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Personalisation in web design

07/03/2016

In recent years, user-centred design has become widely recognised as the vehicle in transporting a user to their all-important end goal. Any well intentioned website creator will have a goal, but without good user-centred design, a great idea and powerful functionality will still be viewed as impotent if they don’t help the user complete their intended journey.

Personalised web experiences take this idea even further by attempting to pro-actively deliver the most relevant content to the user without them even having to try and find it. We’re all familiar with retail giants like Amazon and eBay suggesting other products we might like or be interested in. Take Netflix’s recommendation algorithm as an example: here the retailer is attempting to personalise your experience of their using service by tailoring the content and suggestions specifically to what you like and don’t like. When they get it right, users feel they are getting more value from the service since it’s making it easy for them to find content they want.

Personalisation is a powerful concept when it comes to marketing; one which gathers even more speed when it’s put in the context of the recent explosion of ‘Big Data’. Big Data refers to the tremendous amount of data that flies around the world as a result of all our digital activity, which requires specialist skills and tools to collate and understand. This data holds many secrets to our behaviour as digital consumers, such as how we engage and interact with content. Analysts and marketers can harness this information drawing meaningful conclusions from it and use it to steer us all towards more naturally intuitive and engaging digital experiences.

How can the concept of personalisation be applied to smaller website owners and brands? In an age of increasing awareness over privacy, users can understandably be concerned about what information websites and apps are gathering, but there are still meaningful methods of data collection for small website owners that aren’t too intrusive and shouldn’t overly worry your users. Simply by understanding where people have come from to get to your website or how long they spend on specific page, can all help in designing a more personalised experience.

Of course, personalising the web doesn’t necessarily mean throwing more and more content at it in an effort to appeal to all. As curators and publishers of digital content, we still have to take responsibility for what we are uploading to ensure it is relevant and of interest to people.

Ultimately, creating a personalised web experience should be seen as the icing on the cake, providing the finishing touches to an already very user-centric chocolaty base. All digital products should allow users to easily navigate and make their own choices in terms of how they consume the content, but personalisation can provide a mechanism for perceived added value. Websites and apps can be personalised in many different non-obtrusive ways, and if done correctly, won’t steer the user somewhere they don’t want to go, but instead will increase the quality and enjoyment of their experience and encourage them to engage more deeply with a brand, product or service.

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