Sitegeist Blog - Beitrags-Archiv für die Kategory 'Trends'

Game changers: links and economics

Friday, 26. February 2010 8:08

In the space of a decade, the thinking around how to attain (and measure) success online has changed.

We used to count ‘hits’. But a hit was defined as a file download – a file request on you server (not a visit) – and so image-heavy web pages – containing 10 or 20 or more image files – racked up the stats. The measure was meaningless.

It’s all about unique visitors now.

We used to talk about time on site. It’s still an interesting measure, but not always in the way we might imagine. Time on some pages is good. Time on other pages might be bad.

If your page is the ‘verify your purchase’ page within your shopping cart, a user glancing over everything and moving on is ideal. 5 seconds. Maybe 10. If that page is taking up 30 seconds or 1 minute of your customers’ time, it might be an alarm bell masquerading as a compelling page.

But here’s proof positive that the game has really changed. I recently stumbled across an article called The Economics of Surfing (PDF 45kb), written by Adar and Huberman in 2000 for (I love this journal title) the Quarterly Journal of Electronic Commerce (Vol 1, No 3).

The basic argument in the article is that if your site has multiple pathways to the same end point (which it should), then users are putting different values on getting to that point. If I click once, that’s ok. But if I click 3 times, I’ve paid a higher price (where cost=time) for the information or content or sale or whatever.

So the thing the user wants varies in value, and actually becomes more valuable (to the user) the longer the user traverses your site to reach it.

Check this:

“One can construct a web site that changes its link structure to lengthen the path traversed by a given user, thereby making him visit many more pages. For example, if there is a short route (in the number of clicks) to a given page, one may wish to turn that off if the user is likely to visit more pages in between.”

The Economics of Surfing, p 5

Make a user visit ‘many more pages’ and they’ll value your site more highly. Ha!

At the heart of web use is the demand for speed. Don’t waste our time is the online mantra (unless I want my time wasted, of course…).

I recently posted about possible moves by Google to change their algorithm to reward faster web pages. People want stuff…fast! And while a web page’s load time is not the same as a site-wide search for information, Adar and Huberman’s thesis remains astonishing for its lack of insight into what web users demand: Speed and precision.

Or am I being too harsh. Is this criticism just 20-20 hindsight? Were we different? Did we want to click and surf and play and browse more in 2000 than we do now, a decade later? If so, why?

Has the game really changed, or is it us?

Thema: Being bad, Trends, User focus | Comments Off on Game changers: links and economics | Author:

Apple iPad and the future of the book

Friday, 12. February 2010 8:34

With the announcement a week or two back of the iPad (great name, guys), thoughts again turn to the e-reader.

The Kindle, launched in 2007, was the first big-name foray into the e-book reader space, and – if electronic book readers finally really take off on the back on the iPad – it’s set to be a revolution in both publishing and reading as shattering as the invention of the printing press around 1440.

Hyperbole? Yeah, maybe.

Although if Apple’s track record with established production and distribution methods (think iTunes and the music industry) and with owning a nascent market (‘iPod’ now equals ‘mp3 player’ in the same way that Walkman, Rollerblade, Hoover, Xerox and Kleenex all once became synonymous with their product class), is anything to go by, the iPad will at once popularise e-book readers and redefine the e-book marketplace.

If I ran a newspaper, and I wasn’t already terrified about the future, I would be now.

So what about actual books? I’m not talking about literary forms, such as the novel or poetry. I mean the actual physical paper-based artefact?

Well, who knows? I bought a brand new vinyl LP last year, so old formats can still survive technological revolutions. [Having said that, I quickly digitised the record and now listen to it almost exclusively as mp3 files…]

As for the book, some folks out there obviously think there’s a mid-point between old-skool print and the ephemeral digital age.

And if this concept video from Japanese mobile phone innovation crowd Mobile Art Lab is anything to go by, I say, bring on the hybrid!

Thema: Being good, Trends | Comments Off on Apple iPad and the future of the book | Author:

Fast websites, Flash intros and Google

Friday, 18. December 2009 9:25

Speed. When we’re online, there’s nothing like it. Click and load; fast and easy.

And then we arrive at a site with…wait for it…wait….still waiting…a Flash intro. And faster than you can say ‘skip’, momentum has been lost and we’re annoyed. A waste of our time. And there’s nothing that makes a user hit the close box or the back arrow faster than having their time wasted.

I’ve been trying to think of a legitimate use for a Flash intro. And I can’t. How about a funky designer showing off what they can do? No – not if ‘what they can do’ is encouraging their clients to build sites that waste our time.

Here it is again, in case you missed it: There is no excuse for a Flash intro.

