Transparency and Control

Yesterday I talked about liking the term transparent personalization. But today I’m still mulling it over. Does it mean that we completely see and comprehend the personalization that’s going on? I consider Amazon book recommendations transparent in this way. I can tell Amazon whether or not to include certain purchases in their recommendations, and I […]

Yesterday I talked about liking the term transparent personalization.

But today I’m still mulling it over.

Does it mean that we completely see and comprehend the personalization that’s going on? I consider Amazon book recommendations transparent in this way. I can tell Amazon whether or not to include certain purchases in their recommendations, and I can tell them if I’m not interested in something they recommended.

Or does it mean, by including the word implicitly, that we don’t see how things are recommended to us, and that it’s simply done behind the scenes? I think that many new services are trying to get to this point, but I don’t think that it gives the user enough control, or more to the point, the illusion of control.

If something is transparent, then you don’t see it. However, we often use the term to mean that we see it for what it is, as in “his motives were transparent”.

In my talk about Leveraging the Network I made the mention that users want to be in control. Is there a piece of software that you love that doesn’t give you the feeling of control?

In addition, control is about action, and results of our actions. If we completely release people of their ability to make actionable changes in software, they’ll start to feel like they don’t have control. So let them change things, add things, vote on things. And take those changes into consideration when making recommendations. And then, most importantly, let the user know what you did, and they’ll still feel in control.

We don’t want the Web feeling like TV.

Published: March 5th, 2006

Hi there. So...I'm trying an experiment. I'm experimenting with product design and growth hacking strategies on a new project called What to Wear. It's a super simple service that sends you a daily email containing clothing recommendations based on the weather. My focus is to make it really useful, and it's free to sign up. Let me know what you think!