Dilbert shows how not to relaunch a website

 dilbert

The Dilbert website has undergone a redesign, and now incorporates a web2.0 element. What should have been a successful launch has been mired in criticism. Change, and especially a radical overhaul, will always attract dissent from some quarters, but Scott Adams et al made some basic mistakes which have spoiled the new look.  

I really like the participative element of Dilbert, found under the vertical entitled mash-up. The concept is that the final pane of the strip –essentially the punchline – is now customisable. Users are invited to see if they can improve on the original joke. In my eyes, this ticks all the right

  • It is a simple idea that can be easily communicated
  • The interface is extremely easy to use
  • The daily nature means users are consistently drawn back to the site
  • Voting and commenting are included
  • It is searchable

It still isn’t perfect – the profile page could do with more information – but that is what the big fat beta sign is for

So why all the hate?

The mash-up element is easy to use. But as a whole, the new features and layout have compromised the simplicity of the site.

People want to visit the site on a daily basis, read a funny strip and move on. Looking at ways to enhance the experience is commendable, but the core offering shouldn’t be disrupted.

Particularly when Dilbert fans are likely to be the rabid uber-geeks that know about website design and aren’t afraid to share their opinions. The use of flash in particular has come in for a lot of criticism. Linux users are reporting that the new site is incompatible with their operating system. This kind of oversight is unacceptable.

This brings me on to participation inequality – a typology of online users created by Jakob Nielsen. Essentially, a tiny minority account for a disproportionately large amount of content – whether in blogs, social networks or Wikipedia, this inequality will hold true. He labels it the 90-9-1 rule

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs

By focusing too much on the 10%, the Dilbert team have potentially alienated the 90%. The minority may be the power users, but it makes no sense to ignore the 90% in order to focus on them

The sad thing is that most of the problems with the redesign could have been avoided by going through a simple process. Conversation.

Yes, the element of surprise would have been lost. But by conversing with users, creating buzz, encouraging ideas and providing feedback, the launch would have been a lot smoother. And by taking the participative element to the next level – actually providing users with the opportunity to invest into the look and feel of the site – loyalty and affinity would have improved considerably

Instead, the site owners are fire-fighting. Rather than focusing on the mash-ups and the increase in visitors, they are now announcing a bare-bones page without the additional features. The pointy haired boss would be proud

sk

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2 Responses

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  2. My friend on Facebook shared this link and I’m not dissapointed that I came here.

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