December 4, 2002

Secret Garden

Mark Irons has proposed a number of Patterns for Personal Web Sites. Some are old standby's. Some are aspirations, not patterns. But some are intriguing.

Take secret garden:

When your site is large enough that a visitor can't read it in one visit, consider adding some pages that aren't mentioned elsewhere on the site and require some effort (or a little luck) to discover.

These 'hidden' pages form small secret gardens, each of which is reachable only through one seemingly innocuous page.

This is interesting and architectural; we're talking about actual hypertext structures that we can use, actual effects we can enjoy. Commodity, firmness, delight. (Confidential to IAs: yes, this might be an anti-pattern. Bear with me.)

This particular idea mixes together two separate notions: hypertext gardens (organic link structures designed to create experience and to reveal vistas, not merely for efficient access) and enclaves -- places designed to be difficult to access and whose seclusion adds to their delight.

Easter eggs are enclaves. So are Victory Scenes. Sometimes, archives or back issues can be enclaves, too. In fact, entire weblog clusters can present themselves as an enclave, a hidden discourse community.

Why would we want to build an enclave, other than for the sheer delight of its creation? Could enclaves be good business? Yes! Enclaves filter out especially promising customers. If you know people have found the enclave, you know they're motivated, engaged, and have seen a lot of what you offer. Any time you can get your customers and prospects to self-segment, you've got a great opportunity. Enclaves are destinations, at which your visitors arrive after extensive preparation. You know where they've been, and you've had plenty of time to set the mood and to provide motivation, back-story. You've got a good crowd, in short: go to work.