Web rules to live/design by…

I just came across these 15 Web Principles that the BBC have developed (via Tomski).

1. Build web products that meet audience needs: anticipate needs not yet fully articulated by audiences, then meet them with products that set new standards. (nicked from Google)

2. The very best websites do one thing really, really well: do less, but execute perfectly. (again, nicked from Google, with a tip of the hat to Jason Fried)

3. Do not attempt to do everything yourselves: link to other high-quality sites instead. Your users will thank you. Use other people’s content and tools to enhance your site, and vice versa.

4. Fall forward, fast: make many small bets, iterate wildly, back successes, kill failures, fast.

5. Treat the entire web as a creative canvas: don’t restrict your creativity to your own site.

6. The web is a conversation. Join in: Adopt a relaxed, conversational tone. Admit your mistakes.

7. Any website is only as good as its worst page: Ensure best practice editorial processes are adopted and adhered to.

8. Make sure all your content can be linked to, forever.

9. Remember your granny won’t ever use “Second Life”: She may come online soon, with very different needs from early-adopters.

10. Maximise routes to content: Develop as many aggregations of content about people, places, topics, channels, networks & time as possible. Optimise your site to rank high in Google.

11. Consistent design and navigation needn’t mean one-size-fits-all: Users should always know they’re on one of your websites, even if they all look very different. Most importantly of all, they know they won’t ever get lost.

12. Accessibility is not an optional extra: Sites designed that way from the ground up work better for all users

13. Let people paste your content on the walls of their virtual homes: Encourage users to take nuggets of content away with them, with links back to your site

14. Link to discussions on the web, don’t host them: Only host web-based discussions where there is a clear rationale

15. Personalisation should be unobtrusive, elegant and transparent: After all, it’s your users’ data. Best respect it.

I think I could quite happily live/design web stuff by these principles. What do you reckon?

Finally giving into Twitter…

Twitter Logo

People have been talking about Twitter for a while now, and at first it held little appeal to me. I mean, exactly how publicly do we *really* need to live. Are people *really* interested in that level of detail in each others lives?

Well… maybe, maybe not. But I’m finally going to give Twitter a proper go, for these two reasons:

Firstly – I think it’s something to do with the brevity/wit relationship that means that reading what people write is often genuinely amusing. (I’m definitely going to have to work at Twittering better)

Secondly – the immediacy is second to none. I thought I was getting behind the times when I’d let my RSS reading lapse for a few days or, heaven forbid, a week. Now just by not being in the Twitter chain I’m missing out of stuff. Not missing out is a powerful social driver. So, I’m in.

Question is – who else out there is Twittering now? Want to be Twitter buddies? Promise I won’t Twitter to often or too boringly ;)

I love like.com
(now this is what I call innovative search)


Mary, my colleague who was in the room when Michael first sent me a link to Like.com can attest to how much I enjoyed playing with Like.com when I first saw it. And I’ve liked playing with it since then too! Within a short time from first hitting the site I had a few thousand dollars worth of shoes on my wishlist (I’m not telling how many of them I actually bought!). I’ve been looking at shoes online for a while now, and nothing else made me feel like a gal in a shoe shop as much as Like.com did.

You see, this is a site that *really* gives an online experience of what it’s like to try to find a pair of boots to buy that is anywhere near as rich as actually going to the shops and browsing (but without all the crowds and the hassle). In fact, it’s like being in the biggest and best organised shoe shop in the world. Your wish is their command.

I’ve been talking and thinking about the online shopping experience for ages now – talking (but strangely, not blogging yet!) about how the search and list style of presentation is so incredibly uninspiring, so empty, compared to the ‘toyshop’ type experience of real life shopping. In a real life shop, all the merchandise is arranged in a way that guides you into the experience, that moves you through the merchandise, that present similar types of merchandise together so that you can compare and contrast, and get a sense of what the current trends are.

Online shopping does none of this. Until Like.com, that is.

When I get to Like.com I have much more interesting paths into the merchandise than just choosing ‘boots’ or ‘casual’. Rather, I can get boots like Britney. That’s a much more exciting prospect. (Assuming, of course, that’s she’s not having a bad hair, track pants and ugg boots day!)

Then I get to see a whole stack of shoes that are kind of like Britney’s.

And then, I can tell Like.com to focus on a particular style of heel, and get me more shoes that have that kind of heel. Or I want that style, but can you find me some in red?

*sigh* It’s like having your own personal shoe shopper at your beck and call.

And as much as I adore the visual browsing (and I think it is browsing and not really searching), they then through in some fantastic faceted navigation, so that I can use a whole range of facets to further refine the range of shoes in view – from price range, to brand, to store, to heel style. So useful. So easy. Such a great way to finally find a few great pairs of boots.

(Sidebar: Can you see why all the boy bloggers have had so much trouble getting enthusiastic about Like.com? For once, they don’t have the domain knowledge to see how excellent it is. They much preferred the more geeky facial recognition that Riya was working on before.)

(Oooh, and while I’m tangenting, I have to say how the look of Like.com and the celebrity connection reminded me a lot of a great design/fashion site in Australia called Miijo)


When I recently gave Ms Dewey a bit of a hard time, I got a few comments saying that I shouldn’t be criticising people who are trying to innovate. Well, here is an example of the kind of innovation I applaud. Here is a new way of approaching an old problem, of using technology innovatively, of taking a convention and making it better. And this innovation is good because it understands what the user is trying to do and it supports their experience and helps them achieve their tasks in a way that is better, more effective and more delightful than either the current online options OR the real life equivalent.

Go, have a play. Get yourself some Britney inspired boots. You’ll love it :)

Participation Culture

Today was National Ban Bullying at Work day. We had an awareness activity at work today – not that bullying and intimidation is something that’s rampant or even existent in our workplace, or in any work place I’ved worked in so far (thankfully), but it’s important not to take that as a given.

It got me to thinking about intimidation and participation though… and then to lots of other issues related to participation. It’s a vexed but important question in a Web 2.0 world.

Many of the projects we work on these days are all about community and participation. Now, some of us are participation junkies… there are so many things we want to participate in that we run out of time for all of them and end up being online way too long!

But there are many people out there who *should* be participating, but don’t.

There are plenty of reasons why people opt out – some of them are good reasons, like that they have something better to do with their time (you know, friends, family, ‘real life’).

But other reasons are not so great.

  • they don’t think their contribution is valuable/relevant/topic/important
  • they’re afraid that their contribution will not be valuable (which is different to the first point)
  • they’re afraid that they’ll be ‘wrong’ (they might not know the complete answer, they might miss something out, the might make a mistake)
  • they’re afraid that they’ll be not good enough
  • they don’t see the value of participation (there is no/not enough incentive)
  • they’re intimidated by louder voices that sound authoratative
  • they’ve seen other people attacked/confronted and don’t want to be subject to this aggression
  • they don’t know how to work the mechanics of participation (I’ve seen a lot of this lately with people trying to work the WordPress backend! same goes with mailing lists, wikis, podcasts and more)
  • they feel stupid/inadequate because they don’t know how to work the above mechanism
  • they don’t understand how the mechanism works and why it is powerful/interesting/important

Now, we know that when we create an architecture for participation, the majority of the participants will actually be lurkers. Of all people, Jakob Nielsen doled out a set of tips for how to get more people to participate (mostly about reducing the effort involved and increasing the incentive). These are all great tips, but they don’t touch on that issue of intimidation that is apparent in the list above (afraid, inadequate, don’t understand).

What can we do to address these more personal issues? How can we design architectures of participation that are supportive and welcoming and comfortable and secure?

Is this just about the people who populate the space? Or are there ways that we can design to promote this?

This is something I’ve been dwelling on for a long time now. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts.

I know for me, I ‘listen’ to a lot of mailing lists but actively participate in very few because of several of the points I listed above.

To people who wouldn’t usually comment on a blog for example… why don’t you? is there something we can do to encourage you? do you feel tempted or are you just here for the read and not the interaction?

And for those who do comment/participate regularly – are there places where you feel comfortable contributing and others where you don’t? What makes the difference?