Datacentric User-Driven Websites

Sites only get repeat visits with fresh content.  Not just any fresh content, but GREAT content.  Many bands already have a leg up: some have interesting but modestly recorded songs that aren’t really album worthy, but can be offered periodically as gifts to attract users (at strategic times).  Likewise, most rock shows are a terrific opportunity to build relationships, and make connections.  Encouraging fans to sign up for mail lists has been a standard fixture of the music business for decades.  Asking for email addresses has been common since the mid 90s.  Today bands link to fans more flexibly and in real time via AOL Instant Messenger.  The most aware bands already use Friendster and networking opportunities afforded through online communities.  It’s critical to recognize that the value of a new tool rarely surpasses or supercedes all older ones, and here the opposite is the case: in an information economy, the more channels we use, the more effectively we deliver our message.  Layers and density are good.  Guided by knowledge and supported by networks, we can begin to realize a new depth in our connections and relationships not only with fans, but with clients and partners as well.

The most critical step is generating content.  Lots of images, sounds, and of course, text.  That the diarrheic stream of the blog manages to draw interest shows the depth of the failure of mass media to address the complexities of modern life.  The relatively tiny audiences allow marketers to ignore the format, and limit it’s ultimate appeal.  Adapting the strengths of the blog,we can create sites that are continuously focused and freshened by use, and respond adaptively to a user’s interests, without seeming rigid or obtuse.  Blogging or site management software is very good at collecting and disseminating information.  It encourages commentary, and can create pages flexibly.  On the downside, its generally driven by date or popularity, which means that over time as things become explored and fleshed out, they become buried.  New users are unaware of existing canon, so various religious wars are endlessly rehashed, even though all parties have spoken their minds.  Repeatedly.  Cyclically.

We can start with a blog or site management system, but hack its dynamic behavior to be more user-sensitive.  Putting the canon front and center for new users lets them in on the party.  Hiding it from the old war horses keeps them from getting sucked into a frustrating black hole.  Secondarily, commentary isn’t always a good thing, but feedback is always valuable.  How we apply that feedback is more complex: Amazon.com’s solution to this problem is valuable and instructive.  Amazon excels at identifying user interests, and presenting them with products that appeal uniquely to them.  This is the opposite of the grocery-store checkout mass-market approach more commonly applied by retailers.  The concept of sale relies on an underlying unmet need or desire of a customer.  If one doesn’t need the sale item, the price has no appeal.  On the other hand, an attractive price on a needed or wanted item can be irresistible.  We learn of a visitor’s interests through his actions.  Over time, we learn not only what features and attractions are appealing to the mass of visitors, but we also learn many things about our visitors as groups.  These behaviors can suggest organization, and form matrices that first identify a user’s potential relationship to existing users, and then reflects and shares the interesting features among like individuals.  This is a dataesthetic approach to dynamic page display.

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