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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Good or Bad: "Randomizing" Article Links

    I just added a "Section Landing Page" to my website, which lists all of the related "Sub-Sections" for the chosen "Section".

    Each Sub-Section is displayed as a box with two parts.

    On the left hand side is a "Featured Article" which displays a Heading, Thumbnail, and Summary.

    On the right hand side is a list of 5 "Featured Article Links".

    All of these ultimately lead the user to the actual Article itself.

    So on to my question...

    If every time someone visits this page, I change the order of the "Featured Article" and "Featured Article Links", would that be a good or bad thing?!

    My motivation for "randomizing" the order is that it hopefully helps people to see different Article Headings, and thus maybe encourages people to read Articles they may not have seen or paid attention to their first visit.

    If this idea seems legit, I may make it even more sophisticated, but adding "weighting" to each Article, so that *important* ones show up more often as the "Featured Article".

    The only down-side I can see to this, is if a person hit the "Back" button on their browser, it might confuse them if the Article they just saw had moved...

    What do you guys think?!

    Sincerely,


    Debbie

  2. #2
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    Randomizing is not ALL bad. Assuming I had no ACTUAL interest in navigating your site, and ended up there out of mere curiosity. Heck you could get lucky, if am a repeat curious visitor, a random link might pique me. But if I went to to your site out of a deliberate effort to find info, and it just so happen than your random link was related to my search topic (it might never occur to me to book mark THAT link) out of the thought of "hey it's that's site navigation this page I found has the info I need and that OTHER link will be there when I return.. that is until i return and it's not there.. maybe I cant even remember the exact 'title" so as to google site search [see what you are making me have to go through?] for which i will FEEL like your site has good content, too bad i cant find any of it)

    On that same line of thinking "randomly randomizing " content kinda seems to say "looky what or coders can do" but give no reason why they are doing or why the user should care. I you must have dynamically changing navigation, it's best to have a string to follow ( if the site is member-centric, for example the links shoulnt be random, but maybe based on user preferences, or maybe selected based on a record of user searches ala 'viewers who read this also liked'.. but not totally random.. that's only goo for 'proof of concept but have a default order, say chronological, alphabetic.. some ordering system which is universal for non-members ) In short it's a cutesy trick ,that falls short of being relevant, but potentially could be inconvenient for the user.

    Mandatory horror story:
    Home page sliders showcasing a few of the site stories. Generally I don't care for content carousels to begin with , but this one was especially atrocious, as the stories where randomly selected and randomly displayed. Say out of a DB of 1000 stories, 10 stories where chosen randomly, and cycled out of the users control (yup, there were no controls to navigate through the slide show) . So essentially you had to wait until the feature story you wanted to go to showed up again and then you could click to"read more" Worse still, when you went back to the home page thinking you could check out a couple of the other stories of interest you found a new set of 10 random stories. Again: "looked cool, utterly frustrating to use". Avoid anything that will even RESEMBLE this functionality; getting to your content should not be a lottery.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    dresden_phoenix,

    I think I need to clarify, and since "A picture is worth a thousand words"...

    Here is a snapshot of one of my Sub-Sections on my Section landing page...

    Attachment 62209


    As mentioned in my OP, on the left hand side, is a "Featured Article" with Heading, Summary and Thumbnail, and on the right hand side are 4 "Featured Article Links".

    When I was talking about "randomization", I was simply talking about rotating which Article appears as a "Featured Article" from the universe of the 5 Articles listed in said Sub-Section.

    Because things aren't done yet, you can't yet see that in the lower right-hand corner will be a link that says "<< View all MARKET articles >>"


    So, while the "Markets" sub-section may contain hundreds of Articles, the "Sub-Section box" on the "Section landing page" will only ever contain 5 Articles that I decide to be there. (Likely, just the "most recent" or possibly "most important/liked") And I would not expect those to change more than once a week for now.

    Why "randomize" the order?

    Because while the same 5 Articles will always be there - for a given period of time - it is my thought that users are more likely to choose the Article with the Heading/Summary/Thumbnail (i.e. Featured Article) over just the boring "Article Hyperlinks".

    Also, all other things being equal, something as simple as *placement* can make a difference in what gets chosen.

    Statistically speaking - in the thumbnail above - users would choose "Billionaire Paulson Loses More Than $300 Million as Gold Falls" (Top Link) and "Brazil Seeks Higher Power-Auction Rate to Spur Use of Coal" (Bottom Link) over ones in the middle of the pack.

    So by rotating the order, I kind of prod people to check out all 5 Articles *if* they come back to the page another time.


