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Avoiding the geek trap

Josh Kopelman has an interesting post where he talk about companies that target a very early adopter community of ‘Web 2.0 geeks.’

As Zopa’s resident geek, this struck a cord. I love finding great new web sites, like Pandora, or Zillow, or Flickr. But how many of our members use them as well?

Josh’s post raises the issue of designing for the early adoptors…and whether by doing so, a company runs the risk of alienating mainstream consumer.

Zopa definitely has a core of early adoptors – we did a survey about 6 months ago, and we asked a sample of our base whether they used various web sites or web technologies (RSS, blogs, eBay etc) – and I was astonished at how tech savvy many of our members were.

The challenge for Zopa, and any other Web 2.0 company, is to move beyond this early core, and attract a more mass market crowd…but to do so in a way that doesn’t ‘dumb down’ too much for the geeks.

We’re doing it through research – both with a mainstream audience and some of our most active members, and as a result we’re trying very hard to build a web site that balances both needs.

Our aim is a site that offers two levels of interaction with Zopa. A very simple, quick and easy route to lend (or borrow – although we’re focused on lending really here), and a much more involved route – with access to data, RSS feeds, analytical tools etc.

This isn’t something we can do in an afternoon, but you should see the signs gradually over the coming months. Let us know how we’re doing, and please, if you think we’re about to fall into the chasm, throw us a rope.