Everything that is added to a classification subtracts from what is already there, prompting the question: Has more been added than subtracted?I use a survey service called SurveyMonkey a lot. It's a great service. Recently, they upgraded, adding lots of new features. The problem is that some of the older features that I regularly use are now pushed down the classification.
That means, for example, that for a particular feature I use a lot, I now have to click three times instead of two. I find this very frustrating. I'm sure these new features are very useful but many of them get in my way. They're costing me time.
If I have 5 links on a page and then add a sixth, I take away from the 5 links that are already there. People only have a certain amount of attention they can give every second.
I've seen studies that estimate that we can take in 115 bits of information per second. It is also estimated that participating in a conversation takes up 65 bits per second, making it hard to participate in two conversations at the same time.
For simplicity's sake, let's say we have 100 units of attention to give every second. If there are 5 links we can scan them in one second, giving 20 bits to each link. If you add a new link you take roughly 4 bits of attention away from each of the other 5 links, or else you force the person to spend more than one second scanning.
Every time you add, you subtract attention. Think of attention as an elastic band. It cannot stretch forever. At a certain point it will snap. 90 percent of people will not look at more than the first 10 search results, for example. (More people have been on top of Mount Everest than have been at the 5,000th search result.)
Let's say you have 5 links, each having a value of 50, and you add a sixth link that has a value of 10. At one level, it could be said that you have added to the value of the website, which had a value of 250, and now has a value of 260.
However, what happens if the customer is looking for one of the original 5 links and becomes distracted by the new one? The distraction might result in them clicking on this link. So, you get a value of 10, but lose the 40 you would have gained had they clicked on one of the original links. What if they impatiently hit the Back button because they could not immediately find what they were looking for?
Let's say you add 1,000 new links to the website, with each of these new links having a value of 5. Now you need a classification structure, and chances are that your 5 original links will no longer be on the homepage.
People who now want to find these 5 very valuable links will have to learn where they reside in the classification or else search for them. Either way you are wasting more of their time, consuming more of their attention. Many will hit the Back button after a quick scan.
What is value? On the Web, value is NOT what the organization thinks is valuable. Value IS what the impatient customer values.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.