Factors for Change
Browser sizes are bigger and better.
More than 80% of web browsers are at least 1024×768. I know this means some people are still on 800×600 but is grandma or the guy with the old computer really the ones we should dumb down are design to, are these the people reading digg? ESPN and the nytimes are 1000 pixels wide, if the largest media companies in the world are comfortable with forgetting the 800×600 crowd than so am I.
Page view metrics are killing the user experience.
Because sites need to offer advertisers some sort of metric to buy ad inventory, page views have become something of an advertising standard. But this has also created a major problem. Websites break articles and activities up into little chunks. These tactics easily make the user experience almost unbearable while adding multiple useless steps that waste time in order to increase their page views.
Try reading an article on cnet, nytimes, or any other news source without having to click multiple times to get the entire article. They break the articles up into different pages. Go to techcrunch or digg and you have to run through the same hoops with internal page views without ever taking you to the actual website or article. More on this later.
Speed and efficiency matter.
When google came onto the scene it was refreshing because the entire focus was speed, the best results and no clutter. Search became easy again, but more importantly it was quick. The results were instant.
But if your search isn’t resolved within the first page of results this process can bog down, take extra time and create unnecessary results. The act of delivering the search results is great, but the second act of actually finding what you desire from those results is still imperfect.
More effective ad delivery.
The advertising message is lost when it is splattered all over my face. Just because an ad gets 2% click through does not mean it is an effective ad delivery solution. People click ads because they interest them or resolve problems for them, they don’t click them because the ad drives a flash car across my screen, always shows as a banner on the top of my page or forces me to stare at it before it takes me to the page I requested.
Sure the website owner can invent these methods to take advertisers money, but it does nothing for the user experience and again, 1-2% click through should mean the delivery solution is broken, it’s ruined, don’t do it!!!!!
What I’m suggesting is a fundamental change in how we use the internet. It is so simple yet 100% more effective it would be stupid not to explore how this change might work.
The problem is it isn’t revolutionary technology, it isn’t a secret formula, it’s a change in how we format and deliver results, so I’m a little wary on how to monetize and protect the idea but here goes.
Websites need to expand to at least 1000 pixels wide and in a very web 1998 move they need to break their format into two parts. The page needs to be split into two parts. The left side 300-400 pixels wide, the right side 600-700 pixels wide.
It seems so simple and un-innovative but it actually revolutionizes the user experience.
The easiest way to demonstrate the process is to use existing websites as examples and create a before and after effect. In creating the demo screen shots I hope to show the problem with page view metrics, how speed and efficiency will improve 100% and expose some new ways to think about advertising online.
Google is great for search, but it only tells part of the story. There really isn’t any context to your search results unless you click through to view the page or click to view the highlighted words in the cache. Both require me to click, load a new page or tab, then click back to my search results. This takes time and it’s really inefficient.
Recently there has been a bit of press about a people powered search, one that in theory will delivery better results. The nice thing about the split screen display method is that it combines both worlds. In theory you could have google results and human editor results on the same page and be more efficient.
Google uses Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as an example on their zeitgeist page, so below is a google search for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Notice the wasted white space on the right taking up half the screen usually used for serving up ads.
If you apply the two panel layout, you get more defined results, without wasting clicks. Instead of clicking the cached link to view where and why google thinks that particular link is relevant, what if you could view that information right on the same page? Without leaving the search page you actually view all the results to find the one that best fits your search.
Lets say your doing a book report on Longfellow, in 2 min you can sort through the entire first page of results without ever leaving the original page, this eliminates 7 clicks out of google and then 7 back clicks to get back to your search results. What if after 14 clicks the first wikipedia result was the best? Wasted time, wasted clicks, very inefficient. People would literally save minutes of time using this new method.
Below is the two panel layout, 1000 total pixels wide. This would auto scale wider for larger resolutions. It comes off looking like an open book.
The above sample shows how the two panel layout saves useless clicking and increases speed and efficiencies. Now add to it your advertising layers and a bit of human editing and you create something fast and useful but also profitable. I’ll use the most searched term of 2007, the iPhone.
When the search is first executed, editor based results and advertising fill the left panel. Obviously it isn’t refined because I threw it together in 5 min and the sponsored links box got stretched to fit my image, but you get the idea. There could be human editor type results on top and a nice large area for sponsored links below. You never lose the google search on the right, but instead the whole search is enhanced with the ads taking a more prominent eye friendly location.
The cache feature would work just like the Longfellow example; the human guide would shrink to one line that could be expanded. The ads would shift to that space, cache below. The cache area would also play videos in full 400 pixel wide clarity as shown below.
That’s a basic rundown of the idea in google or youtube with video. And I know its so technologically unimpressive it’s slightly disappointing. But that’s not the point. The point is to utilize wider screens and change the way we interface with the web today. The 2 panel layout is highly more efficient and eliminates a bunch of pointless clicking back and forth. It delivers advertising in the eye’s sweet spot and allows for some human editor notes to enhance the search.
To sample how this idea works with other sites I’ve quickly put together more examples.
Techcrunch – Instead of frustrating the user and making them click and load an entirely new page (the page view metrics problem), my inquiry could load on the same page. Less page views for techcrunch but a much happier user. I get to see the Crunch Base Profile in the left panel, I don’t have to click through to it.
Blog Search Inquires – When I search articles on a blog and quickly view them in the left panel. I can work through 10 posts in a couple minutes finding the articles that most interest me.
Wikipedia – All those underlined references on the topic I’m reading can load to the left and I can keep reading my topic. I hate how I click a link and it takes me away from what I’m reading. I’m not motivated to click words that would enhance my understanding because it disrupts my process. The two panel solves this. As I’m working my way through the information I can view deeper definitions of words or topics right on the same page, never losing my thought pattern.
Craigslist – Again I can work through search results very quickly. Without having to do all that clicking and clicking back and clicking that is pointless. Keep it all on one page and make the users happy. Using the two panel design I sped up my search process and made it 2X-4X faster without all those pointless clicks.
The fact that it is so simple and so unbelievably un-technical does limit the earth shattering effects of what a functional change like this could mean for page views, user experience and how we interact with the web. But I do feel it should be considered.
I know something like this isn’t the next google and so I don’t know how money could be made off this idea. It seems it would just have to be a site like google, craigslist, ebay or a blog software that would just implement it for the good of the user experience.
It’s ironic this blog is only 800 pixels wide. I need to fix that.