Session time—the number of minutes a visitor spends interacting with content on a site—used to be the primary benchmark for online success. While it's still an important performance indicator, the quality of interaction has become more important than the quantity. The impact of an eight- or 10-minute session time is decreased dramatically if it's been lengthened by confusing design, poor information architecture or visitors constantly hitting the "back" button in search of content they want. Compounding the problem is the fact that corporate information organically expands more rapidly than it contracts; companies must constantly add new products, services and corporate information as well as drive differentiation with consumable market thought leadership.
The solution isn't to limit content, but to empower visitors to customize their experience and quickly access information specific to their needs. Fortunately, new tools are being developed to aid navigation of muddied digital waters. Content tagging is a growing trend that lets visitors add their own contextual tags to Web site content that instantly categorizes it to their needs. Recent innovations in video tagging—such as the ability to search for a specific word or phrase within a video and jump to it instantly—will allow Web sites to quickly serve up the most relevant information, as identified by user-selected preferences, while still allowing them access to the entire site.
Users are becoming increasingly aware of what constitutes a "good" online experience at an instinctive level. As new forms of rich media become more common, they'll expect and then demand more from content delivery vehicles. No matter how large the site, customizable Web experiences will soon become mandatory to reach savvy Web audiences. Companies that ignore this trend will eventually find their appeal increasingly limited.
Leon Papkoff is chairman-CEO of Design Reactor (www.designreactor.com), a provid- er of integrated digital marketing solutions.