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What Faces the Customer

Keep in mind the needs of the customer while you're trying to maintain a scalable, repeatable model. Features and customization must be maximized without taxing the user's system. Another important consideration is to have a simple enough transaction that reliability is not an issue. The more images a page possesses, the longer a page takes to load and the greater the likelihood is that a user will see a broken link—that's far worse than having a less graphical presentation. Figure 2 shows a basic layout for the client data view.

Figure 2 Basic client data display.

The information is passed in a very straightforward manner with all the information that we currently track. If a game is updated on the last check, the background is changed to red. (Keep in mind that I deal only with infrastructure, leaving color matching to others with a better sense of style.)

For a text-only browser, this would be sufficient. Not these days, though, and not for this business model.

In this case, the graphics need not extend past thumbnails identifying the sport and a linked banner of either the site that is hosting our platform or a standard rotating ad banner (see Figure 3). (Did I mention that I don't do interfaces?)

Figure 3 Possible customization of basic client interface.

More importantly, the staff of graphics artists in the customer services division can sit down with anyone from the service company on up to the TV network and create a style sheet that suits them. This offers the capability to customize the graphics as well as the features. Now, two companies can compete: One can offer photos, while the other can have an exclusive contract to offer links to MLB audio Webcasts—both using our product.

Any property of the display is modifiable through two important means. One is customization of the XSL on a per-company basis. This is yet another means of providing a service mentality to our product. The interface served by the sporting goods store need not be the least bit recognizable by someone accustomed to the client from a network. The data infrastructure is one aspect of the service; the data display is another. The referring page to our site not only can be detected, but it also can be stored to provide feedback to the hosting site about just how many of their members access this service and for how long. This provides an additional sales tool.

The second method of customization would be reserved for special partner sites who either pay substantial license fees or provide services such as referring additional customers. This is to reveal the structure of the data and methods to the site creating a sort of application programming interface (API). This is discussed in more detail later.

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