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What's Free to Go Web 2.0?

Widgets are Web 2.0A couple of years ago, I wasn't completely sure what Web 2.0 was and sought an education. Robert Scoble, here to keynote for ConvergeSouth, sat at my kitchen table and answered the elusive question in a single word. "What's Web 2.0? Widgets." Suddenly, it made sense. Web 2.0 is the interactive Web (so sayeth Dave Winer and he should know) and widgets – a play on our old Econ 101 class' finest example – are the glue that holds Web 2.0 together.

In the Web 2.0 world, it's a lot less about design and a lot more about place and experience. You want your content and not just your Web site to be identified with your brand. Find a designer who thinks like a programmer and your site can reflect the changes of Web 2.0. If your designer talks about a "Flash intro," think about hiring a new one. And find out what's free online.

Are Web 2.0 logos free?
Web 2.0 logos can be free if you're willing to build your own from a step-by-step tutorial. If you've been thinking of redesigning your Web site, now is a good time to go 2.0 ("two-oh"). Learn how to make a 2.0-ish logo (Photoshop tutorial). Take a look at the free 2.0-style buttons for your site here. There are even blank buttons you can use on your new site here (or get a graphics designer to build custom).

Besides, it's time for your site to transition to XML and use an RSS feed for updates and news. You might as well start out with new 2.0-ish site buttons.

What's free to make 2.0 buttons and icons?
If you don't have $1,200 to spend on the newest incarnation of Photoshop, get Gimp. It's free, very Photoshop-like and runs on Windows. If you're not a do-it-yourself'er, you can get previews of free Web icons and buttons suitable for the Web 2.0 theme here.

Visit free online button-generating sites and create some 2.0-ish graphics for your site that use your colors. There are button makers and more button makers and even more button makers that are free.

Can you produce free video for 2.0?
If you've got a product or a service, show it off via YouTube but link to it from your Web site. Make a video of what you're doing with free screencast software. CamStudio offers free streaming video software and so does Wink. By making a screencast, you'll also learn how easy – or how hard it is – to use your product. Put your screencast on YouTube or Google Video and send your (opt-in) potential customers links to it; better yet, link to the videos from your newly-designed Web site. Use the social networking sites to show (which is much better than tell) the world what you do.

Talk is cheap – can it be free for a Web 2.0 site?
The interactive 2.0 Web says, "I don't want to just read it; I want to see and hear it." If you've heard of podcasting but haven't dipped your toes into the audio water, the low price of podcasting tools cancels your cost concerns. Olympus's WS-100 audio recorder is affordable and the WS-300M is near rock-bottom pricing. The audio file created by the devices uploads easily to your Web server (the same way you upload pages) and you simply link to it. People who want to hear podcasts know what to do with MP3 links.

Get a list of free podcasting applications for Windows or Mac here. You can also get iPodder, jPodder or iPodderX (Mac).

Can you create a 2.0 online experience for free?
Web design in Web 2.0 is about building experiences rather than Web sites. Your Web site must have something to do, rather than simply be something to read. What can you do for free? FormLogix offers some free form / feedback opportunities and widgets on their 2.0-ish Web site. Response-o-matic has copy & paste forms. Read all the fine print on both sites, please. If your Web site has no search feature, get one integrated. A great free site search is phpdig. Put the user in control of what can be found on you Web site and move toward Web 2.0. Stop using hard-to-manage list servs and get a Google or Yahoo! Group so everyone can join the experience for the free price of signing up.

Is there free Web 2.0 design?
Yes, Virginia, there is some free Web design that can be a good start for small businesses to learn how this 'design thing' works. There are free and low-cost site templates as well as ecommerce templates [you'll still need a designer to make it all work, but templates can keep design costs down]. Beware of templates that force you to host your site where they sell the templates.

Of course, nothing is really free if you don't know how to use the tools listed above. You will probably need a designer, a programmer, both, and the help of your teenager to move toward Web 2.0 interactive experiences. A little financial pain now can create a lot of business gain and for small business, the time is right now. What are you waiting for? Web 3.0?

Tags: logos, web 2.0, web site buttons, Web2.0, WebSiteButtons