We had a discussion on the different types of customization:
- Change the style sheet of a page/site to provide a specific theme or look and feel.
- Add/remove/rearrange existing content, e.g., via Greasemonkey or Platypus.
- Bookmarklets to add other functionality through browser bookmarks.
- Create custom aggregation of data from multiple sources, e.g. NetVibes and other portals; most mashups fall into this category.
- Create new data or services.
This led to a discussion of the spectrum of tailoring activities that could be done: customizing (transformation of existing data), integrating (aggregating data from multiple sources), and developing code (creating new data/services). We also touched on the difficulties caused by tailoring, such as cross-platform incompatibilities, but also the end-user support problem when all end users can potentially have environments that look and act differently from each other and from the people who are supposed to be supporting them.
A key issue raised from this is what the current generation of customizable software (e.g., Firefox) does with respect to raising the expectations of what should be customizable and how difficult should it be. This general expectation-raising of Web 2.0 and related technologies has a big impact on enterprises as their internal users and external customers start to expect that the organization’s software will be just as flexible in terms of customizing the user experience.
We finished up by talking about how customizations are shared between people, and potentially become common usage within a larger group. This is less about client-side customization than user experience customization, and the ability to share an experience that you create: the web equivalent of redecorating your apartment, then inviting your friends over to check it out. Like (personal) blogging and sharing playlists on iTunes, it’s a way to put a bit of yourself out there for your friends — or complete strangers — to experience.