Ben Nadel’s website uses a particular User Experience technique that I think is absolutely brilliant. Let’s call it “names and faces”. The idea was originally in a book “Made to Stick” by Chip & Dan Heath.
Summary of the story:
The Daily Record, founded in 1950 by Hoover Adams, has a simple core idea: local coverage. Adams states, “All of us know that the main reason anybody reads a local newspaper is for local names and pictures.” When asked why the Daily Record has been so successful, Adams replies, “It’s because of three things: Names, names, and names.”
Ben Nadel’s blog design takes this one step further. Whenever you refresh the screen you get a photo of Ben with someone in the Cold Fusion or programming community. They are literally photos of his readers with him giving the traditional “thumbs up”. This technique engages his audience in a way that the content can’t. The experience of Ben’s blog is much better on the site versus in Google Reader. The connection to the people is strong and creates a sense of community.
The use of photography goes further. The image of Ben shrugging his shoulders when no one has commented is really funny and invites that first critical comment.
Clearly, Ben is going out of his way to engage with his audience. You don’t get those photos by staying at home. Being out and about with the community is creating a brand and a small cadre of local fans. By putting the photos online, he is promoting that brand to a wider audience. User Experience is how people interact with what they see and feel. This is a perfect example of how community can be accentuated and used as a strong UX element.