November 15, 2012 - Comments Off on User experience and the website that someone would love

User experience and the website that someone would love

Go on a date and within the first three questions one person will ask the other: “What’s your favourite album?” The question comes loaded with the purpose of deciding whether their date is likely to be successful in their audition for the role of partner to live with, be with and ultimately die alongside.

Love Me Do: both profitable and taken to heart

This probing query might be suffixed with ‘book’, ‘movie, or ‘mp3’, but the quest for familiarity is all-important in our friends and partners. Most of us would look at even our closest, longest friend with cold suspicion in our eyes if they were to say they really enjoyed the musical achievements of One Direction or that they were reading and taking seriously the works of David Icke, or they thought that the two and a half hours they spent watching Prometheus would not have been better served sitting in room of complete darkness. Of course, I may stand alone on this – but I have a sneaky and somewhat reassuring feeling that I do not.

The things that are important to us don’t lie within the substance of the person, though we like to suggest they do. In reality it’s what people like. That mish mash of preferred memes is why we think that Rolf is a good lad but Brian is a best avoided unless you’ve had a skinful and why we decide that it is this person, not that person we will spend our days with.

So, where in the mix, comes the website?  I need not talk at length about how the website – and the web app, for those are equally relevant – has come to pervade life. It has, without doubt, become important and time-consuming enough to take position alongside favourite books, television shows and music as an area where we seek out similarities.

Yet, one doubts that any couple on their first romantic encounter have ever talked long into the night about a shared love of, or if two men – who in times gone by would have struck up a friendship over football – would do the same because they were both really into buying things from eBay.

Need this be so?  User Experience, aptly described as the science of creating websites, has much to say when it comes to increasing click throughs and its success and failure is often measured in increased conversions. However, seldom is a metric sought to see if a user has enjoyed a website, or had fond feelings about it, loves it, even.

One could make a case that Facebook serves this function, being well loved by many and very profitable.  Certainly Facebook’s purchase of Instagram – a service that enjoys genuine affection from its users – would point to the photo app as being capable of commercial success and warm fuzzy feelings The distinction I draw is along the line of the degree to which content is user generated. Twitter might have 500 million users but Obama’s biggest ever tweet went to 750,000 of those users (as of writing). That is 0.0015 per cent of them.  Users may love the (user generated) content they engage in, but that is different to enjoying the whole of a created thing. Liking a Tweet is not the same as liking Twitter any more than liking a song is liking all music that has ever been pressed onto CD.

Our cultural monoliths are most often the things that were both profitable and taken to heart on a course from Love Me Do to The Godfather books to The Lord of The Rings movies. It seems conspicuous that, to date, web design has very little to add to that debate.  Ask yourself, ask your friends: what’s your favourite website? I would say that the scarcity of answers is troubling for a creative industry in its third decade.