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12/12/2008 A Web of Value Transactions

I was having a conversation yesterday with a woman who’s been in the interactive industry for a long time. She talked a lot about conversions and the break down of traditional sales transactions and such. She reminded me of conversations I used to have a long time ago about interactivity.

Digital and interactivity are really a series of value propositions, or value transactions. The Web says, “If you click here, I’ll give you something you want.” We build entire Web sites, display ads and search based on this promise. If you give me something I value (a click or whatever), I’ll give you something valuable in return.

And it’s the one thing that breaks down first. That's because, usually, there’s not much value once you click. Too much work, not enough reward. It’s true with Web navigation and content, and it’s especially true with display advertising. One of the places where we see the value transaction out of whack is on registration pages to download something form, or the contact form. Companies ask us to give a lot of information about ourselves for a pretty vague promise of something good.

David Armano hits the nail on the head in his blog entry about Micro Interactions + Direct Engagement. The value transaction is much easier and much less risky when it’s smaller and provides more control to the customer. Its smart thinking: A lot of little steps are easier to build value upon rather than one big transaction. It’s also easier to correct if you make a mistake.

It’s also why things like Rich Media banners work better than regular display banners: a rollover has a low transaction value compared with a click to take you away. It’s why Twitter is working better than company discussion boards: it’s easier.

Video and computer games have always been wildly popular because they are one long stream of great value transactions. I do something and I get something. Immediately. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose. But I know that all of those small steps lead up to what I want. Both game and player are clear about the value propositions.

Bigger Web sites, on the other hand, will always seem challenging when navigating to value. Maybe its because site owners and site users are not in agreement about the value proposition. The biggest question to ask is whether all that content really is that valuable. If it costs me a click and provides me with nothing I want, I’m not going to be clicking on your site for long.

Let’s start looking at all of our desired actions as micro transactions and make sure there’s real value for everyone. And if we can make it more enjoyable and game-like, well okay by me.


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