An article posted yesterday in Micropersuasion has caught my eye — Google and other homepage/portal providers are desperate to get users to customize their personal pages (which Google just renamed “iGoogle”), yet most users are really just interested in getting to information quickly. In the article, Steve Rubel cites a Forrester Research study from a year or two ago, in which respondents clearly indicated what they want: they top three responses were “Direct paths to content I am looking for,” “Ads that don’t interfere” and “Proper labeling of menu items.” Basically, people want easy navigation and a clear route to content. Customization? Pre-filtering of content or advertising for relevance? Low, low, low on the list.
Now, those numbers are getting a little old (third quarter of 2005), but I doubt that user expectations have changed THAT much in a year-and-a-half. When you’re looking at your own site(s), remember that the main thing your visitors want is simply to be able to find things easily. Steve talks about the need for tiered systems to allow extensive customization for power users while keeping things straightforward for everyone else, but except for the big boys, most of us would be best sticking to simplicity. More on best practices for advocacy/campaign websites.