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Why Are Web Sites So Confusing?

Andrei Hagiu assistant professor in the Strategy unit at Harvard Business School tries to rationalize why websites are so confusing:

“Thus, consumers coming to the supermarket to buy daily staples (say, bread and milk) might be induced to also get expensive chocolate if they have to walk past the corresponding aisle anyway. Shoppers visiting a mall for its anchor store (say, Macy’s) may decide to stop by a small design store while walking around the mall. And while flipping through the pages of a magazine in search of the article promised on the cover, readers are exposed to advertising, which produces most of the revenues.”

“In the same way, Google faces a subtle issue in designing its search result pages: consumers are mostly interested in the “objective” (i.e., middle) search results, but all revenues come from the sponsored search ads on the right hand side. The result is a compromise between what users want and what produces more revenues. For any given search, the 11th objective search result might be more relevant than any of the sponsored search results displayed on the right; yet it will be displayed on the second search page only—well beyond the reach of most users.”

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