And it looks like Google agrees. In a December 2009 interview on WebProNews, Google software engineer guru Matt Cutts hinted that Google search results might take a site’s speed into account:

“Historically, we haven’t had to use it in our search rankings, but a lot of people within Google think that the web should be fast,” says Cutts. “It should be a good experience, and so it’s sort of fair to say that if you’re a fast site, maybe you should get a little bit of a bonus. If you really have an awfully slow site, then maybe users don’t want that as much.”

At Sitegeist, we believe that the content on the page is of paramount importance. If the words are right, then we’re happy to wait an extra second or two for the page to load. But the problem is that we don’t know the content is good until the page loads. And we hate waiting for a slow site with bad (or not relevant) content.

So we approve of Google’s move to reward faster sites. Content and reputation are still the reigning monarchs at Google, but a dose of speed can’t hurt either.

For developers, Google has some speed tools and tips. For the rest of us, expect things to get just a bit quicker online in the next year…

Thema: Being bad, Being good, Trends, User focus, Web dev | Kommentare (4) | Author:

Agile isn’t a methodology…

Friday, 20. November 2009 10:50

This might be a post about Agile, the action-packed software development methodology that’s been damming up waterfalls for a few years now.

Agile development is about iterations, working software, self-organised teams and the ability to adapt to change quickly. It casts aside massive functional specifications, requirements documents and 18-month lead times. There’s a lot to love.

It’s worth a look if you’re not familiar. The Wikipedia entry on Agile is a good start. And, like all utopian religions, it even has a manifesto.

But this isn’t a post about Agile. It’s about being agile. Sure, there’s cross-over. The methodology wants to be truly agile. And when it is, it’s terrific and exciting. But more often than not, it isn’t. And whether Agile is agile or not comes down to the people involved.

In my experience, failed Agile processes come unstuck when practitioners approach the process with a religious zeal that doesn’t take the project’s individual circumstances into account.

Two stated Agile principles that derail projects are:

  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

In an interpretation straight out of the Old Testament, too many Agile team leaders and ‘Agile Coaches’ have dictated that the business owner and the development team must sit in the same room. Or maybe a room nearby. With an open door.

This becomes a rule slavishly followed, despite two facts:

  • humans have ‘worked together’ without being co-located for millennia
  • ‘most efficient and effective’ does not mean ‘only’

When the business owner is actually located in another building, suburb, city or even country, developers too often decide that the process is ‘corrupted’ or – worse still – work as if the business owner was in the room.

In Agile, we don’t waste time with pesky documentation. We stick cards on the wall (if we can find a bit of wall not covered by a whiteboard). So if the business owner isn’t in the room to look at the cards…bad luck. Not here to answer a question? Tough.


Ah, but this isn’t a post about Agile, remember? It’s about a mindset; about being. Substitute ‘agile’ for ‘nimble’ or any other synonym that comes to mind. Think about how to work faster and more effectively. There is much to like about the Agile Manifesto. There is much to be disappointed about when considering what it becomes in the hands of neo-technical report-o-phobes.

If you’re working on software development…or development of any kind (including content)…you’d be foolish not to consider working in an agile way. Iterate, discuss, show the boss, review, tweak, and – most of all – actually do it.

But you might want to consider what is being sacrificed by substituting that little ‘a’ for a capital letter…

Thema: Being bad, Trends, Web dev | Comments Off on Agile isn’t a methodology… | Author:

One more persona

Friday, 6. November 2009 10:41

Lots of product development and marketing processes call for the creation of personas. Personas are fictional characters, based on real user information, that we then use to test our ideas out on.

If we know that our target market is female, university educated, aged 30-39, married with one child, and interested in netball, we might create a character and name her Fiona. We then assign attributes in keeping with our demographic knowledge, and then flesh her out with additional details we make up.

Her favourite magazine is Marie Claire, she still listens to the Cure, she met her husband Chris at RMIT where they both studied journalism. He’s now a web manager and she’s a marketing director. And so on…

And now, with a small handful of personas, we can ‘market test’ product decisions, marketing initiatives, development ideas and more. It’s not as good as real market testing, but it’s fast and cheap.

Right, so personas are good. They help writers write, designers design, developers build and marketers sell.

But maybe there’s one more persona you should add to your toolbox. Your product – be it a company website, a software product, a blog, a shoe or a brand of coffee – probably has a ‘personality’ and a voice. Why not add flesh to this by developing an internal product persona?

This embodiment of your message can then be used by anyone who has anything to do with the product in question. You’re more likely to create consistent experiences for your consumers/users if everyone in your organisation is channeling the same character and characteristics.

This doesn’t mean that everyone pretends to be ‘Jason’ in the call centre, just that product messages, tone, values and approach are consistent.

And – if you get it right – your persaona might even give you ideas for your next successful step…

Thema: Being good, Trends, Web dev | Comments Off on One more persona | Author:

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