AUSTN, Texas—A mainstream marketing guru took to a SXSW stage in Austin Monday to talk about porn. If that sounds odd, it should not; mainstreamers like Steve Johnson, who plies his expertise in user experience design at Blast Radius, a cutting-edge marketing agency with offices in twelve countries around the globe, often recognize porn as a harbinger of change and laboratory of innovation. The session was titled Relieving Frustration: Porn and User Experience.
Another marketing company, Wunderman, posted up a conversation with Johnson about his first-ever appearance at SXSW and the topic at hand, and we reprint a few excerpts.
How surprised do you think people will be to learn of the influence porn sites have on UXD [User Experience Design]?
Johnson: In the past, porn sites were not particularly well designed from a UX perspective; they didn't need to be. The content basically sold itself. Things are changing though. The pressures of piracy, user-uploaded content and broader public acceptance are pushing the industry to start innovating and providing better experiences. In my talk I look at the sites that are beginning to innovate and how those innovations can help us create more engaging experiences for our consumers.
What is it about porn sites that helps them stay at the forefront of digital innovation? How can other sites emulate this?
Johnson: The porn industry has had a unique set of constraints, unlike many other industries. Social stigma, regulations and the users’ desire for increasingly engaging content, just to name a few, have all shaped the industry. To survive under these conditions, the industry has had to be nimble and branch out into new technologies and experiences before their competition or regulators. We learn from the porn industry the importance of understanding users’ changing needs and quickly moving to address them.
What digital innovations have come out of the porn industry that have shaped non-porn sites’ approach?
Johnson: While I don't go into this question deeply within my talk, the porn industry was a strong influence in the adoption of video-streaming technology and secure private payment, and many of their “black hat” SEO tricks have definitely shaped the ongoing development of search engines.
The entire conversation can be read here.