IQ for water
Judging from its name, my first impression was this might be an “Ask Jeeves”-type site where you have so-called experts answer all manner of water-related questions from the sublime to the ridiculous. As Jeeves would say, “Not bloody likely!” OK, maybe he doesn’t say that but you get the point. Instead, WaterGenius goes to the extreme and touts itself as…“the water portal”? Huh, the water portal? Did someone say “understated”? But, as we’ve learned before, don’t judge a book by its cover, folks.

Right off the bat, I see that the whole home page can be printed on one sheet of paper. Before you think this automatically makes this site incomplete, keep in mind that the best sites have minimal text on their home page but extensive main buttons that open the site to various, informative and, most importantly, relevant avenues. At WaterGenius, it’s a matter of what buttons one considers the main ones. I’ve decided that the 12 buttons near the middle of the home page qualify based on placement and extent of description. We’ll begin the review there.

They are Bottled Water, Commercial & Industrial, Domestic, Engineering & Constituencies, Instruments & Lab Equipment, Resins, Cartridges, Computer Services, Effluent Treatment, Filtration Chemicals, Molding Equipment and Safety Equipment. Under Bottled Water, there are two sub-categories -- equipment manufacturers and bottling companies. To my amazement, there are 350 (not a typo) pages of company listings under Bottled Water. Each page contains 10 listings; quick math tells us that 3,500 links are provided. Granted, many are repetitive but this winds up being a classic case of overkill.

Information overload
A little overwhelmed, I start to wonder if all the main buttons show the same results. Relieved, Commercial & Industrial has only 11 pages. The button is broken down further into 12 other categories including RO units, ozone generators, softeners, distillation units and UV sterilizers. Domestic (seven pages) contains POU systems, among other categories. Moving ahead, Cartridges is conspicuous because it only has eight listings on one page. Some categories are particulate removal and taste & odor.

To this point, we’ve concentrated solely on company listings. We’ll now move back up the home page and the site’s search function. Visitors are able to search using “news” or “links” and then the key word of your choice. I type in “links” and “mold” and 60 companies touting their mold removal capabilities are at my disposable. In contrast, the “news” feature only produced three listings and each involved an expo from June. Not exactly newswire heaven.

Below the search function, a “Browse” heading allows you to visit areas such as “New Links,” “Hot Links,” “Cool Links,” “News Center,” “ Suggest Listing” and “Search.” Checking “News Center” gives access to headlines back to March 2002. I presume this is about when the site was launched. The “Suggest Listing” gives companies the opportunity to post their business information for free. “Search” is just a repeat of the function at the home page’s top.

Water takes back seat
Two headings -- ”Headlines” and “What’s New?” -- are shown near the bottom of the home page with several listings underneath. An item dated 10/22 catches my eye for its non water-related angle. It reads, “President Saddam Hussein -- Swearing in and Speech.” “What’s New?” serves as another excuse to have even more company listings.

Next, to the far right of the home page, you’re invited to join the site’s mailing list. Unlike other sites, all that’s required is an email address. If only all things were so easy. Further down, a “Power Search” function allows for a more specific search using key word, country name, WaterGenius or the entire Internet, with a choice among manufacturers, dealers, wholesalers, retailers or all. At random I select, in order, arsenic, Kazakhstan, all the Web, and all listings. I get a response via a link to the European Business Association of Kazakhstan. Curious still, I click on it and, surprise, get the association’s website that says it was “formed to represent and promote the viewpoint of European businesses in Kazakhstan, through a strong collective voice.” Hmmm, this is kind of vague and doesn’t really stress the water component much. Finally, at the very bottom of Water Genius’ home page, a “contact us” link is provided where you can email the site with comments or questions.

Conclusion
Plain and simple, the water portal description doesn’t paint an accurate picture of this site. Does it have a promising start? Yes. Should it be seen as a portal? Not until major changes are made. Rather than water portal, I would feel more apt to place it under the “yellow pages” category. When it comes to listings, this site ranks right up there with the reviews we’ve done here in the past. But if you’re looking for a true portal on water, contact me and I’ll direct you to a couple that make the grade.

Site Synopsis: www.watergenius.com
The design of this site screams for a successful attempt as a water portal. Just like an American president’s swearing-in ceremony doesn’t belong on WQA’s website, neither should a Saddam reference make its presence known on WaterGenius. Plus, the only way we know it’s from the United Arab Emirates is due to the “contact us” invite at the very bottom of the home page. Assuming the site is still in its infancy and feeling out its audience, there’s still time for some major renovation.

 
For earlier columns in this category, click on the link below or hit the 'List All' button.
Providing a ’Net for Safe Drinking Water -- Making Sites ‘Green’ with Envy
Following the Pipeline to Plumbing Online -- Reacquainting Yourself with a Vast Industry
Site-Seeing Around the World -- Exploring Water with the Net
Handheld Computers -- An Essential Tool for Any Route Delivery Company
The Salt of the Earth’s Websites -- Mining the Gems on the Internet
Storing Water for the Present -- A Quenching Look at an Overlooked Market
The Cells are Alive with the Image of Bacteria -- Waterborne Topics Go Under the Microscope
Checking Out the Affairs of States -- Sizing Up WQA Regional Associations
Airing It Out in Public, Stripping the Facts Bare on the Web -- Aeration & Air Stripping Online
Safety First -- Putting Drinking Water at the Top of the List
From the Floor to the Podium -- Getting Inside the Trade Show
Taking the Hardline with Endocrine -- Disrupting Hormones and Other Truths