Your website should appeal to selfishnessThe “Fat Cats” are back it seems; the latest figures on the FTSE100 shows that the bonus culture never really went away. Many bosses are paying themselves handsome salaries, even though some of their colleagues in the top firms are showing some restraint. They may need to, because today sees the start of the Annual Trades Union Congress in Manchester where union members will get to vote on a programme of “civil disobedience” because they don’t want the Government to make any cuts. Deep down, both the “Fat Cats” and the “Red Kens” believe in the same thing – themselves. Essentially, it is all “me, me, me”. Naturally, neither would publicly agree – and many would say this is nonsense. But, ultimately people want as much money as they can get for themselves. Selfishness is a massive and consistent human trait.

So it is fascinating to see new research from the University of Exeter which shows that when people are allowed to be selfish at work, their productivity goes up by 32%. The study found that when office workers were given the freedom to personalise their workspace, to arrange it exactly as they wanted they were much happier at work and as a result did more. When there were restrictions, when people were forced into rigid rules, guess what? Yes, their productivity was lower. In other words, if we pander to selfishness we actually increase success.

It is likely the same “rule” applies online. Take Amazon as an example – it produces an income of almost $30bn a year, yet no-one has the same experience of Amazon as anyone else. Everything is personalised. Indeed, many people use Amazon in completely different ways to others. Some only use the search box, others go straight to the relevant department and others merely use the email recommendations. Amazon has succeeded by providing huge flexibility and personalisation – appealing to our selfishness.

Similarly, Facebook is intensely personal. We can adapt it, change it, add to it in all sorts of ways, meaning the way I use Facebook is probably vastly different to the way you do.

And how selfish are you in your car? Don’t you just hate it when your partner has borrowed your car and changed the channels on the radio, or adjusted the seat to suit them? Gosh! It is so annoying…!

So, the question has to be asked, how much can your website visitors be “selfish” with your website? Can they personalise it? Can they experience it in different ways to other people? I know people who read this blog who never actually visit my website; they get the material via email because that’s the way THEY want it. Others, take the RSS feed and look at it on their iPhone. And some, come back to the website each day. It’s only a small amount of personalisation – and I have a long way to go on this myself I admit – but even this small degree of making things available the way individuals want them can help.

Is your website content available in different formats? Can people access your material in a variety of ways? Can they be selfish with your pages? If they can’t – even if it’s as simple as not providing an RSS feed – then you may not be appealing enough to the human desire to personalise the world around them. Take a look at the world’s most successful websites and you find a common theme – personalisation. Just like those “Fat Cats” and “Red Kens” website visitors are, at heart, selfish. Appeal to that and you will succeed online.

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