Add context and depth to your user experience
Earlier this week we talked about the problem of “the buried web” – vast archives (by traditional or digital publishers) of great content that remains largely undiscovered because of the minute-by-minute pace of the Internet. But how can a publisher transform that content from a pile of old news into something of value to an audience? Readers are still going to want the latest news, to be sure, but much of that archived content is still relevant and could enhance more recent discoveries by providing depth or context. Sometimes recency is incredibly important, but other times it’s relevancy that should be paramount. Finding what is new and buzz-worthy on the Internet is a cake-walk, but discovering quality content that is unexpected and pertinent to your interests is a whole other challenge.
We all know how to Google search. You type in what you’re looking for and receive results often based on recency and page rank. Usually what pops up is anything but unexpected. It’s useful, yes, but it’s not the ideal way to get the best content. Instead we may look to favorite websites, blogs, or even a discovery app like Trapit, to get a more relevant or personalized view of a topic than a typical search engine would provide. But even while making an effort to gather content based on relevancy to the topic, we are still confronted with recency of publication as the main determiner of what we see or don’t see. Sometimes that is a pitfall of the digital-content age. Bringing archival content back into these spaces could help by giving readers a much fuller perspective on the topics they care about.
If I am looking for interesting recipes for pickling vegetables, for example, I would be happy to see a well-written article from a few years back alongside a new blog post, as long as both were of high quality. The same goes for DIY projects or great rock climbing spots. If I’m interested in these topics, the likelihood is that I am much more concerned with the content itself than the date it was originally published. I’m looking for the cream of the crop, not just content from the past week.
And even when recency is a concern, archival content can still provide context for important topics. News and entertainment are both very timely categories. But if I’m reading about the protests in Egypt, finding stories of the country’s past struggles alongside the breaking news would be a welcome sight. The same would apply to discovering a great older essay about Woody Allen’s unique film-making style while I read reviews of his latest film. The use of archival content alongside more newsworthy stories is something we don’t see very often – but it’s something that could teach us and help us understand the bigger picture.
The lightning-speed pace of online content is here to stay, but if quality and relevancy are what we are really getting at, the use of archival content alongside what’s recent is definitely worth considering. Despite what the Internet might try to tell us, the best user experience will come from well-rounded content discovery that places relevancy and context at the top of the priorities list.