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Lessons From the Red Light Web

Lessons From the Red Light Web

Rarely acknowledged by the mainstream, adult and gaming sites collect a healthy percentage of Web traffic and account for a good deal of innovation, too

New Programming Languages

The user experience is central to the success of any site. And so red light sites are trying to find the latest and best programming languages in order to improve the way their sites look and feel.

"Java is really robust," says Bodog founder Ayre. "But it's a pretty expensive development platform. We're starting to see the emergence of a new wave of Web-savvy languages." The one he likes the best right now is Ruby on Rails, an open-source language that was designed to facilitate the development of Web applications with database back ends. "There's nothing that Rails lets us do that we can't do with other tools," says Ayre, "but Rails holds the promise of doing it faster, and the more productive our product development teams are, the more features we can deliver."

Bodog is also moving away from Java toward Flash for online games such as poker. Building the games with Flash means that users can play them without having to download anything. "Downloading is an entry barrier that Flash eliminates," says Ayre. "We know that given a choice, most players will choose a Flash version of a game versus a downloadable one." And now Flash is robust enough that Bodog can build sophisticated games with it.

Personalization and Customization

There are so many different red light sites competing for dollars and eyeballs that the only way to succeed is to build a relationship with the user, and gambling and adult sites have managed to personalize the user experience to an impressive degree.

"Over the last few years we've seen our design team evolve into a user experience department," says Ayre. This group takes into account everything from colour theory to informational hierarchies. For example, one of the first things Bodog learned when it launched the latest version of its site was that people don't like red poker tables. So the company came up with a tool that lets users choose the colour they want their table to be, and traffic picked up.

At Hotmovies.com, IT Director Cybert has built a drag-and-drop tool that lets his customers compile scenes or parts of scenes from their favourite videos. So far, customers have made 4800 compilation movies consisting of more than 350,000 clips.

And not only does the compilation function allow users to create their own highly personalized experience, it gives Hotmovies data on the kind of videos each user is looking for. "You have to understand your audience and give them what they want," says Cybert.

There are also ways to customize a site even if the person visiting has never been there before. Cubik Media uses geotargeting, a technique that locates people based on their IP addresses, to tailor the user experience. At its most basic, geocoding allows Cubik to display the site in the user's native language. But it also presents a chance to localize the site. "Someone from Japan wants to see Asian girls," says Lindberg. "People want an experience that feels like their culture."

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