Monthly Archives: January 2006

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Four Home Page Goals

The home page of a website is different than any other page of the site, and it has specific needs it needs to fulfill.

Web Design site A List Apart has a new article about Home Page Goals. It’s a good article because it doesn’t overwhelm you with things to think about for the home page. The four goals are:

  1. Answer the question, “What is this place?” – A must for new visitors, it’s your chance to make a good first impression and make it clear to your visitor what your site is about before they hit the back button.
  2. Don’t get in the repeat visitor’s way – They point out Flickr as a good example of providing a different home page for a user if they are logged in or not. What a simple and good idea that is in order to achieve the repeat user’s goals. Are your repeat users able to use your front page quickly?
  3. Show what’s new – New visitors won’t know or care what’s new, but repeat visitors don’t want to waste any time trying to find out.
  4. Provide consistent, reliable global navigation – This is a goal I agree with in general, but I must say I’ve seen some home pages that did have different navigation that wasn’t globally on the site that worked. And it worked through testing results with analytics as well. Which brings me to my own bonus goal to add on this article:
  5. Test Everything – Test your first site home page design, then change some things and keep testing. You’ll often be surprised at the results.

Off To New York

I’ll be jumping on the plane with six coworkers in the morning to head to New York for some product meetings about the new advertising web application we’re developing. Unlike the normal trip, we might actually try to do some tourist activities this time like see a Broadway show or something fancy like that. Or we’ll just work and crash. Either way, it’ll be fun.

The Background of Delicious

If you use del.icio.us, this background article about Joshua Schacter and how he came up with the idea is a good read.

Flipping the Funnel eBook from Seth Godin

I just finished reading the new free ebook from Seth Godin called Flipping the Funnel. While it’s obvious his motives are to promote Squidoo’s value and uses, he points out the phenomenon that’s currently starting to be understood more and more by companies and bloggers. That phenomenon is using new social tools to help promote your company.

It’s really caught on with the smart bloggers. They are now specifically creating posts with the thought in mind that they want their post to get tagged by del.icio.us users, dug lots on Digg, and linked to from bloggers everywhere. You even see links at their bottom of their posts (such as mine) inviting their readers to post their articles to these various sites.

For people who are aware of this concept, Seth’s ebook isn’t going to tell you anything you don’t know, he writes about it in simple ways as an introduction to a non-clued in audience. Keeping that in mind, I think it’s a good free ebook for that audience. Pass it along if you’ve got some people in your organization who don’t get the “empowering your customers with tools” idea that’s working so well for people today. Seth also wrote custom versions for politicians and non-profits.

His discussion of Squidoo is interesting. I like the concept, and I’ve even made a lens. I don’t know yet though if I’d want to spend the time to promote there yet without there being much of a traffic payoff. I think Squidoo can get there, but I don’t know that they are there yet. However, this graphic showing their Alexa rating vs. Ford.com sure shows you the power of word of mouth and the blog/web 2.0 world.

Squidoo vs. Ford

Online Media Auction Services Already Exist

MediaDailyNews had a recent article about eBay pitching an online auction for media service to a group of large advertisers. The article is written as if such a service doesn’t exist, yet it already does. We’ve had our online media auction service running for quite a while now at Right Media, and it’s not that small as it’s running 35 billion online media impressions per month now.

As our CEO Mike Walrath pointed out in his comments about the article, perhaps we weren’t mentioned or the idea seems new because we’ve been flying under the radar and haven’t been doing any marketing or public relations. That’s okay, there comes a point when you can’t be ignored, and any discussion about auctioning media is good as it’s more efficient than the traditional ways online media has been bought and sold.

Rumors Swirling That Yahoo Will Buy Digg

Rumors are swirling that Yahoo is going to acquire Digg. I’ve already seen two posts saying they’ve heard it’s in the 30-50 million range.

We’ll probably see in the next few weeks whether or not it’s true. If so, it would fit with Yahoo’s recent strategy of acquiring the leaders in various Web 2.0 spaces such as Flickr, del.icio.us, and Upcoming.org.

The question becomes, what is Yahoo’s strategy here? There hasn’t been much noticeable change in the services they’ve acquired. Yahoo has publicly said they’ve been interested in the people working for these companies and having them help “socialize” Yahoo. I’m not sure there’s anything noticeable there yet either, unless it’s all still in the works. Are some bright minds worth the prices being paid? I’m not sure Digg really has a ton of great technology, and are userbases that valuable? Couldn’t Yahoo build a similar service? It wouldn’t be as authentic as Digg, but it just makes you wonder if they can get 30-50 million of value out of it. However, this is all specualtion until it happens.

Google is Dominant, Yahoo Giving Up

Wow. Bloomberg reports that Yahoo has basically given up on being #1 in search, surrendering to Google.

How demoralizing is that news to their search development team? While it may be true, it seems like to achieve the most they could, Yahoo is selling itself short in just giving up to Google. Companies aren’t usually #1 forever, it’s not like Google is the first company that can’t be toppled.

