As I work on edits for my new book, I’m reminded just how easy it is to work in an online space vs. a more traditional model.  With traditional media you have to get things right the first time – at least the first time you send it out into the world. The fact that once a book is published you can’t go back and change an error here or there, or rework a section that, based on reader feedback, might have been better presented in another way or in another place, makes publishing a printed book all that much more difficult.

I’ve been spoiled by the Internet, and I’ve utilized that spoiling to great benefit.  When you’re working in an online space, I recommend you do the same.

The Internet is the place to take risks and make mistakes.  It’s a place with immediate feedback via a multitude of channels, and the opportunity to react instantaneously to that feedback.

For this reason, I urge all of you to start making more mistakes – or at the very least, give yourselves the chance to.

Be daring with the ideas that you have.  Throw them out there and measure the results.  The Internet is constantly evolving, and anything you’re doing on it should be as well.  Set up A/B Split tests and go with what works. The thing is, there’s always the “undo” button (just be sure you’re saving backups).

The adage “measure twice, cut oncedoes not apply in the online marketplace.  Instead, measure constantly, from all angles, and cut (figuratively, or literally) constantly as well.  Be on the quest for user experience nirvana with everything you do, and accept the fact that you’re going to make mistakes along the way.  That’s great – make some mistakes and learn from them.

Focus groups and usability studies and web analytics and customer feedback are all extremely important – and you need to learn from them – but don’t allow them to paralyze you.  Use them to find a weakness, then set yourself on alleviating that weakness.

Be an Internet cowboy and be ready to try something crazy to fix it. If it doesn’t work, put things back the way they were and try again.

The web isn’t the Wild West it used to be, but it still does need more cowboys.

Be an Internet Cowboy
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3 thoughts on “Be an Internet Cowboy

  • March 15, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I totally get and respect what you’re saying, but coming from a strictly journalistic standpoint, I’m disappointed by the web’s tendency to lure people into believing they have the license to publish before honing an idea/story/article. I’m all for the evolution of a product, but it should evolve behind closed doors, so to speak, and then be released into the world. Again, I’m taking a journalistic approach here, but there’s something to be said for doing the work and research necessary to get it right — or as close to right as you can get — BEFORE you hit “publish.” (Point of fact: I just reread that paragraph three times to make sure I was saying what I meant to say before I submitted my comment.)

    And from an artistic standpoint, wouldn’t you say that a creator benefits from being forced to put down the pen/camera/mixing board when putting a finished project out into the world? Look at what Lucas has done to Star Wars (I know, a transparently fanboy reference) since taking the attitude that it’s an evolving body of work. That kind of approach can certainly help an artist’s creative process, but what does it do for the consumer? It can — not always, but often — result in a story/movie/song that’s almost impossible to feel connected to because its identity is always changing.

  • March 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Yes, you are right on everything you said there. What I was referring to in the article was more from a web design and usability standpoint. If you’re reporting something that’s factual or requires research you absolutely should do proper research and honing of the end product before publishing.

  • March 15, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Sorry, dude. I probably should have read a little more closely before parachuting in and getting all self-righteous. I see what you’re saying now.

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