James says PodTech site sucks: I agree

We’re in the middle of a site redesign. PodTech’s site sucks, James Robertson says. I agree.

You’ll note I have been linking to everything BUT PodTech lately. Why? Cause PodTech will need to earn links just like everyone else.

The home page is a disaster. I can’t figure it out either. Funny enough, even inside a startup there are “portal vs blog” disagreements and just last week I’ve been involved in some meetings that reminded me a lot of executive review meetings at Microsoft — even in a startup you have to convince people that your way is the best. It’s why at Google and at Microsoft they measure measure measure everything. If you wanna go into Marissa Mayer’s office and tell her she’s wrong you BETTER have the proof to back up your theories.

I want a simple aggregator view on the home page. Something like the one on Share Your OPML. It’s ugly, yes (that can be fixed with the help of a good designer like Bryan Bell) but it works and it lets me fish through tons of posts. 

Ugh, I just noticed the aggregator is busted there, gotta give Dave a call. But, you can see the format anyway.

It’s my thesis that people will scroll almost infinitely. Just give them high-quality stuff. At Microsoft they did research and found most people won’t click on the “next” button. But, they will scroll. You’ll notice that the search engine at live.com doesn’t ever end. If I remember the research right they are finding that people look at something like five times more information if it just keeps scrolling than if they have to click next.

But some of the team believe that everything needs to fit into one screenful. They want a portal model.

“But won’t people have trouble finding our other pages if there isn’t a link to everything we do?”

“Um, no, what do you think Google does?”

Google doesn’t use graphics. Doesn’t have long columns of text next to each other (Google goes vertical when it needs to present more information than fits in one screen — at least most of the time, Google News breaks that mold a little bit, but not really — even there it goes on to scroll baby scroll). Doesn’t do much of anything other than six simple text links.

How boring! Especially when compared to Yahoo’s home page, right? That uses graphics, tons of links, more graphics. More links.

Intuition would tell you that Yahoo’s page works better, right? Well, let’s examine some of the facts.

Compare Yahoo to Google’s stock chart. NOT BORING!!!

I’m gonna win this argument cause of that chart. Simple is better. Text links are better than graphic color crap (my eye filters out such as advertising, doesn’t yours?) People link more on simple blue-underlined text than on color crap. That’s why Google accidentally found its AdSense business model: they stopped to WATCH what the users actually DO, not what they WANTED the users to do.

One place a little bit of color does help, though, is the top news flag on MSNBC. I love that site. Why? Cause every few hours some editor in Redmond sits down, picks a story, then designs a photo flag for it with a headline and several links.

So, let’s compromise, I told the team. Do an MSNBC-style flag, with an aggregator underneath it. That way they get their editorial old-school style control and portal instincts fed, and I get my river of text and links, which makes users happy (anyone notice DIGG? Text and links baby! Oh, and with the usual rounded corner graphics. I’ll bet we have to pay some design house tens of thousands of dollars to come up with some rounded corner graphics. Heheh.

DIGG is growing faster percentagewise than any other site I know of. If you argue against Digg, you BETTER have those measurements to back up your claim. And saying “Yahoo has more viewers” is NOT a good argument. That’s like listening to DEC back in 1977 when the CEO there said the world doesn’t need personal computers.

Growth is more important, especially to a startup, because that’s where the opportunity to kick the old school in the groin exists.

Anyway, until we make the home page much more Google-like James will continue to be right: our home page sucks.

I’ll let you know when the redesign comes up. Until then, go watch Ze Frank or Rocketboom.

52 thoughts on “James says PodTech site sucks: I agree

  1. So, let me see if I get this right…

    Podtech has to earn links before you’ll link to it. But, then once it’s earned enough links, you’ll stop linking to it because of the whole gesture bit you’ve been going on about? I don’t understand the thinking here…

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  2. So, let me see if I get this right…

    Podtech has to earn links before you’ll link to it. But, then once it’s earned enough links, you’ll stop linking to it because of the whole gesture bit you’ve been going on about? I don’t understand the thinking here…

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  3. thatedeguy: obviously I haven’t stopped linking. I was just having some fun exploring Steve Gillmor’s ideas. In the end I don’t agree with him about it. Although, the most astute people don’t need links to find things. So, if you only care about people who REALLY want to find you then linking isn’t as important.

