Saturday, May 31, 2008

Interactive is a meaningless word

Making websites more useful, not just interactive ...

"Making your websites more interactive is a meaningless strategy. Make your website more useful instead.

Picture this scene. You are sitting in a meeting with some very cool people. These cool people think that, when it comes to the Web, they totally get it. They're very smart people and they're so important that they have to leave their mobile phones on during meetings.

They like to talk about things like color and mood and corporate identity. They want customers to have an enhanced brand experience. These people have moved way beyond Web 2.0. On their skateboard attention spans they have arrived at Web 5.0 and are moving beyond that too. One of their favorite phrases is: "I think the website needs to become more interactive."

I have never quite understood what the word 'interactive' means in the context of the Web. The Web is inherently active in that its corner stone is the link. The link is a call to action. We go to the Web to act, to do. Saying that a website needs to become more interactive is like saying that a football game needs more football.

In a Web context, 'interactive' is thus a meaningless word and it tends to be used by cool, meaningless people. In fact, the objective of making a website 'more' interactive is often absolutely not what the customer wants.

Customers don't want interactivity from your website. They want results. They want to do what they came to do as quickly as possible. You have to interact with a hotel booking process in order to book a room, but you want that interaction to be as fast and painless as possible.

Do you think that Google designers sit around drinking lattes and mouthing meaningless statements about more interactivity? Here is one of Google's key design principles: "Every millisecond counts."

"Nothing is more valuable than people's time", it goes on to state. "Google pages load quickly, thanks to slim code and carefully selected image files. The most essential features and text are placed in the easiest-to-find locations. Unnecessary clicks, typing, steps, and other actions are eliminated. Google products ask for information only once and include smart defaults. Tasks are streamlined.

"Speed is a boon to users. It is also a competitive advantage that Google doesn't sacrifice without good reason."

A core objective of Google is to get you off its website as quickly as possible. It has a relentless focus on making the first result the right result so that you will leave its website in the shortest time possible. Google makes most of its money from advertising.

Many traditional media websites are now measuring success based on how long they can keep people on their websites. They obviously have lots of people employed trying to make their websites more interactive.

'Save people time' should be written in 10 foot letters across the walls of every web design team's office. Do not listen to the fools who talk about more interactivity. It is from the minds of these fools that the truly awful Flash Intros crawled out. Focus all your energy on saving your customers time. Be useful. Be functional. Be brief."    (Continued via Usability News, Gerry McGovern)    [Usability Resources]

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You had me with the title, then failed to develop the idea in a logical or meaningful way (what does interactivity have to do with Flash intros again?) The idea is sound, but what you've done with it ignores not only recent innovations that generate tens of millions of page views, but basic common sense.

"The web needs to be more interactive" means that users need to be able to do more than just click and read. But you already knew that.

Not all sites need this, of course, but many do. You'll see evidence of this in the thousands of sites that offer greater interactivity that have cropped up since folks started demanding it. But you already knew that, too, despite your protestations to the contrary.

As an essay for a remedial Web101 class, I'd give this a C-: good concept with zero follow-through and nonsensical arguments.

Nice click-troll, though -- worked for me!

2:38 PM  

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