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Home Alone? How Content Aggregators Change Navigation and Control of Content : Comments

By Joshua Porter

November 3, 2004

Comments

Small Paul

November 4, 2004 6:13 AM

Good points, and good hints: search engines have long meant that pages need to be adequately self-describing.

However, I think that good homepages and information architecture are still important. If a user comes to a site via a search engine, she may well be interested in more than just the content she lands on. A good homepage and IA will help her understand what the entire site is about, what can be found there, and where to find it.

Having an IA also makes it possible to provide some context for each individual page, by telling the user where it is in the IA.

Hunox

November 5, 2004 9:41 AM

You can also make use of highlighting search terms on the landing page for the user. User will spot the keywords right away and be sure that he/she is in the right place.

Joshua Porter

November 5, 2004 9:12 PM

Paul,

I agree that homepages and IAs are still important. I’m not talking about getting rid of them, but I do think that we’re witnessing user behavior pushing them to the sidelines.

On a similar note, would it be possible to tell someone exactly where they’re going before they even get there? Say…by writing exquisite links?

J. Hutchens

November 9, 2004 1:00 PM

I was very intrigued by your article. In a Faceted classification system, what exactly generates the aggregates of content, a system, the site designer or the user and how. Are their relationships developed between topics and how? Also, please define what RSS and Atom readers are.

Joshua Porter

November 12, 2004 7:36 AM

Hi J. I apologize if you got the impression that I assumed too much about the technology I was referring to. I hope the following contains helpful details.

In a faceted classification system, the designers expose the facets inherent in information and allow users to choose which facets are useful for their navigation needs. This is different than most architectures that are based only one facet (only one way to navigate), which restricts the choices of users.

In these systems the relationships are defined by the information itself, or perhaps more specifically, by someone’s interpretation of the information. (designers may or may not ask users directly) A common example of this is the facets inherent in talking about wine: we have country of origin, red or white, vintage (year), dryness, best food to go with, etc. People use all these different ways to describe wine, and faceted classification systems expose all these options to users and thus help them choose whichever way is appropriate for the context they’re in. If you choose 1978 white wines, for instance, the system will show you only those wines that correspond to your choice.

RSS and Atom readers are interfaces (desktop application or web-based) that read RSS and Atom feeds and display them (usually in a reverse-chronological order). This is a new paradigm for web-based content because it allows users (and they seem to like it) to be able to read what’s being published at a domain without actually going to the domain with a browser and seeing the content styled as it is in HTML. Also, it allows easier access to programmers who want to re-purpose that content for their own needs, or the needs of their users.

Ka Wai

November 27, 2004 12:41 PM

Joshua-

You make some good points. It will be interesting to see how much the general public adopts the RSS movement. I can think of two reasons why the domain-driven paradigm (i.e. a person still “surfing” by means of visiting particular sites) will still have permanence.

For one, web sites are still a marketing tool. ESPN still promotes its online presence via its URL on TV, radio, newspapers, etc. Until we get large corporations to somehow promote feeds to the general public (which I don’t see would ever happen), the majority of web users will still stick to using domains to navigate.

Also, I believe there is something attractive about fixed navigation. Its less work for the user. If I’m navigating on a site on a topic that I am trying to learn about, I’d rather have the site (and inherently the IAs) tell me how to understand the information that it provides, as opposed to me deciding this (and perhaps leading myself astray).

Despite that, I sincerely hope this shift toward user-directed content aggregation does happen. It’s an exciting shift, will lead to a lot more opportunities to advance the web as an information medium, and, I believe, it will be the one major facet that differentiates how people use the web from any other media source.

Vic

February 8, 2005 11:46 PM

There’s something cathartic about pointing, clicking, clicking, pointing. RSS will be hard-pressed to completely eliminate the web-surfing environment.

And yet, we’ve always been trying to push information to us, rather than seeking it out manually. not a new concept, it’s just that RSS format takes it to a new format.

Bugs

February 17, 2005 6:32 AM

Joshua, there is no doubt that you’re right on target. Last night, I watched an amazing discussion about blogging, on Charlie Rose, PBS...Blogging, in and of itself, is just another forum or chat or discussion, and we’ve seen that already. But, you add the RSS element to it, and you’ve got broadcasting, and not just broadcasting, but broadcasting that competes with the mainstream. Think about this…If you could convince 2 million bloggers, to give you a hundred dollars to run for President…You could change the world.

eugene

May 5, 2005 12:54 PM

thought provoking.
in the process of designing a small website for myself so this discussion is very timely. it seems to be the perennial conversation about form and content.

we, designers, have to find a way to create content that captures and holds a viewer’s interest. but it seems that aggregators are changing the rules of how this content is accessed. maybe we need to put a face on the content that will make it a more desirable place for a viewer to visit using the tools of the aggregators while keeping the ideas and content we want to share that led us to design the sight in the first place. Maintaining the integrity between the two, form and content, is the challenge so that design doesn’t become janus faced. i would also like to point out that meandering is a good thing.

i found this article while doing research on cell phone ringtones. aggregators seem to think that the goal is to get to a specific piece of information as quickly as possible; sometimes it is. but often what seems unconnected can actually be the key to our search. the treasure, be it an idea, information etc., is not always where we think that it is. moving through a web page can bring us more than we anticipated.

let’s keep the web open for new possibilities by designing content and structures that can give viewers what they’re searching for and is a space where something unexpected can happen through the interaction.

John Blossom

August 18, 2005 9:00 AM

Interesting article, it parallels what we’ve been calling The New Aggregation. Our paper on this subject is at:
http://shore.com/research/current/reports/SCI200404.html

All the best,
John Blossom

Helen

November 9, 2005 10:49 AM

The users opinion on the site is formed during the first couple of seconds based on the homepage, that should be informative enough.

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