The Power of Interactivity

Since people experience their lives through interactivity, it is little wonder that we respond with the most interest and comfort when our Internet experiences feel interactive as well. Interactivity plays an important role in conversion on the web. As web technology increases, along with Internet usage, it is crucial to consider if your web site is taking advantage of today's opportunities to interact with prospects and customers.

Interactivity is a very broad term and used with great liberty online. Ultimately it refers to the process by which a user initiates an action and receives a response based on that action.

An action often is prompted by a thought or emotion, which creates an expectation for a specific response. Should the response be as desired, the experience is positive. A positive experience naturally leads to satisfaction with the action taken, and a willingness to take additional steps. This is why interactivity is so crucial to conversion!

Yet to really "feel" interactive, the reaction must occur the way it does in the real world - in real time. According to research by usability guru Jacob Nielson, a delay in an event must be no more than one second in order to be perceived as being interactive. For response to "feel" instant, the reaction must be delayed by no more than one tenth of one second.

Therefore, when we turn the door knob, we expect the door to open instantly - not in 10 seconds. When we press a key on the keyboard, we expect the typed letter to appear on the screen immediately, not five seconds later.

This creates an interesting dilemma online, where interactivity is delivered as packets traveling hundreds and thousands of miles across an Internet backbone, and possibly even through a 56k modem on a telephone line. In other words, actions on the Internet are much slower than in real life!

Yet there exists an opportunity for marketers to address this issue using tools and methods such as:

  • Utilizing waiting time effectively
  • Creating response times that are closer to real life by using streaming media
  • Programming into the response times a certain sequence and order that creates the illusion of instant interactivity

While all the above can contribute to a highly responsive user experience, the one that can create the most impact in that arena is the creation of streaming content such as flash. Flash not only allows streaming informational content, which optimizes download time for larger files, but it can also easily add interactivity to the presentation without significantly affecting file size. Additionally, a properly planned flash interface can load all needed components incrementally, and in sequence, without the user ever suspecting that anything is missing. This creates an interactive experience that feels instantaneous.

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