Friday, June 8, 2007

Critics vs. Fans

I was browsing through the winners of the 2007 Webby Awards this week, looking for trends: what's cool, innovative ideas, etc. While there were a lot of beautiful graphic designs , the innovation was mostly in business concepts, such as's peer-to-peer lending, rather than in site design. One thing did catch my interest, however. That was examining which sites won official Webbys in each category, and how they compared to that group's People's Voice selection. The differences are instructive, I think.

First, a caveat. Most of the people reading this blog realize that the People's Voice awards are gamed to a certain degree, with nominees exhorting their colleagues, customers and family to vote for their site. Heck, most of us have probably played along and voted for such sites ourselves. So People's Voice (PV) selections may not truly reflect the average consumer any more than the Webbys judges do. That said, there were certain trends that I think are worth examining.

For one thing, PV choices often provided more immediate gratification than the judge's selections. There was more immediately available content on the Home Page, for example. If a long Flash move was loading, other content kept you interested while you waited, rather than leaving you staring blankly at a "Loading..." graphic. Compare, for example, the interminable Volvo C30 site that won a Webby ( with the PV winner, the Yaris Personal Test Drive ( [Full disclosure: I work with Toyota and Saatchi, but had nothing whatsoever to do with the Yaris Test Drive site.]

Or compare the Webby-winning with PV choice Both sites offer interesting Web 2.0 functionality, but is more immediately engaging, pulling its content up to the Home Page level, whereas Flickr asks that you click to a new page before you can begin to interact.

Of course, there are hosting considerations to putting dynamic content on your Home Page, and new users can be overwhelmed by sites that put too much content out there at once. But since web designers tend to gravitate towards extremely minimalist designs, it's good to check in periodically and see what "real users" value.

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