Web personalization on your mind?…Tread with caution PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 July 2010 14:28

Web personalization is not a cakewalk

Web personalization, in its all noble intentions, is usually taken recourse to in order to bring focus on the users and deliver an experience that is visitor-oriented, quick to inform, and in line with users’ tastes and preferences. Web personalization is a strategy, or better still a marketing tool, that  requires implicitly or explicitly collecting visitor information and leveraging that knowledge in determining what sort of information will be provided to users and how.

But notwithstanding the promises it seems to have, it is real complex to put it in the place, let alone the advantages that can accrue to it. Quite frequently, personalization initiatives begin to loose its luster. Especially so when development teams gather to consider technical and business requirements like changes to architecture, user profile storage and analysis, content management etc., and formulate a strategy that fails to take off.

Web personalization may be fraught with inconsistencies

Personalization is driven by the computer which tries to serve up individualized pages to the user based on some form of pattern of that user's needs. Personalization does well in those cases where the user’s needs are by and large unchanging and it is simple to describe in machine-understandable ways. But this is not the case every time and with every one.

Having the computer personalize the website to the users’ needs and taste is fine. But to rely on this assumption that computer can guess the user's needs are probably based on a false premise. Given the complexities of human needs and behaviors, it is quite possible that the same person may have different desires at different times. It may be annoying to have the computer try to be smarter than it really is and second-guess users’ needs.

The user himself is the best entity on the world to know exactly what he needs and he can better decide which information he should see which information he should skip to suit his needs perfectly. Personalization technology mostly understands consumers poorly, and it requires a lot of information about users which is not always possible due to privacy concerns and time constraints on the web.

Personalization cannot be an excuse for poor navigation and mindless prioritization

Leave it to the user to choose from a set of easily navigable options instead of going for personalization option. It sounds more relevant in cases where in testing of sites with personalization features, users say things like "don't stereotype me -- just give me the options simply because I prefer choosing for myself rather than having the computer tell me what's good for me” because what they want on one visit can be very different from what they want on the next.

On today's Web, a serious mistake most commonly found is to make everything too prominent: hyper-use of colors, reckless animation, frequent blinking, and many graphics. Every element of the page seems to scream "look at me" (while all the other design elements compete "no, look at me").

When everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized. It better to advise the users and guide them to the most important or most promising choices while ensuring their freedom to go anywhere they please.

Let the natural intelligence work over artificial intelligence

Personilization is about giving users more of what they need in a proactive away in a bid to enlighten them.  This fact can not be ruled out that giving people what they want is not always an easy task as human needs are varied, complex and changing.  Moreover, users own choices are insufficient as the only basis for personalization as there are things even users do not know they need.

Let the users know what they will see if they click a link and know what they deselect by not following other links. It is a good idea to provide a comprehensive coverage of the things users may want or need because if something is not there on the site, users can not choose it.

The effective way to get personalized interaction between a user and a website is to offer the user with an array of options and let the user choose what interests his mood at that time. If the information space is designed keeping this in view, optimal information seeking is more feasible through the use of natural intelligence rather than artificial intelligence.

Putting web personalization at work in a user-friendly manner

For a successful web personalization strategy that does not annoy users, and give them enough liberty to pursue their interests on the web, here are some meaningful and working tips to take a careful note of:

  1. Focus on the understandability of headlines, links, explanations, intuitiveness of forms, error messages, inclusion or exclusion of specific information, and individual graphics and icons.
  2. Review your interaction design, navigation support, homepage layout, templates, search, and linking strategy.
  3. Sensibly select the most important stories or items. Give them bigger headlines or more prominent placement.
  4. Use sales statistics to discover the best-selling products and put them on top of search listings.
  5. Use server traffic to keep track of such areas of the site as are seeing unusually strong activity and place links to these areas on the home page. This way you will not only save users clicks, but it's also a way of making people aware of the current buzz.
  6. Highlight the most popular items in a list that is sorted by another criterion.
  7. Content that lies deep within the site sometimes needs to be brought to the fore and featured at higher levels to make users understand what's new or hot.

Simple, context-sensitive personalization with plenty of user choices should be the focus
Users need to be given a certain amount of personal freedom and control in order to feel secure with a website. If something is having many restrictions, users may be frustrated and find reaching their goals nearly impossible, even if there are workarounds. Designers should understand that users have unique tastes and needs that are related to their broader personal goals. They ought to offer personalization that is simple and with a lot more choices which make users more effective by helping them reach their goals.

Last Updated ( Friday, 26 November 2010 09:58 )
 

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