How to Pay the Bills Without Annoying Your Customers
In my mind, building web products that help people do stuff easier is a noble goal. However, noble goals often sit around on the couch drinking your Natty Lite while you're out busting your hump to pay the bills.
When building web products at a media company, one of the major challenges is figuring out how to make your advertisers happy (i.e., pay the bills) without compromising the user experience. I just wanted to share with you a clever solution to an instance of this problem we had at ESPN recently.
In our Fantasy Games, our advertisers like to know the team and sport affinities of the audience they are reaching. To figure this out, my colleagues Jason and Chris implemented this slick solution in our 2005 NCAA Tournament game:
Jason and Chris know ESPN's audience well enough to realize that most people's favorite team, school, and sport are not the Hartford Wolfpack, Pomona, and Figure Skating, respectively. So, they made these options the defaults during the tournament game's team creation process.
The results? Nearly 200% more people changed the defaults this year than last. So, our advertisers are happy, and the customer experience is still good.
The design is a brilliant bit of psychology that plays upon peoples' desire that if they are to be formally identified as members of a community, it's going to be one of their choosing.
The takehome lesson for me? The elegant solution is often staring me in the face, if I can look past the way things have always been done.