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Personalisation : Other Strategies
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Introduction

Personalization : Other Strategies

 

Published 12/20/01

Introduction

You've probably read my last article on the subject and may have been thinking that there must be more that you can do in ASP than just that. Well there is. Here are some of the other ways to personalize to suit the user.

Re-organisation

Re-Organization

This lets the user move the items around a bit. Eg.

From -

To -

However, you should be careful with this method, as the user may chose to put Technology in the left-hand column which would mess, up the page design. You'll actually find it quite easy to integrate this method into yesterday's article. It just required adding a few radio buttons, a bit of JavaScript (for accident prevention) and a change in the ASP code (as well as the personalization string).

Collapsing Sections

Collapsing Sections

This one is a bit harder to implement. It allows the user to collapse the sections (they can also remove them as well if you integrate it into yesterday's code). Eg.

From -

Click on the [Collapse] to go to -

This one is also quite simple. It would require setting up some more session variables for each section, which tell the ASP which areas are collapsed. You would also create a few new subs for just the headers of the sections and subs for the body/content.

Design Templates

Design Templates

This lets the user chose their own color scheme, fonts etc. and apply it to the site. Eg.

Using something like this -

To Enable something like this (using the Black scheme) -

(The items aren't very clear because I saved it at very low quality JPEG. In real life, its very clear).

To to this, you would save several schemes in a CSS file or put them as strings in an include file. Then you would just need to save the scheme name that the user selected to a new session variable and then implement the right CSS style on the page.

As I mentioned you could let the user chose a font, font size or even layout templates as well as color.

External Content

External Content

With new things like ASP.NET and Web Services, its now very easy to incorporate content from other places into your page. You can currently do it on non-ASP pages too with JavaScript.

Using this you can create a kind of portal page (like MyYahoo! or Netscape.net). These types of portals usually get users to come back often because of the variety of content available on the page and their ability to customize it.

Using a Database or Cookies

Using a Database/Cookies

After implementing all of this personalization, its wasted if a user goes away, comes back and sees it all gone. Usually sites will store the necessary information in a cookie on the user's machine to keep track of their preferences (and we all know what other little things we can get cookies to do). You can also store all/some of the data in a database of users. You can also use both, one as a back-up or a reference code (for multiple users on the same machine), or behind-the-scenes customization for recommendations etc. If you use it right, you can have a very powerful tool for helping the user as well as spying on them ; )

Summary

Other Personalization

There are a few other ways that you can personalize to the user. Simple things like greeting by name and offering recommendations (amazon.com uses this). Allowing them to upload a picture of themselves (for the page) or their own background can also help. You should be able to guess how to implement these because they all are quite simple to do. In today's internet (where money is everything), getting a user to come back to your site because they like the way it looks and feels is very good (depending on the orientation of your site) and personalization with ASP is a great way to do it.


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