Add Value on the Web

How many times have you worked on a project where it was the client's intention of just taking something they have in a Word document or some other print material and just put it on the web? The problem is that there is no added value to this content. It's not taking advantage of the medium.

Well, today, I came across a great example of someone who is taking advantage: the For Better or For Worse comic strip. Check it out and read through the strip for a minute or so and you'll probably notice something.

The characters blink.

It's so subtle but it adds value and takes advantage of what's possible on the web. These are the same strips that are published in thousands of newspapers around the world. But in taking it to the web, they've added something that you couldn't do in print and have given the characters more depth.

So, are you adding value?

Published July 17, 2006 · Updated September 14, 2006
Categorized as Opinion
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Nate K said on July 17, 2006

Thats a great question. Too many people think the website is another printed advertisement or brochure. All they have to do is post it up in a graphic or from a word document and it is finished. The value (for the medium) is lost. I am in agreement with you.

I think adding value can come in many shapes and form, and it depends on your intended audience and usage. The beauty of this medium is the ability to change within seconds. This allows us, as web developers, to build and refine our tools.

I don't know that I have an answer for this specifically with my website - but I know with others sites I have worked on or built - the value came from much thought, preparation, and surveying our users.

Value can come from an array of things. A search box (that is well though out), RSS feeds, other syndication options, pingbacks, comments, etc. I think the value comes when you let the user have a little bit of control. Not necessarily a wiki of sorts, but allowing them to contribute, and in some instances, take ownership of different aspects.

So - a long answer to say: value (just as design) is in the eye of the beholder. One feature on a site may be useless to some, but RIGHT on with the target market. So, I think that it takes time to research your target and UNDERSTAND your users. Understand their wants, needs, and their browsing patterns.

OK (takes deep breath) - im done now.

ranvier said on July 17, 2006

I understand where you are driving at and that's a good point that you have made.

However pointing at this particular comic strip case study you have mentioned, i would preferred not to have these people "blink" because it actually distracts me a lot even though it may seem subtle.

However, when you are trying to make sense of what they are saying, especially when i'm new to this comic strip, it's quite a bit of annoyance.

Just my 2 cents. :)

Jonathan Snook said on July 17, 2006

ranvier: I suspected someone would mention the distraction factor of it. It's certainly unexpected. But I'm glad my point still came through despite the example. :)

Jason Kataropoulos said on July 17, 2006

I totally agree to the fact that the medium should me used more effectively.

I usually try to take advantage of the medium to the full. It is though time consuming and most of the times clients do not pay for such services. Usually clients do not understand the value of using the web properly. Therefore they do not pay for this extra service, even when I try to explain and consult them to the direction I believe is correct for them.

It’s very common to invest in the development of a web site but not invest on the correct production and presentation of content.

I believe its all about cost cutting policies!

Fredrik Wärnsberg said on July 18, 2006

Isn't the real value of the web the amazing ease to get feedback on the content you publish? After all, that's why blogging and web2.0 (OMG BUZZWORD) has become such hits.

Chris Adams said on July 18, 2006

Anybody can take a document and copy and paste, even more can push the upload button and make a document accessible form anywhere.

What then make a webpage more interesting than a newspaper? It could be interactivity, the ability to search or make comments, or even the ability to read what other people have to say about something.

Words are in fact just that. Words. A word can mean whatever you want it to but until it is agreed upon by some community then it will have no meaning. Thus we can infer that Community determines the value of a website.

Jason Kataropoulos said on July 19, 2006

I agree with you Chris.

It is community that determines what each word means or to put it in a more abstract or globalized way, it is each persons culture, education, religion and alot more that determine the way words and ideas will be perceived.

However, this, along with all the interactivity capabilities etc... make the construction of effective content alot more complex and expensive. Therefore it is common to see cheap and under featured web sites.

stephen said on July 19, 2006

I have had a new client in the last few days who sent me a 6meg word document (1 page with 9 imbedded photographs) and a 6 meg publisher document (which i haven't looked at yet out of fear) - and got asked how we can put this online.
I said it would take a few days that I don't have right now to strip each of their content, create a layout in HTML and CSS, and much email-discussion to confirm the layout and form of what they want.
I lost them at "strip".
Yes, I like to think I am adding value, and NOT MS word doucments, to the internet.
I don't care how long it takes (because a lot of my work is for free) as long as it is done RIGHT.
I hope this follows the lines of what you are asking.
PS. Your right column somehow splits down its centre when I scroll down the page (in Firefox). Freaky!

Mark Henderson said on July 20, 2006

I've spent a blimming long time writting User guides for software over the last few weeks.. But had great fun turning these into Flash tutorials.

So much more of a feel and sense of what your trying to explain can be expressed when you can actually simulate what your trying to explain. Even though the exact same jargon full text is being displayed the richness of the experience is immediately apparant.

Is it more effective as a learning tool? Or just distracting, as some valid points have been made above?

In what i've been working on its a bit of both, but it will doubtless hold a users attention longer and they are going to be more willing to make it through to the end.

Jason Kataropoulos said on July 20, 2006

You have a point Mark.

Check this :

You shall get some kind of answer to your question:
"Is it more effective as a learning tool? Or just distracting, as some valid points have been made above?"

Sorry, comments are closed for this post. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to send them to me directly.