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Hypergene MediaBlog » A cautionary example for personalized sites

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Thursday, 12 Feb 2004

A cautionary example for personalized sites

A few years ago in our book, Designing Web Sites That Sell, we discussed some of the pitfalls of dynamic, personalized sites. The example was one that showed the inherent risks of, say, truncating a particular person’s name.

Since then, we were unable to reproduce the problem we highlighted in the book. Until, today:

image

Notice that Christopher, has become truncated to read as “Christ”. If you don’t think your site is immune to such unintended consequences, think again. Early last summer, in a well-publicized gaff in the New York Post site (publicized mostly by rival The New York Times), ran a story about a murderer who put his victims body parts into a suitcase. Google’s newly launched AdSense service dutifully scoured the page for words that might hint at the best text ads to present on the page. Unfortunately, it chose luggage dealers.

More recently, we’ve seen drug ads pop up next to Rush Limbaugh stories and pierced jewelry next to Janet Jackson pieces.

Advice: Dynamic, personalized sites or targeted ads can lead to some sort of embarrassment. Sites should:
a. limit the amount of unnecessary “personalization”
b. make a clear distinction between news content and everything else
c. create exception engines to prevent these types of problems

Posted on Feb 12, 2004 | 8:00 am EST
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