— 4 October 2005 —

Closing the Blog, Opening the Conversation

I recently returned from a week-long trip to Alaska to visit the parent-types; overall a fine trip. The primary purpose was to get Sagan some quality face time with her third set of GPs. While up there, of course, Sagan had to be paraded in front of friends of my parents. In the ensuing conversations that often degraded to just watching Sagan do her thing, I was often asked, “So what do you do?”

Ha. Yes, this is sometimes a hard question to answer. When I started my dayjob 6 years ago my answer to most people quickly became, “I design software.” I actually do a lot more than that. Designing software is more of an outcome of what I do, but trying to explain user-centered design (UCD), usability, developing business requirements, etc… I quickly found that the elongated explanation caused Glazed Eye Syndrome, commonly known as “You lost me at Hello.”

This trip, I explained my nightjob (you are looking at it :). I tried to explain the 9rules Network. I tried to explain Business Logs. Most of the responses I received could be easily categorized under, “Wha?”

Some of the people I talked with had heard of blogs, but they really didn’t understand what the point was. Even when I so eloquently explained about open conversations and customer feedback for business I received the “Oh” response. So what I want to know is: what is wrong with these people? Don’t they know that blogging is the next important thing on the web?

No. They don’t know it because it isn’t. A blog can be an important tool for a business, to be sure. But the vast majority of the web-wielding public doesn’t care about blogging. They may get a bit excited that they can leave feedback right on the web site, but as one person explained to me, “Why would I want other people to see what I have to say to that company?”

There was a study (which I can’t find for some reason, help please) recently that noted a certain percentage of web site visitors had no idea they were looking at a blog. And I think that is just fine. My question: do they need to know it is a blog to get what they need out of the site? No. The goals of The User are still the same: Answer a question, and buy/sell something.

We want to talk to companies about blogging (obviously), but I am more than happy to see the day come where frequently updated content together with the ability to capture visitor feedback is just another aspect of the company’s web site.

I never talk in terms of UCD to anyone outside the field of Human-Computer Interaction because they just don’t care. They want the web application to work. That’s all. The same goes for business blogs. If you decide a blog is right for your company, let’s go for it. But beyond that decision, don’t worry about “having a blog.” Focus on the ensuing conversation.

Back in 1996 you created a way for people to find out about your product or service. In 1999, you created a way for people to buy that product or service. Tomorrow, you will add a feature to your site to allow free-flowing (relatively) conversation. You are working to potentially increase the user experience value of your site by starting that conversation. It’s just another way to connect with the people that allow you to own a home and buy food.

So, no more Blog. Let’s work to make a third User goal, join a conversation, become old hat. Internally we’ll still talk about Information Design, eCommerce, and B-logging, but externally we should simply be making the best user experience on the web that your visitors can have. That’s our goal.

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