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  4. thatedeguy: obviously I haven’t stopped linking. I was just having some fun exploring Steve Gillmor’s ideas. In the end I don’t agree with him about it. Although, the most astute people don’t need links to find things. So, if you only care about people who REALLY want to find you then linking isn’t as important.

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  5. I totally agree! I was lost on that site. Couldn’t tell the difference between ads and real content, or is it all real content? Wasn’t sure where to start and where to end. I like the players but the site just needs to be reorganized into a more user friendly layout.
    ET

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  6. I totally agree! I was lost on that site. Couldn’t tell the difference between ads and real content, or is it all real content? Wasn’t sure where to start and where to end. I like the players but the site just needs to be reorganized into a more user friendly layout.
    ET

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  7. Pingback: » Podtech Sucks!!
  8. ET: the paid for content (aka ads) is in the “corporate” bar. Everything else is “real” content. But, you’re right, it’s confusing. The redesign will make that a lot clearer too.

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  9. ET: the paid for content (aka ads) is in the “corporate” bar. Everything else is “real” content. But, you’re right, it’s confusing. The redesign will make that a lot clearer too.

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  10. ET: and on “where to start” you’re absolutely right. The first rule of newspaper page design I learned from the professionals back in college is “make ONE THING at least twice as big as any other thing on the page.” The human mind needs hierarchies.

    Blogging succeeds cause it puts things into a top-down hierarchy (newer is more important than older).

    The human mind needs hierarchies to feel good and to know where to go.

    A trail with five intersections and no signs confuses the hell out of us. Even terrifies us.

    We need a device that says “take this path first.”

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  11. ET: and on “where to start” you’re absolutely right. The first rule of newspaper page design I learned from the professionals back in college is “make ONE THING at least twice as big as any other thing on the page.” The human mind needs hierarchies.

    Blogging succeeds cause it puts things into a top-down hierarchy (newer is more important than older).

    The human mind needs hierarchies to feel good and to know where to go.

    A trail with five intersections and no signs confuses the hell out of us. Even terrifies us.

    We need a device that says “take this path first.”

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  12. This isn’t an either/or situation – offer both. Yes, you’ll have to decide which is the default, but make the control to toggle the mode big and put it at the top of the initial page.

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  13. This isn’t an either/or situation – offer both. Yes, you’ll have to decide which is the default, but make the control to toggle the mode big and put it at the top of the initial page.

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  14. Roland: good point!

    Wanna make a bet? If we do both the aggregator view will get more visits and more inbound links.

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  15. Roland: good point!

    Wanna make a bet? If we do both the aggregator view will get more visits and more inbound links.

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  16. Your going to win the arguement that site design is tied to stock price? I’m not sure what you are arguing because they aren’t related.

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  17. Your going to win the arguement that site design is tied to stock price? I’m not sure what you are arguing because they aren’t related.

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  18. Mike: you think they aren’t? Well, they are. Google is growing faster than Yahoo. The stock market figures that out pretty damn efficiently.

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  19. Mike: you think they aren’t? Well, they are. Google is growing faster than Yahoo. The stock market figures that out pretty damn efficiently.

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  20. Robert,
    I’m going to agree with Mike, you shouldn’t base the design for a page based purely on stock price. Google is growing faster because it plays the PR machine well and has a great ad network strategy.

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  21. Robert,
    I’m going to agree with Mike, you shouldn’t base the design for a page based purely on stock price. Google is growing faster because it plays the PR machine well and has a great ad network strategy.

