Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Law of Requisite Variety

With Cool Hand Luke (see imdb ), “Rabbit gonna run” results in a “Fay-yah to communicate” lecture and thumping from the warden. With web sites, just the opposite: a failure to communicate results in a rabbit gonna run.

In his book "The Social Psychology of Organizing", Karl Weick offers an intriguing insight about communications generally that I think applies with force in Websites where we can’t see the rabbits come and go, except by their abstruse reflections in our web logs. He defines the Law of Requisite Variety:

“the variety in a system [such as a Website] must be at least as great as the environmental variety against which it is attempting to influence.“

For Web site designers, our site must have appeal to our different publics. Weick gives as an example a photographer, and I give a Website Design corollary:

  • A photographer has 5 subjects each at a different distance from the camera.
  • A IMC Website designer has 5 different psychographic segments to reach with the site
  • The photographers camera must have 5 distinct setting to capture all subjects with uniform density and clarity
  • The Website designer must have content for 5 distinct personas and apt navigation for each (as an example see WVU Home Page)
  • If the camera has fewer than 5 settings it lacks requisite variety and will not register with sufficient detail to depict with accuracy
  • If the Website does not have content of relevant interest to the 5 personas some of the visitors will leave in frustration.

Paul Gillin (see Paul's blog) in his excellent book The New Influencers describes an approach for addressing a diverse audience such as a University Website.

My conclusion, the home page is an important traffic cop to direct personas to their appropriate content.

We also need to be a Web boss like at right, because the customer, well he's got rabbit in his blood, and he'll run.

No comments: