Personalization, is it worth it?

Personalization, is it worth it?

This article questions the affects of site personalization on resources and members. As an example, we will use vBulletin by Jelsoft Enterprises Limited. Personalization allows administrators and / or members the ability to personalize features found within a web site.

"vBulletin is a powerful, scalable and fully customisable forums package"
vBulletin is attractive to many users because it offers it's license holders and board users the ability to personalize. However, in most cases, this equates to a forum where many features are not being used by it's members.

Personalization can be beneficial to the administrator and the end-user if done correctly. Take a look at ... personalization allows users more control of what is important to them; thus, sales have increased. However, personalization is not just giving your members the ability to create their own "favorite book list". Personalization is giving them what they desire the most. If this can be done without any user intervention (automated) the more powerful the benefit.

Personalization often fails because...

  • members do not know the benefits of personalization
  • members are not given a reason to personalize
  • personalization features often fills the ego of the administrator and not the end-user
  • personalization should be optional and not mandatory to enjoy site
Personalization can be beneficial to all if...
-focus is on the end-user (concentrate on the end-user experience)
-the administrators foregoes their ego and puts the end-user before themselves (this means you should not install features that are not just 'cool'; but are beneficial to the end-user)
-instructions and benefits are clearly visible to the end-user (do not assume that a user will read everything ... make sure you use headings, list, and similar formatting tools to allow users to 'scan' the page)
-it is optional; do not force a feature down a user's throat ... most likely it will be ignored (if a feature is not turned "ON" by a user it should be disabled; do not use system resources when it is not necessary)

Personalization/Usability - WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW
In most cases, a Styles "changer" only fills the ego of the administrator. There is no real benefit to the member. However, an option to change the font-size can benefit a partially blind member. This option will only work if the member is aware of WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW.

The "Currently Active Users" feature only benefits members who are aware of this tool. So, why make it a default setting for all users? This option should be based on a per user or per group setting. By enabling this option on a per user / per group setting, administrators can benefit from this as the system will use less resources. Have you ever gone to a site where the first thing you see is the "Currently Active Users" with 452 names displayed? How beneficial is this to a member; to a non-member? Do you think it helps or hinders your site's performance (bandwidth / resources / popularity / repeat visits / etc)?

Personally, the "Currently Active Users" feature should be available only to Staff. If a member wants to know if his friend / mentor / mod / etc is online then they should learn how to use the Buddy List feature.

The "Buddy List" feature enables members to know if their friend(s) are online. But, how many members know this feature exists? How many members know how to use it? Make sure your members know WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW to use this feature.

The "Subscribe" feature is a powerful tool and can enhance a user's experience. How many of your users are currently using this feature? How many of them know the benefits received when using this feature? Again, make sure your members know WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW to use this feature.

The "Private Message" feature is often a favorite amongst members; but, how often do they clean their inbox? Make the instructions clear and visible to all members and it will be done more often. Furthermore, if a user has enabled "Send you an email when you receive a Private Message?" than why should the private message be saved in your database? Send the private message content along with the email and save yourself server space. (Before you ask ... no it's not a vB feature.)

Personalization should benefit all parties involved. Show members the benefits of personalization and they will respond.

So, before you add another feature ask yourself this, "Will my members benefit if I add this feature to my site?"

Administrators / Webmasters should put more effort into the usability of a site. Usability can increase site productivity, performance, and learnability

This article - "Personalization: Is it Worth it?" was written and submitted by member: princeton.