It's really this cultivation of quality and craftsmanship, purposefully designed to deliver the utmost user experience for the given content, which will enable profitability in the years to come. With so many choices available to our customer base — and such little incentive to have to purchase our products when we're so good about giving them away for free — old school "casual design and execution" approaches no longer cut the cake.
And nowhere is this more evident than in the details.
This can range from the simplistic, such as putting redundant navigational text links at the bottom of a webpage and using a site map to ease visitor's content quests, to the more advanced "relational interaction" features of some sites that provide "valid" links to "other titles that viewers of this video enjoyed" — and not just random affiliate links.
These little touches can also come from unexpected places and from beyond the site owner's control or direction.
For example, I recently evaluated the user experience of several popular 'tube' sites, comparing them to the TGPs and MGPs that I prefer as a consumer. While I have mixed feelings about the way tubes offer their content, including the ancillary information such as "user" ratings, I was stopped in my tracks by an entertaining video clip. While the clip's preview image is what had initially caught my attention, it was one of the brief comments on the clip posted by another user that pushed my buttons:
The comment was a simple one-liner, but such an entertaining turn of a phrase that it pushed my buttons enough for me to let this 20-minute video clip run in its entirety on my number two monitor; just to see if what he said was the same thing I'd notice. It was, and I was happy.
But I still prefer a good no-skim gallery post for a free porn fix…
And therein lays another good point: just because the webmaster board buzz du jour may currently favor one marketing approach over another, it certainly doesn't mean that every last consumer agrees.
Back to the tube example, I tend to think that it wasn't "longer movies" that attracted many surfers to tubes instead of MGPs — it was a combination of the "gee whiz, a porn version of YouTube!" curiosity and the fact that tubes weren't doing blind trades the way MGPs tend to do. This practice alienated many MGP's user bases by repeatedly sending visitors to unexpected and unwanted destinations.
As a result, many avid surfers were willing to trade their ability to download and keep video clips for a safer "what you click on is what you get" website user experience — which goes a long way towards explaining the shifting usage from MGPs to tubes.
As the top tube competition heats up and more of these sites go to blind trades to maintain their traffic levels, however, you'll likely see a resurgence of gallery posts — which could then retain returning surfers by moderating their traffic trading methods.
Why? Look at it from the punter's point of view: if you're searching for free porn, you're likely trying to satisfy a particular desire. A page with 100 big, clear thumbs gives you 100 chances to easily find what you want — with archive pages giving even more chances. Typical tube sites show significantly fewer thumbs — and thus fewer content choices per page — than do most gallery posts. This is partly the result of the first adult tubes and their cloning of YouTube's look and feel; and partly the result of the wave of "me too" webmasters to follow them, cloning the first wave's look and feel.
While YouTube is great at what it does, it wasn't intended to be an efficient free porn distribution mechanism and that fact provides a great example of how stealing, or should I say "being inspired by" someone else's successful business plan and trade dress won't necessarily make YOUR business as successful or appealing.
A good gallery post offers as many free clips as any tube site, is as categorized and searchable, and ultimately "satisfying" to the viewer — but IMHO, the gallery post has a distinct visual advantage, presentation-wise.
I also like my Windows Media Player and prefer to watch a high-quality downloaded WMV file over watching an embedded Flash movie that I can't download to own — no matter how fancy or feature-laden the custom Flash player may be.
Sure, much of what I'm opining on here is purely my personal preference; but that's my point entirely — your prospects are making impulsive, emotional decisions based upon their own psychology, wants, needs and desires. By understanding those desires, or at least being aware that they exist and how they can dramatically impact your sales, you can incorporate this information into your business plan and be ahead of the game.
But to master the game will require careful attention to the little things; including those easily overlooked "emotional button pushers" that will make one busy webmaster watch a 20 minute porno flick — and make another viewer pull out his wallet and join a pay site — even if it's the users of your website that are adding those special touches...