Thursday, October 16, 2008
Hit count popularity: outting the organisations
Popularity is on of those things that is hard to measure. As children we suspect it has to do with the way you dress, the way you entertain others, or the teachers favourite child. As an adult we measure our popularity by our hit count.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it soon digresses into gimmicks to pull people to the site. Corporations and organisations are especially vulnerable to this form of thought. They think "If people come to our site, they'll stay for our products". So they send out reports on how popular the unique hit list is. What they don't measure, what they can't measure, is how usefully the website is to the people visiting. If a community website is constructed and the goal of the website is to help the community find resources for their schools you would expect those resources to be the most prominent hit spot. But often, in order to increase the numbers, they will add photo galleries, podcasts, and video streaming of community events to pull people to the site. While the community may not visit any other page, they have added to the hit count. Then when its time to publish how popular the site is, they give out numbers that don't reflect how they are actually benefiting the community.
Possibly the most horrific thing that i have heard is from church leaders. In an attempt to get hits on the site up, they instruct others "while in conversations with neighbours, acquaintances, and friends about Christ, direct people to our website to sign up for Bible Studies". No more talk about bringing people to Christ personally, it is now up to their Internet connection to lead them to God. The dangers of this should be clear.
Organisations, specifically not-for-profit, seem to have fallen into the trap of believing that their site should be the Paris Hilton of the virtual world. The drive to pull more visitors might begin as honourable but it soon digresses into being a hit whore. Honour among websites is pretty much unheard of but perhaps it is something that should be strived for.