Visitorville: A 3D view of website traffic

Today’s top video-game designer are masters at visualizing information. Every time I buy a new piece of software or use a new website and discover that it’s got a horrid, horrid user interface, I always think — why didn’t they hire a good game designer to do this? The best games are superb at collating massive amounts of information and quickly displaying them in psychologically nuanced ways, rendering rapidly-changing streams of data — your health, your speed, your location, dialogue — as twinkling, glanceable ambient icons. Much like a superbly designed car dashboard, a good video-game display brings Edward Tuftean concision to the art of visualizing information.

Thus I was intrigued to hear about Visitorville — an application that takes a website’s traffic information and renders it as a Sim-City-like world, where each page in a site is a building, and visitors appear as human avatars that travel to and fro. As the Visitorville site describes it:

Buses deliver your visitors to their landing pages. There’s a bus for every major search engine; plus, you can create your own custom buses for any other referrer!

Watch realistic-looking people move around your page. Different avatars exist depending on the type of visitor (commercial, academic, military, etc.).

To move between pages, your visitors take taxis, ambulances, fire trucks — or any other vehicle you like. They each have their own distinctive sound, so you can alert yourself when a particular page is accessed (or even a particular person accessing a page!)

Pretty cool. Though it’d be even cooler to have the reverse: A java application that takes your web site and renders it as a 3D city, so that visitors navigate it like a game inside their web browsers.

(Thanks to Roger Spence for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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