Jeff recently forwarded me an article about Yahoo’s recent drop in page impressions as a result of implementing Ajax across their site. While this makes perfect sense to a technologist (Ajax is getting hype precisely because it allows users to access functions and content without full page loads), it spells a conundrum for less forward-thinking decision makers, like say, comScore.
Here’s the business thinker’s dilemma: when used appropriately, Ajax improves user experiences by speeding information retrieval and facilitating sophisticated interfaces. At the same time, it’s bad for Accounts Receivable if the company generates revenues from advertising, which is typical measured and invoiced based on page impressions (which are currently defined as full page loads). In a recent conversation with a prospective client, this same question came up: you’re not using too much Ajax are you? The fear wasn’t that we were going to scare away users with pointlessly advanced features but that we were going to provide a world of functionality in a single page impression.
The previously-mentioned Yahoo article sums up the real-world cost of effective Ajax implementations:
And who is the big winner? MySpace, a site that is successful in spite of it’s abysmal UI. If you have a MySpace account you know what I’m describing: completing any flow in MySpace seems to require one too many clicks. Don’t hold your breath waiting for improvements – those extra clicks contribute to the site’s “metrics” and in turn drive up it’s valuation.
The Internet isn’t a clickable magazine
So, here’s a new formula for Google to improve their stock price: simply insert an interstitial page between the search box and a user’s search results. comScore would report a 100% increase in user activity, and Wall Street would reward the improvement accordingly. Sadly, Google seems to be exploring a CPM (cost per thousand page impressions) ad model for their popular AdSense program, in lieu of their original CPC (cost per thousand clicks on the ad itself), which rewarded real interaction with the ad itself, rather than unrelated browser activity.
My heart goes out to the engineers at Yahoo and CNET: good user experience – “a radical simplification” of a site’s IA – results in declining stock values. For Christmas, I’m giving comScore the finger.