INTERACTIVE AXIOM #1: The Grand Interactive Order


The User is your King.  You are the subject.  Like it or not the User is in control. The User is the ultimate master. The User is King. Those of us who create interactive experiences must accept our lowly positions in the Grand Interactive Order, serving, amusing, and satisfying; ready and able to wield every ton of technical prowess and creative ingenuity we can muster to completely conform to each user’s unique interest, desire, whim and disposition. To delight the user when she grows bored. To shuttle the user to the very thing she needs or wants instantly- with nary a second spent indulging interests of our own. Don’t bow to this Axiom, and you will fail…

No matter where you sit on the Interactive Content Creator’s side of the table, be you a writer, programmer, advertiser, financier, artist, producer, or huge, really important fortune 500 client who receives deep, humble, bowing greetings from your ad agencies; it doesn’t matter- you beggingly serve the User. You serve your King before all else.

This fact is well understood in certain circles.Entrepreneurs, video game developers, film-makers, writers, product developers, inventors – anyone whose customer is the general public, they tend to understand this rule – even if they don’t fully grasp it’s primal gravity in the Interactive space.

In my experience, the least versed, of course, are advertisers and marketers. For reasons that go to the heart of advertising’s very existance, this mammoth industry struggles to comprehend this most basic of constructs; unthinkingly breaking the rule with virtually every execution, and paying the price for it. (I will detail this condition in future posts.)

The servant who commits the sin of indulging himself, of misdirecting the King even for an instant to satisfy his own “business objectives” or “marketing plan”, spends that instant in polar opposition to the Masters’ interests.It’s simple, don’t do what the Master wants, and your user will simply dismiss you and choose the next servant in line, hoping that this plebe will recognize his true place in the unspoken pact of the Grand Interactive Order.  Interactive Developers, and Marketers are servants, jesters, and monkeys performing for change.We may have no pride or motivation of our own unless we are willing to narrow our Users’ embrace.

Take the classic example of a DVD.  We’ve all had this experience – you insert the DVD, you sit with the remote waiting for the start of the movie, then, uninvited, the FBI Warning appears.  You hit the “skip” button.  …and nothing happens.  You hit it again to discover that your skip functionality has been silently disabled, forcing you to sit through the entirety of the static segment.  It’s happened to you dozens of times, and yet I’m sure we’ll agree, it nevertheless has the effect of raising your blood pressure.  That’s because the 1st Axiom was broken.  You sit there with the unspoken promise of control – and yet that control was wrested away from you – that promise was broken – broken by your servant.  You, the King, were denied, you were forced to submit, to mutedly concede.  And no, yelling at the screen doesn’t count.  Though it’s what I do.  While the feeling is fresh, I would encourage every content developer to consider what promises of control you have broken with your audiences.

The biggest problem with conventional interactive content, the reason that so few interactive pieces satisfy their users and thus ultimately fail to meet business objectives, is that content-creators unthinkingly break this rule every day. Every banner ad, every interstitial, every linear intro, every presumptive registration page, slow download, low resolution video clip, cookie request, virtually everything that we regularly hear users complain about are immediately traceable to a breaking of the Grand Interactive Order. For each of these, in one form or another, represents an action or admission the user must make to conform to the Developer, the Content Creator. And this is the opposite of Interactive truth.

Further, every disruption to the Grand Interactive Order typically falls into one of two categories:

  • Those that demonstrate that the developer is selfish, too directive or self-indulgent. This is commonly the result of traditional, interruptive advertising tactics like banner ads, interstitials, etc. and all ranges of registration barriers, or
  • Those that demonstrate that the developer is weak. Often through experiences marked by low technical quality, poor design and poorly engineered systems resulting in slow processing, slow downloads, poor resolution, confusion etc. Or related, those that demonstrate that the developer is cheap, as through low economic investment resulting in limited user options and insufficient depth and breadth.
As you will hear me repeat in future axiom posts, any of my axioms may be broken- even the Grand Interactive Order- but one must know when one is breaking a rule- especially one as fundamental as this. In this instance, a developer must seek out ways of achieving his objectives even as he pays respect to the developer’s natural, subservient position. Far too few developers acknowledge, let alone respect, the Grand Interactive Order, a mistake that has become the greatest single offender, under the developers’ control, in negatively impacting the using-audiences’ embrace of the Interactive medium at large.

3 Comments INTERACTIVE AXIOM #1: The Grand Interactive Order

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