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  22. Kuli: if you believe Google is growing faster simply because it plays the PR machine well then you are TRUELY LOST.

    Google is growing faster cause it is a better search engine and is more usable. Period.

    I can’t believe the reasons you guys come up with sometimes.

    Google’s PR machine is even worse than Microsoft’s.

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  23. Kuli: if you believe Google is growing faster simply because it plays the PR machine well then you are TRUELY LOST.

    Google is growing faster cause it is a better search engine and is more usable. Period.

    I can’t believe the reasons you guys come up with sometimes.

    Google’s PR machine is even worse than Microsoft’s.

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  24. I thought it was me! I visited the site but I just couldn’t get it, so I went away. I didn’t know what it wanted me to do. But, as I said, I thought it was just me being dumb. I’m pleased to find out it’s not me.

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  25. I thought it was me! I visited the site but I just couldn’t get it, so I went away. I didn’t know what it wanted me to do. But, as I said, I thought it was just me being dumb. I’m pleased to find out it’s not me.

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  26. Robert, don’t get lured into looking at other sites and what works for them. The Amazon site works for them only because it’s what people expect at Amazon, they couldn’t really change it if they wanted to. eBay the same, Google the same. Digg the same.
    You’ll be far better off starting afresh, looking at what you need to present (and how) based on what your visitors expect to get or make happen. And do some testing on various designs/philosophies. You and the others sitting around discussing/arguing is just mental masturbation and supposition ;-).
    I will agree with you on one thing though, page length. There was a study done back in 99-2000 that showed people don’t mind scrolling vertically and will as long as you don’t put a hard visual barrier it their way. A strong horizontal rule can be a barrier. If it’s open, or dividers are subtle, they’ll scroll.

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  27. Robert, don’t get lured into looking at other sites and what works for them. The Amazon site works for them only because it’s what people expect at Amazon, they couldn’t really change it if they wanted to. eBay the same, Google the same. Digg the same.
    You’ll be far better off starting afresh, looking at what you need to present (and how) based on what your visitors expect to get or make happen. And do some testing on various designs/philosophies. You and the others sitting around discussing/arguing is just mental masturbation and supposition ;-).
    I will agree with you on one thing though, page length. There was a study done back in 99-2000 that showed people don’t mind scrolling vertically and will as long as you don’t put a hard visual barrier it their way. A strong horizontal rule can be a barrier. If it’s open, or dividers are subtle, they’ll scroll.

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  28. PXLated: of course you’re right, but you should try to learn from why other people are gaining in audience share.

    It helps you take on some of your own assumptions as well.

    All I know is Podtech’s site is pretty damn unusable and we have total consensus on that at PodTech. So, something will change. I’m arguing for an aggregator view. Other people are arguing that more of a link or portal view will bring more traffic.

    It’s an interesting discussion, that’s for sure!

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  29. PXLated: of course you’re right, but you should try to learn from why other people are gaining in audience share.

    It helps you take on some of your own assumptions as well.

    All I know is Podtech’s site is pretty damn unusable and we have total consensus on that at PodTech. So, something will change. I’m arguing for an aggregator view. Other people are arguing that more of a link or portal view will bring more traffic.

    It’s an interesting discussion, that’s for sure!

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  30. Robert: portal and blog are not the only two types of layout. I assume what you are really saying is blog vs. everything else. Blog layout is not better just because you think it is better. I’m also not sure how Google fits into your argument. Their home page is just a mini portal with very few options. Your stock argument I think more shows that minimalism combined with trendyness and having the best search technology = win. See, I didn’t mention PR machine or any other wacky theories 😉

    I also don’t see any clear focus of the organization. Are employees given a clear vision? Here, this is on your about us page:

    “PodTech is on the air, on the ground, and on the go, bringing to you fresh, defining voices in digital lifestyle, innovation, and thought leadership from frontline events, newsmakers, and experts. PodTech seeks to challenge the boundaries of traditional media and capture the best of new media by bringing focused, high-quality podcasting and videoblogging content to audiences worldwide, directly from the movers and shakers of technology and media.”

