Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Semiotics to the Rescue

I found this article , "More Use RSS Than Have Heard Of It" from ClickZ very interesting, reporting on a survey conducted for Yahoo! by Ipsos Insight. "The number of tech-savvy Internet users who knowingly sign up for RSS syndicated content is only four percent, while another 12 percent are somewhat aware of the term RSS. Twenty-seven percent of adult Internet users access RSS feeds through personalized start pages, though they don't know that's what they're doing on personalized portal pages."

One reason it's interesting to me is that the survey data we're wading through to produce the report (titled The OCLC Report on Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources...still on for release at the end of the month) shows this same odd relationship between use and familiarity in our data. Even though our survey takers all use the Internet, sometimes they report "never have heard of" for things that make us scratch our heads..."they use the web and x% have never heard of email?" What is up with that!?

Well, this report helps me understand why maybe. Even web-savvy users don't always know what the particular service/feature names are, especially if the functionality provided is known by several names (email, chat, IM), or if the discrete function/service is perceived to be part of a bigger whole. And example of this might be "ask an expert" services. If I've sought help from a Lands' End expert while shopping online I might not separate that bit of the process from the process as a whole. So, on a survey I might answer, "yes, I have shopped online," but answer "no, I have not used an ask-an-expert service."

The converse is true too...a brand name such as Kleenex, Xerox or Google comes to "stand in" for the entire use category, as in: Hand me a kleenex please, I'll just xerox that for you, Did you google her?

This article and the data from our survey suggests to me that there is a lot of thinking and testing that needs to be done to determine what we call resources and services we offer over the Web...or whether in some cases we don't call them anything and embed them seamlessly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can vouch for the validity of this observation. I was one of those people. I didn't know the MyYahoo! service was an RSS aggregator until I went to an RSS workshop and heard it so described. Since then, I've noticed RSS features in several other "customizable pages" I use.