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What online porn can teach us about users.

Recently, I have found myself fascinated with the scale of some things. Such things as Facebook’s release strategy which I find creative and frankly the scale and data behind it is staggering. In this vein, I was reading an article about the real data and scale behind online pornography. Why not? Porn is interesting even if taboo. Although, its certainly coming out into the open more nowadays. This article by Extreme Tech presents some interesting information. Specifically, this got me thinking about the users we design for.

 For a news site like Engadget or ExtremeTech, an average visit is usually between three and six minutes; enough time to read one or two stories. The average time spent on a porn site, however, is between 15 and 20 minutes.

What?! That kind of engagement is almost unheard of. But, it gets better.

The only sites that really come close in term of raw bandwidth are YouTube or Hulu, but even then YouPorn is something like six times larger than Hulu.

 

Survey after survey and study after study show that almost everybody watches porn [1] and the data only backs it up. But porn is a complete cultural taboo. No one wants to talk about or admit to it.

Not surprisingly this tells us an important tale about how people use products and software.  Simply put, what people say and what they do don’t usually match up. We know this,  but constantly I have experienced companies relying on focus groups and user feedback sessions to make hard decisions. Great user experience makes a personal connection. A meaningful connection means addressing real needs and goals.  User testing that records what people do versus what they say is critical in the current landscape. Sure people don’t want to admit to watching porn but is that really so telling?

It’s probably not unrealistic to say that porn makes up 30% of the total data transferred across the internet.

Think about how much data 30% of the total data transferred on the internet represents. That’s quite a lot of not looking at porn. Yet 1 in 4 men maintain that they do not look at porn. [2]
If users are outright lying in the face of heavy data about such a widely shared usage statistic :  think of all the reasons, drives and objectives that we as interface and experience designers are not handling or missing when we simply listen to what users tell us they want or are interested in.

Porn isn’t the only thing people won’t admit to. We design our applications and tools to solve problems and address goals. Our users are the very same people we are talking about. This is more than a common practice, it is a data-set that has huge scale. We have to take into account the things users are not saying.Certainly, I am not saying that all goals are taboo or embrassing. Motivations, reasoning and human problem-solving is subtle and complex. By all accounts and data those unspoken needs are just as substantial as the goals that are out in the open.

 

 SOURCES

[1] http://www.macvideo.tv/encoding/news/?newsId=3212630
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g6gUc1kAVAJwgh8d4bXfOM3VtUPg
http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3540246/Men-view-2-hours-of-porn-a-week.html 

[2]http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/sep/27/family.internet

http://www.extremetech.com/computing/123929-just-how-big-are-porn-sites

 

One Comment

  1. Arttronik says:

    Interesting! Two things: 1. I find it interesting and fun that friends often talk about porn. Its funny how many times this subject has come up and no one has been embarrassed. 2. Site tracking/interest tracking plus porn equals bad…or a nuisance at the lightest. I suggest “incognito mode.” LOL

    Nice blog, Shawn!

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