Value for Time and Attention: Personalization is the key for success online

Friday, 15 November 2013
Value for Time and Attention: Personalization is the key for success online Image by watcharakun / freedigitalphotos.net

Using personalized online services is slowly becoming an addiction for us all . But what happens when we users become the designers? Do we still place importance on personalization or do we forget its existence, losing customers to the competition?

Do you ever come across a great idea, a fabulous tool or service and wonder why it hadn’t been introduced and used earlier?

Well, I think personalization (providing content based on user preferences and behavior) is one of those great ideas. What makes it so special?


Reality Check 1: Little time, divided attention

We all know that:

  1. Our time is limited. We are “time-starved”.
  2. Our attention span constantly decreases. We are always multi-tasking (opening several browser tabs at the same time, working while communicating with friends on Facebook, and reading the news). We have a timeline in the back of our head. We spend less and less time per activity.

So, as online content consumers (news, articles, information, multimedia, knowledge…) we are even more “time-starved”! And that is because there is incredible online competition for our attention.

 

Reality Check 2: Addicted to personalization

We are getting into the habit of spending the majority of our time asking for and enjoying personalized experiences and content. We watch any videos suggested to us by YouTube, we personalize news applications on our mobiles based on our interests because we dread wasting time on irrelevant news stories, and in our social networks we only follow people/ groups that interest us. So, we are used to and prefer personalized services.

At the same time, personalization is becoming a commodity; it’s increasingly being offered because there are obvious benefits (increased time spent on a website, increased engagement, and greater revenue).

The consequence: we want information and content suited to our needs.

So we want:

  • To find what we are looking for in a few seconds,
  • To be offered information that personally interests us,
  • To be able to understand in the least amount of time possible what a site is offering us,
  • To get the most out of our time and for the amount of attention we devote.


We want “Value for our Time, Value for our Attention”. I know it, you know it, we all know it.

(We will talk more about“Value for Time, Value for Attention”  in a subsequent post).

So what happens when we are not merely users but also designers working on new sites, services or online products? Well, even though as users we are addicted to personalization, we seem to forget (or maybe even ignore) its existence when we assume the role of designers. As a consequence:

  • We show everyone the same site, the same first page, the same language, the same choices.
  • We ignore visitor preferences. We don’t utilize the knowledge obtained from a visitor’s behavior in order to propose relevant content to them in real time.

We ignore personalization and simply don’t offer personalized information. But isn’t personalization what we would want as users ourselves? Why do we forget about it when we are the designers?

Is it because personalization is usually expensive? We usually think that it’s much easier to simply design an aesthetically appealing and functional site, that incorporating personalization into it needs time and money.

Unfortunately the truth cannot be ignored without consequences.
When personalized content is offered, when content relevant to the user’s interest is proposed, then engagement is increased, time spent on the site is increased, and so are conversions.
Forgetting to incorporate personalization services means being left behind because you are offering the user less Value for Time, less Value for Attention. So the user wastes time obtaining information and adjusting. And users are not that forgiving…

 

PServer: Personalization for all

That is why SciFY decided to support the work of “NCSR Demokritos”, the largest research center in Greece, in promoting the accessibility of personalization technology to all. PServer is free because we have a vision: 

Help all organizations, regardless of their size and cost restraints they face, have a better understanding of people's needs, easily develop services related to these needs and continually improve them, boosting economy and employment, and better serving their clients and citizens.

The 2nd PServer workshop (this time it was only in Greek…) was a good chance for all of us to learn from our experiences and to take a step forward. Let’s take it, together.


Vassilis Giannakopoulos
SciFY - Vision Dissemination Team

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