11

Some documentation applications, particularly wikis (including, of course, Wikipedia) have a Random Page function.

My question is - how important and useful is that? Is there any objective data available on how that affects the success of an application?

  • 8
    I think it's just there for fun, and sometimes fun can add to the value of a learning-centric/knowledge-sharing app like a wiki. Not sure how you'd create objective data about it, though. Measure the GPA of students who only read random pages on wikipedia vs. those that didn't? ;) – Rahul Nov 8 '10 at 10:56
10

The following items make a random button more useful:

  • The items are independent - i.e. are "consumed" individually
  • Their relevance doesn't vary by orders of magnitude (averaged over users)
  • casual exploration is a typical use case (is associated with leisure time)

Typical items are:

  • encyclopaedias (including the dead tree editions)
  • funny image / video collections
  • Comics without a strong storyline
  • Song lyrics
  • Tip of the day
9

I don't have any data, but surely it depends on the application.

Wikipedia, being an encyclopaedia, has a "user mode" of "browsing" (if you like) where a user will be using the site in an effectively random mode just following links that take their fancy. In this mode then a "show me a random page" function has real utility.

If however, I was using the site to find some specific piece of information then such a function would be useless and were I to actually click it counter productive.

So if your application has this "browsing" mode then a random function might be useful. I think you'd need to get some usage data to see if that's a valid model.

As an aside Stack Exchange might benefit from such a "Random Question" function to show a random unanswered question. In fact it has already been suggested here

  • 2
    nice answer; I gave you +1 for the incorporation in Stack Exchange... long overdue, I think. – Wikis Nov 8 '10 at 12:39
1

It depends on how much data you have to present. With tv-tropes, it's a beautiful option because there is way too much data to navigate through in a meaningful way, while random browsing usually brings up something interesting.

  • yes, so in this sense just like Wikipedia. – Wikis Nov 9 '10 at 7:21
0

As usual, it all depends on context. If appropriate, a "Random" button adds a nice element of playfulness to the website. If inappropriate, it will distract and confuse.

Perhaps the most famous one is Google's I'm Feeling Lucky button. FWIW, I have never used it, but I have used "random" button on other websites before (can't recall which, sorry) where discovery or learning is involved.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.