Well I was reading an article (essay?) in the Guardian yesterday about the internet and it led me to the conclusion that I don't write enough posts that are number based. So I decided that maybe I should create a list based post. At least then I can sensationalise it on a Twitter with a "Top 6 things to make your Analytics work" headline. And who said headlines were dead in favour of SEO friendly titles? Not me.
Anyway, the inspiration for this post was based on a couple of quotes in that essay linked to up there:
A funny thing happened to us on the way to the future. The internet went from being something exotic to being boring utility, like mains electricity or running water – and we never really noticed.Do you know why that was?
I'm writing this in 2010, which is 17 years since the web went mainstream.1. The web happens very quickly
Or maybe that should read, things happen on the web very quickly. Can you remember what you were doing 17 years ago? I can just about. I was 12 years old, I'd just started senior school. In the summer I played football non stop in the park (jumpers for goal posts, etc). My home computer was a BBC micro. I read books and played on a game boy.
Today my home computer is a widescreen laptop that overheats when more than one process is running. I read books on the tube (at least that hasn't changed) on the way to work. My gameboy has been replaced by a mobile phone that doubles up as a camera, a video player, a music player, a video recorder, an email client, an internet and, at one point, a spirit level to put up my blinds straight. Plus I've got a dodgy knee injury that stops me playing football in the park with jumpers for goal posts, although I wished it hadn't.
What is the point of this story Alec? Well the point is that in 17 years the whole world wide web has happened. It is a very short time span. We have gone from nothing, to a world where you keep in contact with your friends not through house phones and letters, but by facebook and twitter. Where you write something and within hours people all over the world are reading it. If you don't evolve with the web then you are going to be left behind very quickly.
What do you have to do to stay up to date? You have to change your site frequently, experiment lots and see what works based on the data that you provide.
See a rather brilliant piece by James Kelway on why you should have agile UCD.
It is all very well and good adding these things, but what value do they add. Can you measure the value? Can you measure how used it is?
At a previous company I worked for they introduced a video channel on the site, because video was a new thing at the time. It was used a bit, but most of the users wanted to see related content - be that a video about something similar, other articles about a similar subject, etc. Why does Wikipedia work so well? Because of all those links, inline, to related content. Why do video channels not work? Because only the website owner turns up at the website to see the videos. How do we know this? Because we measured and analysed it.
But on the other hand, ignore these at your peril. If you are providing the content in a variety of different ways, your rivals are going to. get those podcasts in. Get those streaming videos in. Get those links to files attached. You're providing a service, not a website.