    Clearly, a great committee came up with that. But what does it mean? What is a voice of a digital lifestyle and why do I want to listen to it? Are people from TWiT, Revision3 or Ziff Davis involved? The best of new media? I need only look at the top of the iTunes podcast directory for that, right? And is something wrong with the “old” media? And also, any site that has an entire section called “Corporate” will not hold a large consumer audience. Consumer + “corporate” = no sale.

    Just my thoughts. I’ve visited the PodTech site on several occasions since you first mentioned it. Your hire has bought them several hits from me, but I have yet to spend more than few seconds each visit and that’s NOT because of the design.

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  31. Robert: portal and blog are not the only two types of layout. I assume what you are really saying is blog vs. everything else. Blog layout is not better just because you think it is better. I’m also not sure how Google fits into your argument. Their home page is just a mini portal with very few options. Your stock argument I think more shows that minimalism combined with trendyness and having the best search technology = win. See, I didn’t mention PR machine or any other wacky theories 😉

    I also don’t see any clear focus of the organization. Are employees given a clear vision? Here, this is on your about us page:

    “PodTech is on the air, on the ground, and on the go, bringing to you fresh, defining voices in digital lifestyle, innovation, and thought leadership from frontline events, newsmakers, and experts. PodTech seeks to challenge the boundaries of traditional media and capture the best of new media by bringing focused, high-quality podcasting and videoblogging content to audiences worldwide, directly from the movers and shakers of technology and media.”

    Clearly, a great committee came up with that. But what does it mean? What is a voice of a digital lifestyle and why do I want to listen to it? Are people from TWiT, Revision3 or Ziff Davis involved? The best of new media? I need only look at the top of the iTunes podcast directory for that, right? And is something wrong with the “old” media? And also, any site that has an entire section called “Corporate” will not hold a large consumer audience. Consumer + “corporate” = no sale.

    Just my thoughts. I’ve visited the PodTech site on several occasions since you first mentioned it. Your hire has bought them several hits from me, but I have yet to spend more than few seconds each visit and that’s NOT because of the design.

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  32. >that minimalism combined with trendyness and having the best search technology = win

    Richard: I’d rephrase that as “that minimalism combined with usability and best search technology = win.”

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  33. >that minimalism combined with trendyness and having the best search technology = win

    Richard: I’d rephrase that as “that minimalism combined with usability and best search technology = win.”

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  34. >Clearly, a great committee came up with that. But what does it mean? What is a voice of a digital lifestyle and why do I want to listen to it?

    Richard: you said what I’ve been thinking for the past couple of weeks.

    >I also don’t see any clear focus of the organization. Are employees given a clear vision?

    No. And that’s one thing that’s hurting Podtech. It’ll take a few months to clean that up.

    I’m just going to start with my show and focus that, then go piece by piece and bring in the best stuff. There’s some good stuff being done but not enough good stuff and when it happens it’s just obfuscated. And that IS bad design. (for instance the order of headline, text, photo, subscribe and other links, is in the wrong order for usability).

    But you nailed it, it’s amazing that an organization’s disfunction comes through the end product, both at big companies and small.

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  35. >Clearly, a great committee came up with that. But what does it mean? What is a voice of a digital lifestyle and why do I want to listen to it?

    Richard: you said what I’ve been thinking for the past couple of weeks.

    >I also don’t see any clear focus of the organization. Are employees given a clear vision?

    No. And that’s one thing that’s hurting Podtech. It’ll take a few months to clean that up.

    I’m just going to start with my show and focus that, then go piece by piece and bring in the best stuff. There’s some good stuff being done but not enough good stuff and when it happens it’s just obfuscated. And that IS bad design. (for instance the order of headline, text, photo, subscribe and other links, is in the wrong order for usability).

    But you nailed it, it’s amazing that an organization’s disfunction comes through the end product, both at big companies and small.

