Websites as Performance Art

My team is currently hard at work on re-architecting the Office Developer Center on MSDN and in preparation, we dug through reams of data to help inform decisions around pages and links we’d retain in the new site. Now that we’re down to the brass tacks of creating pages and starting to see the overall site experience start to jell, we’re at the natural part of the project where the anxiety level is starting to creep up.

The anxiety manifests as questions.

Did me make the correct decisions? Were we looking at the right telemetry data? Did we interpret it correctly? Is there any other customer feedback we can get our hands on? Did we overlook any internal stakeholder input? What have we missed? What should a download graphic look like? Am I going to lose my job if we ship this? Who is going to most pissed off that we moved their cheese?

But then I take a deep breath and remind myself that web sites are like performance art. You practice and practice your art in private, and then finally reveal yourself in public. Sometimes you have the right art, in the right place, with the right audience, at the right time, and everything is magical. Or you just bomb, and you head back to the drawing board.

In any event, you adapt and change, hoping for the magic to occur as often as possible.

I still worry about bombing though.

I’m coming to realize that when you’re operating at scale like Microsoft does, and applying the 80/20 rule of targeting the needs of the 80%, that the sheer size of the 20% is a dauntingly large audience.

So we take more deep breaths, and practice, and practice some more. We’re sure you’ll tell us what we did right and what we screwed up.

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