25
May
10

Click or Stick? It’s the Experience, Stupid.

[May 25, 2010]

Considering the intense competition to capture people’s attention online, it’s no surprise we continue to furl our brows over the “user experience” equation. Remember, your Web presence is not only competing with others, it’s also going toe-to-toe with every other life distraction.

Certainly, anyone who clings to the vanishing distinction between “phone” and “computer” feels these distractions even more acutely. Add to that “the office,” “TV,” your partner (or your anxiety about not having a partner), your kids, your health or whatever schedule your stomach is on—and the odds of a Web page holding your attention plummet quickly to single digits.

That is, unless the digital space you’re in offers an experience you value. This kind of user experience has little to do with how well you can navigate the navigation or comment on the comments. This is the total experience, analogous to the satisfaction you can get offline from shoving a quarter in a jukebox and letting the music wash over you.

What? You’re visiting a site that doesn’t let you do anything? That’s a prescription for disaster. Without something to get engaged in right away, you’ll sooner click than stick.

Stop building…
To a great extent, the problem of maintaining interest online stems from the way many digital properties are conceived. Despite the Web 2.0 hype, sites continue to be conceived of as buildings made to house content. If your audience is clicking away faster than you can say “mxyplyzyk,” it may be because your paradigm is out of date.

Now that social space offers so many opportunities to upload, share, post, comment, repost, crosslink and download, a more accurate analogy for a 2.0 Web site is a broadcast channel. As a channel, the emphasis is not on how the site is built but on what it delivers. After all, part of the appeal of Facebook is anticipation: What snarky, joyous, revelatory, practical or whiny post will you read next?

In light of that, the emphasis on a majority of Web pages is all wrong. In this environment, the only reason for launching a site is to broadcast your brand. And like an offline broadcast channel, you need a steady flow of fresh, original material that sets your site apart as a brand. A stream of third-party information is not enough, even if it’s regularly updated.

…and start channeling.

Like the Thursday night comedy monopoly that NBC now barely hangs onto, or the Monday night comedy monopoly CBS would now like to claim, your Web presence has no reason to live without offering something people can’t get anywhere else.

If you’re an herbivore, it might be a Quinoa tabbouleh salad. If you’re carnivore, it’s a…well, I don’t know where to begin. Whatever you crave, the Web presence delivering it is the one you want to interact with. The others will crouch, shivering, neglected in your Favorites for all eternity or appear as one of the 516,000 results that turn up through the magic of Google.

It’s no good reposting the same chili recipe Americans have already been making with condensed tomato soup for generations. That is, unless your site also offers, say, clever brain teasers users can mull while they prepare that recipe for the 1000th time.

How can you tell if your targets will click or stick? Ask what your Web presence does for them. Unless the content does something for, and preferably to, your customers, just toss it out. It doesn’t matter how much your client paid for that content five or even ten years ago.

Because until we move away from warehousing pre-existing video, text, tools or widgets—and make a real commitment to creating experiences for consumers—the planned celebrations for the next digital era will just have to be postponed.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY

m.laporta@verizon.net
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