On Wednesday, TechCrunch and Mashable reported the release of Stumble Video, the latest offering from StumbleUpon. Like the core offering, Stumble Video allows users to surf through categories based on preferences and previous ratings, serving up videos instead of websites into one central video player. Beyond a great idea, the implementation is clean and engaging, and happily, the interaction is kept consistent through one player with simple choices and great use of iconography.
On Tuesday, Techcrunch reported that MySpace has semi-officially overtaken Yahoo as having the most page views of any internet property. This revelation was met with moderate fanfare, and other prominent industry blogs like GigaOm and Searchblog did not even go there. There is good reason to take this news with a grain of salt, as it is misrepresentative and hides some very important facts.
On Friday, Techcrunch reported on a rumor that the major television networks were planning a joint effort to create their own video web site that would offer the networks’ own content. This seemed like a logical move to regain revenue lost to websites that profit from illegally disseminated property belonging to the networks. Alas, these plans soon fell apart when individual networks started to take favor with Google-owned YouTube after receiving payoffs. Not only is this a great case-study of game theory, it is also an excellent example of missed opportunities and foregone revenue.
Why don’t the individual networks make content available on their own websites?!
On Monday, Techdirt writes about the concerns that BitTorrent creator, Bram Cohen has regarding the integration of Digital Rights Management (DRM) into his widely popular “peer distributed” product. As the company approaches launch of a store which will controlled by Windows DRM, the issue of the DRM usability has been called into question.
This is a case in point of businessmen demanding that steps be taken to ensure revenue increases without paying due dilligence to the end-user and the ramifications of a poor user experience. Time will only tell how this negligence will play out, but it’s great to see an executive stepping forward to admit these failures and concerns. With formidable competition in the media download space such as Guba and DRM-free emusic.com the race to provide affordable download services with usable rights protection and platform compatability is at full force. Another player, Spiral Frog is set to enter the space this month.
From the original interview on BitTorrent’s future, Cohen is quoted:
We’re rolling out with some content DRM’d, using Windows DRM, at the insistence of our content partners. We’re very concerned about the usability problems DRM introduces, and are educating our content partners about the lost commercial opportunity.
Almost all web sites generate value for their owners in some way. The modes by which sites create value can be straightforward like direct online sales or less immediate such as helping to build brand or supporting the sales process. While much has been written about conventional revenue channels, little if anything has been discussed about more indirect sources of value. We strongly feel that the indirect sources amount to a very significant and important component of the overall revenue stream and should, therefore, be understood and carefully considered. To this end, this article presents the entire spectrum of ways that web sites can generate value for their owners.
Recently, the BayCHI mailing list had an interesting discussion regarding a very common input mechanism with which many of us have grown accustomed: selecting from a group of available items and adding to a congruent set of chosen items. The polemical issue that arises with this selection tool is in its implementation, specifically “should we collect items from left-to-right or from right-to-left?” The easy answer that many will throw out is that for the Western world, we read from left to right and therefore this is the correct way to present it for us Westerners. True, but there is more than meets the eye and by investigating this aspect further, we can reveal other supporting arguments for this presentation.
In the first installment of this series, we examined how we can enhance search tools by allowing users to set the context of searches. In this article we will examine another key feature that aids users in completing a task within a site: the help link. Particularly, we will examine providing contextual help globally on sites: allowing users to access information pertaining to the specific task at hand.
Contextual help is an integrated means of accessing supplementary information and instructions about a feature or content. Common manifestations of contextual help are:
- “What’s this?” or “help?” or “[?]” links located near the item of interest that open as a pop-up or more preferable an accessible overlay tooltip
- Walkthrough tutorials that demonstrate interactions directly on the interface for example, “Show me” help links
The fields of user experience design, web design, and web development are often at odds with each other. This leads to web sites that are just shadows of their potential, and costs their owners a lot of foregone or lost revenue. Every decision that we make and execute has a real financial consequence, and friction leads to waste.
John Battelle reported Thursday on Marissa Mayer’s talk at the Web 2.0 conference held in San Francisco this week. Mayer shared some very fascinating findings regarding the usability and user experience design of Google’s search results pages. In short, the study found that users preferred speedy page loads to a greater number of results per page and to “highly interactive ajax features”. Although users reported that they preferred more results per page, their expressed desires diverged from their actual interactions. Google’s analysts found that search results pages with 30 results per page rather than the standard 10 per page resulted in lower search traffic and decreased ad revenue by 20 percent.
At Montparnas, we often think of ‘users’ as ‘patrons’ to stress the fact that users of most web sites are either active or prospective customers or contribute to the web site’s financial state in some way. It is critical to acknowledge this fact, because unlike users of desktop applications or physical products, web site users tend to be more immediately tied to revenue and costs, and as such, optimizing web sites means much more than making them usable; it also means increasing their value through optimizing things such as marketing strategy, acquisition and retention rates, and user participation as well as reducing costs.