It is a sign though at how powerful and successful Google is and how ingrained they are in our collective search psyche. Yahoo has been trying for years, and is just losing ground. At some point I think someone will come along who looks at search in an entirely different and better way. But it appears that just trying to emulate Google isn’t going to work.

Open Email

This is an interesting idea from Biz Stone. Imagine an email service where everything was open. Obviously, private information for the most part wouldn’t be shared, but there’d be many interesting things that could crop out of such a service.

People are becoming more comfortable by the day sharing parts of their online lives with friends and strangers. They’re sharing their music, their bookmarks, their news, their friends, their reviews, their thoughts, their RSS feeds, their video, and their pictures. Why not email?

What Makes An Application Useful

As I continue to try out web applications and work on building one, I’ve become curious as to what the main factors are that make people not only try out a web app, but that make them continue to use it and tell others about it. What really drives this curiousity is that I’ve tried out applications that I think are very well made and useful, and then I never use them or really think about them ever again.

An example of this is that I try out sites like Newsvine, Blinklist, Digg, Reddit, Wink, Ning, nd Squidoo, I find myself thinking they are nicely designed and have some real utility. But, I find myself not going back to them at all on my own. I really only go back if I see a blog post mentioning them again. On the other hand, I try out applications like del.icio.us, Last.fm, Flickr, YouTube, Voo2Do, and Memeorandum, and continue to use them constantly. What’s the difference in what I do and don’t like? Am I alone or do other people have similar reactions? I know some of the sites I’ve tried like Digg are immensely popular, so what am I missing?

Utility
I think a big key to having a useful web application is for it to have utility. It needs a purpose and to get something useful done. Applications which just provide entertainment are hard to pull off with such a busy society. It’s amazing that Myspace has taken off like it has when for many people it does nothing but waste time. I think that’s why it’s much bigger in the teenager userbase than with professional adults. Of the applications I use often, they provide useful things that help me organize, store and share digital content and information.

Focus
Applications that do too much are going to lose. People are too busy to figure out a complicated system and overwhelming feature set. It’s not just features though that need focus, I think I prefer Memeorandum over Digg in that it has a highly specific technology news focus. While Digg still has a technology focus, it drifts off into humor, astronomy, news of the weird, and other topics.

Simplicity
Focus is part of this, but I prefer del.icio.us over Blinklist just due to simplicity. And Blinklist isn’t even that complicated, it’s just that it seems to combine bookmarking with voting and rating, and that’s just too much when I just want to bookmark something.

Buzz
Applications that are continually talked about draw people’s interest. I probably read about del.icio.us ten times before I ever tried it. There’s a bit of a feeling that if other people are finding a tool valuable, I might be missing something if I don’t try it. There’s usually a reason people are talking, and the applications that generate that buzz seem to win.

Timing
The general consensus is being the first to market with your application is the best. You can gain a userbase, and sites that come after you are usually considered followers or copies. There is value in it. But it’s not really being first, it’s being the first to be successful. There was a bookmarking site or two before del.icio.us, but they were either too early, or didn’t execute well. However, del.icio.us was essentially the “first to succeed’, which means someone who comes after them is just a copycat and really must be great to take users who have already committed to an application. You don’t need to be first, just first to do it right.

What aspects are overrated?

Famous Founders
You hear buzz about startups who have famous or well-known founders. While it may help to generate some early buzz and get more users to try it out, if the application isn’t good, it won’t matter. There are also countless examples of sites built by nobodies that have gone on to huge success.

Funding
Money can help, but it also hurts and can distract from the mission. Sometimes having no money makes you leaner, hungrier, and makes it so that there is no choice but to do it right.

Technology
You hear all about AJAX, Ruby on Rails, Tagging, and all kinds of technology in new applications. You don’t need these things to succeed, and having them won’t ensure success either. While they are used for a reason, don’t get caught up in whether a site has them or not. As long as the application is truly useful and well-designed, your average user won’t give a damn what technology it uses.

The lesson is if you’re building an application to focus on what matters, which is building a lean and powerful tool that provides true use. Get to market when you can, but don’t worry about being first, worry about doing it right.

Ning Needs to Improve to be Relevant

Mike Arrington rips Ning at TechCrunch, and I have to fully agree.

A couple of months back when I posted about wanting a Web 2.0 community platform I checked out Ning in great detail to see if I could possibly build something out of their tools/applications.

I was pretty disappointed. While it’s neat to be able to so easily make an application, it’s both not that easy, or very flexible. Mike details most of the problems, but even knowing PHP and HTML I found it to be a pain in the butt to clone an application and edit it to my liking. It was definitely not a process that was as quick or easy as I’d like, and then when you combine the fact that I can’t move the code elsewhere or monetize it how I like, it just didn’t have much value.

I’d happily pay Ning if they’d allow me to easily build an application I can monetize in my own way and take the code where I wanted to host how I pleased. Add some flexibility and you’ll have yourself a product.