Disintermediation is the Friend of a Good Website

dis·in·ter·me·di·a·tion [dis-ˌin-tər-ˌmē-dē-ˈā-shən]
According to Wikipedia, disintermediation is the removal of intermediaries in a supply chain: “cutting out the middleman”.

This morning I ascended the bully pulpit and gave our team a speech as to why our OneStop pages are an order of magnitude more popular than other pages we produce. (We produce pages for different sites/user communities including the public, partners, and sales people.)

As I’ve written about, prior, people like OneStop because the content is complete, accurate, up to date, and is in a consistent format. Easy enough, right? Not really. The question is, what ingredients are necessary, in the secret sauce, to produce this quality content?

The page(s) need to be owned by the content expert, or minimally some who is well versed in the content AND in the needs and expectations of the users. On OneStop we have the person’s name, picture, and country flag on the page. The quality of the page is a direct reflection of the author.

Most of the sites our group works with are based on a structured update process. The content creator needs to submit a request with the update. It then goes through a couple of people for approval on correctness and completeness, and then goes to a web person for posting. This process can be time consuming, and often something is lost in translation. On OneStop the owner does the actual posting. The corollary to this rule is that it Needs to be Easy.

The owner needs to be a user
The best pages are the ones that the owner uses every day. This is the only was to get a gut feel for whether the page works. Are the items in the right order? Is it easy to find the highest priority items? Are there bad links? Is response time fast? Is the page always available? Many of the best pages on OneStop are authored by SEs. As SEs talk to customers every day, and use OneStop to look up information to support these customers, they can do an optimal job of creating a page that is useful for other SEs.

Needs to pass the what’s in it for me test

It can be a decent amount of work to maintain a popular OneStop page. Having an author’s name and picture featured prominently on the page gives credit where credit is due. Note that in a intermediated site the content contributor is often invisible.

Working feedback loop

I’m a glutton for feedback. [Particularly positive feedback. :) ] Bloggers are heavily reliant on comments and stats, often via google analytics. Internal content contributors often aren’t so lucky. On OneStop we make a big effort to make as much data as possible easy available. I think of it as positive reinforcement.

Ask the users
On OneStop it is necessary to login, so we know who views, updates, and comments on a page.
In my experience, users love when you reach out to them. It shows you care and want to increase the quality and effectiveness of the page. There is always what I call a gem in the responses, a really good idea that you can readily implement.

As a closing thought, I like to emphasize people over tools and mechanism. It’s not that I don’t like mechanism, I’m a huge google fan (search, gmail, talk, reader, docs, etc.) However, I’d bet dollars to donuts that the developers use almost all the tools – on a daily basis – to do their jobs. See owner needs to be a user above.