Personalised web spaces are the key to success

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.

2 thoughts on “Personalised web spaces are the key to success”

  1. Hi Graham,

    I love your take on this personalisation concept. Wanted to give you my experience:

    Shameful plug alert:

    My eyes and ears always prick up at the word 'personalised' – because it is the key to success as you say. I've been using a system myself to win business in two different guises for the last 8 years.

    I was figuring out how to get noticed and get cut through in the inbox – when you send a generic weblink to someone, typically it doesn't grab attention. If however you send theweblink/graham-jones – guess what – people see their name in the URL and are a) amazed b) impressed and c) intrigued. As a result of c), clickthrough is pretty much 100% in my experience.

    When they land on their page – it's not a trick, it's a personalised page, written to them, with their name on it – within a generic template. To complete the feedback loop, the creator of the page is alerted via email someone's clicked.

    I was asked a number of times if the system was for sale. So we made it so! was born a few months ago.

    You can see it in action at

    Best wishes,

  2. Carrying on with the theme of selfishness, you can use your customers' self-centredness, not to mention their greed, as certainly a method of getting them on your side. All your marketing communications should be placed in your customers' court, acknowledging their problems before providing the right solution for them. Continuing on with this selfish trait, don't bang on about how wonderful your company is on your website's homepage, you should focus solely on the customer, make them immediately realise this is a website specially created for them (personally), positioning the navigation in such a way they don't have to think what to do next (eg click to go another page to find out more information), and providing all methods of obtaining their needs and desires as efficiently and effectively as possible.

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