We place high value on the user’s experience on our websites. We like to think that if we do what’s best for the user, then if there is money involved with a site it will inevitably follow. Almost every successful company that I can think of takes this approach with either their websites or products. Google does it, Flickr does it, Digg does it, Blinksale does it, and so does Campaign Monitor just to name a few.
Putting the user first is very rarely a losing situation, yet there is usually a time in a companies’ existence where they forget about the user and begin to focus solely on the money. It happened with many of the portals in the late 90’s and it is happening now with Microsoft and PC manufacturers.
AJAX is the technology of the year so far (although it isn’t new) because of the recent functionality is has brought to today’s web applications. However, as a company that thrives on ad dollars how should this technology effect your business model? It shouldn’t and this is why this entry by Jason Calacanis of Weblogs, Inc. irks me so much:
Weâ€™ve looked at ten different ideas for AJAZ (sic) in Blogsmith (our blog software) and weâ€™ve decided to keep all the AJAX on the blogger (i.e. publisher) side of the business and “force” the users to deal with page reloads so we can make (or not lose) money.
The truth for any blog with comments is that the comment page refreshes are 10-20% of a site’s traffic (maybe more on community sites like Slashdot). Given how close to the bone running a blog business is you really canâ€™t afford to lose anything, let alone double digits. Page views are what it’s all about I’m afraid.
Does this seem wrong to anybody else? It’s analogous to car companies not looking into ways to increase gas mileage because they want you to go to the gas station more.
Provide a better user experience and I believe you will find that your audience grows making up for any “lost” pageviews. If the competition does you one better you will be losing pageviews to them and not to a technology that should only be used to help you (Gmail anyone?).
Let’s look at Digg for example.
Digg.com lets users link to entries on other sites in specific categories and if they receive enough diggs they get placed on the frontpage (nothing new really). In version one if you “digged” a site you had to wait for a page refresh. However, now with their slick 2.0 redesign when you digg a site you can just keep on going without the worries of a page refresh.
Jason worries that this is taking away from the pageviews of Digg and therefore hurting their bottomline. I would say that this is completely wrong. I think Digg will now have more unique visitors (much more important than pageviews) and more loyal users (much more important to Digg for the long run) because of the great v2.0 improvements. Also because the site has become that much more easier to use, people are more likely to go breeze through more pages than ever before.
Our CTO of 9rules, Colin Devroe, asked Kevin Rose of Digg how many pageviews they receive and it was 1.2 million pageviews daily (yeah, that’s an insane number). Then he asked how many he got for the pre-AJAX 1.0 version and he said about 70% of that. Good thing they didn’t lose too many pageviews…
Trying to do what is best for your users is usually the most rewarding thing your company can do from a social and financial perspective. With the 9rules Network we put our members and readers first and financially speaking this doesn’t help us in the short term to make that much money (what you currently see is about 20% of the business plan in action). However, in the long term I am positive we will be better off than many of the other blog (content) networks, and our members will be just as happy or even more so. We will never sacrifice our members’ or users’ experience to make a buck, but that’s just how we do things.
So I guess for now we will just stick with making people happy and eating Ramen.