Personalization vs. customization

Adrian Holovaty describes the BBC’s ‘intelligent’ design personalization. By keeping track of what links you follow, sections of the home page are given darker backgrounds to draw your attention to those you visit most often. Sounds like a great idea, but I wonder if it is too subtle to work well in practice. Is it better than increasing the number of news items I see on the home page if I always click on the “News” section? How long before every major web site is as personalized as Amazon?

Either way, it’s good news. Web sites that automatically adapt to the user’s browsing habits will succeed over those that need manual customization. Remember the my.yahoo.com and my.netscape.com portals? The personalization burden was placed on the user, and the UI was awkward and limited at best. Those sites need to be smarter. When I go to tv.yahoo.com, the only thing I ever do is click on “show me what’s playing now”. Why not save me a click and put the current TV schedule on the home page, plus a list of shows that I frequently see the detailed descriptions for.

A related article from 1998: Jakob Nielsen’s “Personalization is Over-Rated”.