Innovation comes from many places, but it should be measured everywhere

Innovation is one of the buzzwords of the Media Industry. “We need to do more innovation”, “Innovation is one of our key assets”, “We need to bolster innovation” and so on are some of the catchphrases that are heard in our modern New Media cubicles and Web 2.0 meeting rooms.

The issue is obviously the focus of zillions of books, experts and analysts and is constantly being discussed by “experts” around the globe.

Recently some insightful fruit has dropped from the Web tree, in the form of the ‘11 innovation lessons from Blizzard‘ lessons consolidation article published on the Inside Innovation blog.

Quite interesting and to the point indeed, without any unecessary cruft or embellishment. There are a number of very relevant pieces of advice, too long to cover on a blog entry.

However, I would like to stress one in particular, namely “Statistics Bolster Experience”. That is highlighted in the article but it should deserve one on its own. In my years of working in the media business whenever any kind of metric of success -no matter how relative-, has been put in place it has been a invaluable tool to actually achieve that particular project objectives. Actually, these stats help the project managers know when to stop working on it, which I would say it is equally as important if not more.

It also shows when objective and trivial to acquire metrics are plainly ignored. Recently I paid a visit to a friend‘s office and we discussed Web design, CSS implementation and the importance of page weight. As a random exercise, we fired up the debug menu in Safari and examined the different loading sequences and rendering times of a number of sites.

We visited a site which shall go unnamed, but the main page did amount to more than 2.1MB! And that without any embedded video loading. Such a thing should never have made it live to clog the pipes of the net. In developing a professional Web page or portal, it would be very helpful to keep track of page weight as new features and content are added to pages. Just stick it into an Excel spreadsheet or Google spreadsheet or whatever.

Use simple metrics and breakdowns, for instance the different types listed by Safari should be okay: Total Size, Documents, Stylesheets, Images, Scripts and Other. Add average total loading time with cache turned off by firing the browser 4 times or so. Automate the process for extra karma points if you like.

Build a graph over time and note where major features were added, removed, optimisations made, etc. Once it starts to develop, the relevant questions will start to pop up in design meetings. “Does this feature really belong in the home page? Perhaps it would be better on a dedicated section…? Actually, we should set up a ballpark total weight target… Not that it should be an absolute figure but more of a set of ranges. Actually, can we measure some sites we like, to get an idea of reasonable figures…”. Behold! Reasonable discussion backed with real world data! Beware of unsubstantiated “opinions”!

Blizzard are showing their wisdom here by having stats part of their development cycle. Measure, graph, visualize, print or draw it on a board and watch the positive feedback cycle unravel… You will never look back.