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  36. You’re right. I missed usability. Funny since I’ve been doing some design work to make some of my work more usable! (I’m a developer, so quick and dirty designs occasionally happen from me)

    Good luck with the clear vision. And I agree that you just have to do your part and go one step at a time. Can’t fix an entire company in one fell swoop.

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  37. You’re right. I missed usability. Funny since I’ve been doing some design work to make some of my work more usable! (I’m a developer, so quick and dirty designs occasionally happen from me)

    Good luck with the clear vision. And I agree that you just have to do your part and go one step at a time. Can’t fix an entire company in one fell swoop.

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  38. That’s like listening to DEC back in 1977 when the CEO there said the world doesn’t need personal computers.

    You have used that example as a cover-all for everything from demanding the world buy $5,000 HD setups, to excusing all sorts of Microsoft intelligence-insulting PR-slicing lies, to a beachhead defense for all manner of fraudster MLMish and dubious start-ups, and for firing Marketing pro’s with serious results in their background, just they don’t use RSS.

    Get a new stock sound-bite phrase…please. 🙂

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  39. That’s like listening to DEC back in 1977 when the CEO there said the world doesn’t need personal computers.

    You have used that example as a cover-all for everything from demanding the world buy $5,000 HD setups, to excusing all sorts of Microsoft intelligence-insulting PR-slicing lies, to a beachhead defense for all manner of fraudster MLMish and dubious start-ups, and for firing Marketing pro’s with serious results in their background, just they don’t use RSS.

    Get a new stock sound-bite phrase…please. 🙂

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  40. Robert, I didn’t say not to learn from others. By all means, do so. But, you have to keep what you learn from them in perspective and relate it to their product/audience/objectives/goals. Most times those don’t match up with yours and can’t be directly transfered/mimic’d.
    As I mentioned, figure out what you have, what people will want/need from it, then do some paper-based designs and test to see if people can actually do what they need/want efficiently/effectively. I do know that if you test, the users will surprise you. Been there, experienced that.
    But, it sounds like there is a clear/concise corporate mission that needs to be decided first. Don’t know how you design a site for an effective business if you don’t start there.

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  41. Robert, I didn’t say not to learn from others. By all means, do so. But, you have to keep what you learn from them in perspective and relate it to their product/audience/objectives/goals. Most times those don’t match up with yours and can’t be directly transfered/mimic’d.
    As I mentioned, figure out what you have, what people will want/need from it, then do some paper-based designs and test to see if people can actually do what they need/want efficiently/effectively. I do know that if you test, the users will surprise you. Been there, experienced that.
    But, it sounds like there is a clear/concise corporate mission that needs to be decided first. Don’t know how you design a site for an effective business if you don’t start there.

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  42. Google is growing becaus of it’s search. That’s all. Yahoo doesn’t monetize search as well and has portal strategy, which google does not. To talk about their interfaces in such a way just sounds silly.

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  43. Google is growing becaus of it’s search. That’s all. Yahoo doesn’t monetize search as well and has portal strategy, which google does not. To talk about their interfaces in such a way just sounds silly.

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  44. Hi Robert,

    If you have your ‘channels’ all sorted – and in an OPML file – send it on over and I can set you up as a tester of our cool new subdomain system. podtech.podcast.com ? 😉

    It only takes a moment. 😉

    Regards,
    Kosso

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  45. Hi Robert,

    If you have your ‘channels’ all sorted – and in an OPML file – send it on over and I can set you up as a tester of our cool new subdomain system. podtech.podcast.com ? 😉

    It only takes a moment. 😉

    Regards,
    Kosso

    Like

  46. Agreed – went and had a look a week ago and was a bit shocked! Not what I was expecting at all – look forward to the makeover!
    Jon

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  47. Agreed – went and had a look a week ago and was a bit shocked! Not what I was expecting at all – look forward to the makeover!
    Jon

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