Posts tagged ‘user experience’

Great user experiences: Tor.com

Why am I so much more motivated to complain about bad experiences than to praise good ones? It’s certainly not because it’s easier – it takes as much or more energy to complain because you usually get resistance in return. Anyway, I’d like to make more of an effort to point out great user/customer experiences when I have them, and to kick off I’m going to tell you about one of my current favorite websites.

Tor.com is a site geared towards science fiction and fantasy fans. Built by the good folks at Tor Books, it’s an intriguing enterprise in that it’s separate from their corporate site and practices something they call “publisher agnosticism,” which means that some content (actually, a lot of content) is contributed by people who don’t work for or publish with Tor Books. They also sell non-Tor books and merchandise in their store. Cool.

But beyond that, it’s just an excellent site. The blog is consistently interesting, even for a sf/fantasy dabbler like myself. The quality of writing is good, and the topics are varied enough to keep me reading without going so far afield that I lose interest. What hooked me initially were the “re-reads” – they take a popular series (Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time), and write about it in-depth, with plot summaries, commentary, and lots of reader discussion on each post. I totally want to steal this idea for my library – what a great way to run an online book club! And they don’t limit the discussion to books – they also talk about sf & fantasy film and tv, art, the creative process, and more.  I also love the weekly “Saturday Morning Cartoons” post, which highlights wonderful animated shorts.

Another feature I love: they do periodic themes for the site. October was Steampunk month. In December they did 12 Days of Cthulhumas. The theme permeates the whole site – blog posts, giveaways, highlighted items in the store, even the logo gets transformed:

Standard logo:

Steampunk logo:

Cthulhumas logo:

Even though I subscribe to the blog’s feed in Google Reader, I routinely click through to the site to make sure I’m not missing anything – I can’t say that about any other site I subscribe to. Details like this aren’t enough to create a great user experience, but when you have consistently good quality the details can push you into greatness. As I’m working on the redesign of our library website, this is the level of quality I aspire to.

February 10, 2010 at 8:36 am

Power to the People? Google introduces SideWiki

Yowza! I just came across the announcement for Google’s SideWiki, which appears as a browser sidebar and makes it possible for users to comment on any website. For those organizations that have been reluctant to engage with their customers via social media or are determined to control the conversation, guess what? Here’s another clear indicator that that ship has sailed. Customers can now enter comments at your site, whether you give them the means to do it or not. Hoo boy! (Although Sidewiki doesn’t appear to work for our City/Library website right now – I will have to investigate further).

What are the implications? Well, as Jeremiah Owyang points out:

  • Customers trust each other more than you –now they can assert their voices “on” your webpage. Every webpage on your corporate website, intranet, and extranet are now social. Anyone who accesses these features can now rely on their friends or those who contribute to get additional information. Competitors can link to their competing product, consumers can rate or discuss the positive and negative experiences with your company or product.
  • Yet, don’t expect everyone to participate –or contribute valuable content. While social technology adoption is on the rise, not everyone writes, rates, and contributes content in every location, likely those who have experienced the product, influential, or competitors will be involved. Secondly, content created in this sidebar may be generally useless. To be successful, Google will need it to look more like Wikipedia than YouTube comments
  • More reason than ever to engage with customers in every way you can. You can’t control the conversation, but you can participate.

    As a sidenote, I was interested to see that Google is releasing this first for Firefox and IE, rather than Chrome. Are they shooting for widespread adoption right off the bat? Or is it because they’re working to integrate it more fully with the Chrome browser (it’s part of Google Toolbar for Firefox and IE)?  I will be very interested to see how this develops. [via Web Strategy]

    September 25, 2009 at 9:15 am


    "To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." - Pearce

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