"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

Getting People to Complete Registrations

Posted: August 4th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

ReadWriteWeb has a good piece about how different sites get their users to fill in their profiles as completely as possible. They cover LinkedIn which uses a progress bar going to 100%, along with suggested next steps (such as ‘Get a recommendation’) to move you to the completed state, and this is one of my favourite approaches. Other techniques they’ve observed include having an embarrassing default photo – in some cases of George W Bush.. and who wouldn’t quickly move to put something less irksome in its place.

Years ago I had a conversation with a marketing friend who took the approach that people enjoyed filling out forms once they’d started. To that end she would always advocate adding in relevant, but somewhat random questions at the end of registration forms as this would add colour to our understanding of our guests. It’s an interesting idea, and for some demographics this is likely the case, however in these days of signup overload it’s a practice that most of us would avoid.

"Priced to sell at 9.99!"

Posted: July 24th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Internet Marketing | Tags: , | No Comments »

Shops have always delighted in setting prices slightly below the full amount of a dollar or pound, and whether it’s 9.99 or 9.95 us consumers still feel it’s much better value. A new study has shown that this 1p or 5p saving still gets us by the purse strings, with a 15% increase in sales over the ‘full’ priced equivalent. But why is this? Psychologists talk about the perceived savings that affect our emotions much more than they should – and why our 40th birthday hits us more than our 39th. As emotional creatures we should not be surprised to be manipulated this way, and any shop keeper would be a fool to lose 15% of their business.

Ironically, in the US and Canada the price at $9.99 is not even accurate. Once you take your purchase to the checkout you’ll find tax has been added – around 8% in New York for example – making your purchase over the round $10.00 figure that is such a barrier. Of course by that point you already have the item in hand and you’re ready to go and as humans we hate to prove our own decisions wrong by putting the product back on the shelf.

Skip Intro: Flash Content now Search Enabled

Posted: July 6th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: SEO | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Google, Yahoo and Adobe have just announced that they have worked together to enable search results to crawl not only HTML, but also Flash files. Interesting news indeed. For years now web builders have had to build two sites in parallel if they use Flash – one for the users, and one for the search engines that preferred eating text in HTML form.

Now this raises a few interesting questions. First up, what will happen to the search results while Google and Yahoo work out how to rank and rate Flash content? No Flash designer has ever had to consider the SEO effects of their Flash coding so surely there must be some pretty badly constructed Flash content out there, at least in terms of what Google is used to seeing. Secondly, are we really excited to see lots of Flash enabled intros for boring, company sites showing up when we search? Probably not – that’s why ‘skip intro’ will soon be the most hated, yet competitive term on Google. Finally, now that Flash folk won’t have to create HTML versions of their sites for SEO purposes – will they still remember to do so for partially sighted visitors? Text to speech browsers are not highly optimized for reading Flash, and although in the UK this audience is supported by legislation this is not the case globally. Perhaps Adobe will also release their Flash ‘search reading’ software to other companies that make text to speech browsers to help them out there – unless Google just offers it as an API of course. Click here to Skip intro.

Seth Godin’s 5 Easy Pieces of Marketing

Posted: July 1st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Internet Marketing | Tags: | No Comments »

Internet marketing guru Seth Godin has another insightful post on how to conceptualize your marketing offerings as five simple pieces: Data, Stories, Products (services), Interactions and Connection. I’d been thinking about the ‘story’ (or myth) side of this equation for a while, but as usual Godin is four steps ahead of us all. Good stuff.

Big Brother’s Data Aquisition Filters

Posted: June 19th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Privacy & Security | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Cory Doctorow has another interesting piece in the Guardian today about how Britain is collecting too much surveillance data to be useful. His argument is that collecting information about everything and trying to create predictions, be it about weather forecasts or terrorist events, will not lead to success due mainly to the computing power required to process such volumes of information.

Although I agree with his stance about their being too much surveillance in British society, something that could well be damaging our population as a whole by removing our need to have personal responsibility for our actions, I disagree with his overall argument. Yes, collecting the movement of every butterfly in the world to predict the weather would be ridiculous and impossible to deal with, but in the world of more directed, human activities information can be much more revealing. Right now we may not know what behaviours indicate a potential attack, but over time with the right data and good analysis it is conceivable that these behaviours can be isolated and hence our limited Police resources can be deployed more effectively.

We’re talking about artificial augmentation of our senses here. Right now, watching 1000s of CCTV cameras is ineffective on the whole at prevention, but potentially automated matching technology could draw attention to those looking more suspicious, to a level a computer can recognise, and then a human can do the final filtering. No way can a team, however big, watch every person in London. In the same way that no person could do what Google does every time we do a search.

Augmentation and filtering based on our needs is a constantly expanding field as we go past the information age and into the ‘Knowledge Age’, whether for security or personal goals. Having a large pool of, ideally non-identifying, data to work on to create these filters is fundamental to success. Although as each level of filter is deployed and improved, then all that will happen is someone will game the system and find a way round – for comparison, spam blogs didn’t exist a few years ago, and now they are everywhere. That said, should we be trying to create an all seeing ‘Big Brother’ computer system that watches us at all time? That’s an ethical and moral question that is harder to answer.