Friday, 31 May 2013

internet business model Part 3.4; of rules, methods, character, systems and economic models



[This is a re-post (originally posted on 12 Jan 2013) with minor edits, deleted the original post by mistake.]




Now, let’s switch to something more practical from the previous ‘principles’ posts.

Until internet search, carrying out searches were onerous, looking through directories, reference books, hobbyist magazines, making trips to the library, calling around.  Until social media, it was practically impossible to keep in close touch with several degrees of family ties.  Until the introduction of online payment, it was troublesome to sort through your pile of bills and pay at various locations.  The functional task of looking for things is now simpler.  From function, simplicity has now moved on to a bigger platform.  Before the web, the internet was used mostly by the professionals.  Now grandmothers use the computer.  Online services have since become even easier to use.  This merely continued the trend towards simplification.

The origin of the internet may have something to do with this.  Any network engineer will tell that tcp/ip, the software system that runs the internet, was the simplest of designs during the time it was invented.  Subsequent software designed for this early internet has kept with the simplicity philosophy as with the web.  It is now the culture of the internet to keep things simple.  And simplicity is still in the growth stage!  The first generation of the web online services is easy to use but the second generation post-dot.com online companies have accelerated it.

One of them, Square, is redefining the online credit card payment system through simplicity.  And was the blank page design popular before Google search?  Compare hotel booking sites with Airbrb today.  The uncluttered clean look in this case tends toward extreme simplicity.  It is about user experience.  Even if the homepage has additional content, you have to scroll down the almost stark page to get to it, as though telling you, get on with booking the room.  The aim is minimal distraction.  Compare this to internet 1.0 model of trying to fill the web page to the brim, probably because the business model then was to maximise eyeballs or it followed the obvious model for content then, the newspapers.  In case you are asking, this is relevant because if your organisation is using the internet to conduct business, your website is the proxy.  And rather than simply a presence as it was before (internet 1.0), it is now the business face.  And for others, it is the business.  Of course the empty look cannot apply to all online sites.  It will be a strange newspaper if it did!  The point for sites like AirBrb is to minimise, focus, be exacting, straight to selling a room, minimise distractions.  Interestingly, digg, a new generation news site has similarities closer to the clean look compared to the traditional newspaper sites. 

The minimising approach works. More are adopting the zen look.  Have a look at the new generation online firms; Gilt Groupe, dropbox, digg, twitter.  They reek of simplicity, speed, ease of use, seamless service, all collectively elements of user experience which really means giving the best possible service to users.  Everything about user experience must be super simple; to use, to look at, fast, convenient.  Anything not directly related are removed, minimised or moved elsewhere.  They are all inertia.  The ‘here it is, take it or leave it’ approach are passé.  Even if it is a free service, these new sites give a lot of respect to the consumer. 

With User Experience, words like rapid (to get in and out), directness, intuition and effortless sums up the process.  Ultimately, it is about providing an all-embracing feel.  It is attention to details with all things related to providing delightful online experience.  The total feel drives the design.  It aims at being effortless to use.  If it is a search, let him focus, do not let the site distract him.  Make it as fast as possible.  A top Google executive in search said he agonises over cutting 0.01 second off search results and has the budget to continuously do this.  It is about details.  One of my regular news site has an internal ad on its piece of real estate promoting a sub-site on food.  It has been there for some time.  If the site knows that I do go to the food sub-section, maybe once in three months, it could release that space for other ads.  I already know about its food sub-site and ventures there.  Convenience for users is everything.  There is more genuine deference to the consumer.  With traditional businesses, you know it is mostly marketing when they say the customer is the king.  Here they mean it and acts on it as though the business will collapse if they don’t.  But of course this is business after all.  Their business philosophy is simply that if they get it exceedingly right for the customer, profits will come.  Whatever, the consumer hasn’t had it this good for a long time, in term of vendor attention.

While this concept of minimising and user experience is moving into mainstream, in Asia, we haven’t felt it yet.  Most sites are clogged up as though it is still the way to go.    Perhaps the two methods to attain better user experience may help.

The first is something I call 2-clicks.  The obvious interpretation is of taking a maximum of two clicks of the mouse to get to the content you want.  Well, it is partly about minimising the number of clicks.  But what it really means is a site so streamlined, so easy to navigate, so quick and convenient, a consumer will find it a joy to use because it is an exacting experience.  It is not about trying your best, it is about Steve Job’s way of going above that to the extreme.  It is also about making the product experience intuitive, seamless and to lessen the number of clicks.  Good is not good enough!  But come to think of it, if 2-clicks is literally implemented, it is no bad thing!

The second is user-sensitive content.  This means that the site track how a consumer use it and reacts pro-actively to it.  More on this in the next post...


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