    -----
    To your points above, SURE, if you come back to the Section landing page in a month, you probably will NOT see any of the same Articles, but that would be true for any online newspaper or magazine, right?!

    Hope that clarifies my thinking and intent?

    Sincerely,


    Debbie

    P.S. I am using "Pretty URLs", and so regardless of whether I rotate Article order in my Sub-Sections, or whether an Article doen't "make the cut", and ends up on the Sub-Section landing page - which is another layer deep - all Articles would always retain the following format...

    www.debbie.com/finance/markets/billionaire-paulson-loses-more-than-300-million-as-gold-falls

    ...so that should make everything on my website Bookmark-able and Stable, right??

  4. #4
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dresden_phoenix View Post
    getting to your content should not be a lottery.
    Missed that last line the first time.

    That is HILARIOUS, and so true!!!

    Thanks,


    Debbie

  5. #5
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    ...so that should make everything on my website Bookmark-able and Stable, right??
    it should help , assuming your organizational sys is stable.

    When I was talking about "randomization", I was simply talking about rotating which Article appears as a "Featured Article" from the universe of the 5 Articles listed in said Sub-Section.
    well why didnt you say that in the first place

    Actually, it's still gimmicky, but if its always accessible then it's really not that bad. I will have to say whether it hits with your audience or not will really depend on them. It could have the advantage that it will make them pay attention( since potentially every link in the set could be displayed first), BUT it could also be slightly irksome, if, as I said before someone bookmarks the page as a 'portal' to the other links in your site. There is a book on IU called "don't make me think!!!' , the title pretty much explains the default mentality to expect in a website visitor. Still, since is just 'searching'' among 5 links which are permanently displayed. I dont think that the way you have it set up will make people avoid your site; it's a gamble.. but it may be a good one.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    dresden_phoenix,

    The *key* take-away point is this...

    Each Featured Sub-Section has space for 5 Articles, but only one Articles gets the "honor" of having a short Summary and Thumbnail also displayed.

    So, by rotating the same Articles in a given Sub-Section, each one will eventually get its "60 seconds of fame"!!

    And hopefully that will encourage people to read all 5 Articles in each Sub-Section - assuming they come back multiple times.

    That is what I am shooting for. Not sure how others will take it, though?!

    Sincerely,


    Debbie

  7. #7
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    Um , that's exactly what I said, DD.

    Not sure how others will take it, though?!
    And that why I said it's a 'personal' gamble... depending on the level of "don't make me think-ness" of the individual user, s/he may be amused or irked by the rotating links on each visit. But we all have different tastes and needs and you will never be able to please everybody

    My only (previous concern) was the 5 links were randomly selected the repertoire of ALL marketing articles, but as that is not the case I wouldn't worry about it.

    Summary:

    * A PAGE ( as defined a URL) MUST contain the 'same' content/ link on each visit. If I read about Winnie the Pooh , and saw link1,link2,link3 on debbies.com/page1.html I WILL EXPECT Winnie the Pooh and link1,link2,link3 the next time I visit debbies.com/page1.htm.


    * A PAGE can shuffle, this content around... heck this get done with changes in CSS layout, so reordering these link would have no greater consequence than that. Some people may not like what they decided earlier to be their 'favourite' link isn't at the top. but some people may also not like if you change the bg color. those those matter of taste cant be helped. So seeing : Winnie the Pooh and link2,link3,link1 as opposed Winnie the Pooh and link1,link2,link3 may be way to "jostle" me to read all 3 articles.. OR , it may be slightly inconvenient IF i had book marked debbies.com/page1.htm as a way to have link1,link2,link3 handy. Since I MAY comeback with the expectation of seeing ALL links, in the SAME order when I returned I may be slightly disappointed ( the new order made me STOP and think... i couldn't just click on a location out of rote muscle memory) when they are not . But since all the same info is there .. I'd get over that 'disappointment' quickly.

    * Just to balance out the summary, A PAGE ( as defined a URL) SHOULD NEVER vary the content/ links on each visit. If I read about Winnie the Pooh , and saw link1,link2,link3 on debbies.com/page1.html I WILL BE UTTERLY CONFUSED if I see Tom Waites and link11,link6,link14 the next time I visit debbies.com/page1.htm. (by extension I might STILL be confused if Winnie the pooh is still there , but the nav is now: link11,link6,link14) You can never be certain what part of the content/ or link in an HTML document the visitor values most... for all one know it could be the outbound links and not the main article! But one thing is almost assured, if you remove/replace the part of the document the visitor values most, the visitor won't return.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard DoubleDee's Avatar
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    dresden_phoenix,

    Got it!

    Thanks for all of your feedback!!

    Sincerely,


    Debbie


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