10 June 2008

Web sites that morph to complement individuals' style

Much has been written about a Sloan Management School project to develop web site user interfaces that adapt to users' 'cognitive style' as picked up by their first few clicks (around 10) on the site. So, for example, on a trial marketing site developed for BT, a user with a very analytic approach would get the data sheets (shown left above), someone less analytical would get the advisor interaction (shown right).

Interesting comments in this Technology Review article were that this approach
- could be particularly useful to get users over the problems of limited user interfaces on mobile web sites - by picking up how far the user is prepared to persevere.
- actually defines cognitive style and so differs from existing methods of customising web interactions that rely on similarity between an individual's interactions and others', then presents the individual with options that others have selected.

One thing that worries me about this approach is that people's style may vary from day-to-day, task-to-task (e.g. I rarely scrutinise my utility bills, but occasionally I review what we've been paying, compare with previous years etc.) so there need to be easy routes away from the particular presentation you have been given to what you want at a particular time.

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