Instapaper Or Readability?

There’s no point writing something if it can’t be read by your potential customers.

Many websites fall short of the mark with readability.

I’m currently alternating between the Instapaper and Readability extensions in Chrome.

Why? Because I like large text when I’m reading longer articles or blog posts. I also like the minimalist interface.

But in 2012, should I really have to resort to a browser extension to make an article readable?

Of course not!

In the age of HTML5 & CSS3 it is completely ridiculous to make your content a minor part of your site’s presentation.

If you are writing a blog or producing regular online content, it should be really easy to read your content without squinting.

Maybe my eyesight is just rubbish, but having to use a browser extension to solve a failed user experience issue on almost all websites I visit regularly i.e. not in my Google Reader shows that a lot of UI designers need to go back to the drawing board.

Larger, clear fonts and clean navigation should be the standard for any website user interface.

Instapaper vs. Readability hopefully won’t be an issue in a few years. But for now it is a workable solution to paper over poor font size and layout choices that are almost de rigeur.

Diminishing Returns And User Experience

The primary goal for a website is to obtain a successful sale.

It’s not to highlight how inspired you were in choosing an expensive web design agency to implement the complex brand strategy dreamt up by an extortionately overpriced advertising agency.

Every little gadget and obstruction between the landing page and the “place your order” button is another spanner in the works that can stop a potential sale dead in its tracks.

For some industries, showing off product capabilities with videos and diagrams is essential as part of the educational selling process.

3 Things No Potential Customer Should Experience

  1. A pop-up form asking them for email details before they’ve had a chance to see what you’re all about.
  2. Auto-playing music or video that invades a potential customer’s eardrums and concentration on matching their problem with your solution.
  3. A complex user interface they haven’t used before that they need to jump through in order to place an order or make a sales enquiry.

Diminishing returns is a concept from economics – the more workers you put on the factory floor, the more you produce up until the point where they start tripping over each other and your productivity declines.

Diminishing returns applies to user experience – the more features you have on your website will improve conversion rates up until the point that you are actually reducing your conversion rate and putting your entire web marketing strategy at risk.

Less really is more. Reduce the friction in the sales process by making it as easy as possible to get from the landing page to the successful sale.

Large Organisations And Web Technology

The other day I was looking at IT vacancies on TradeMe and Seek. It’s clear that many larger organisations are behind the curve when it comes to web technology.

If your website is built on ASP.NET you are operating at a major flexibility disadvantage to smaller organisations. A smaller organisation can take advantage of essentially “better” tools without needing to convince 20 middle managers that the new platform is safe and secure.

For example, I am currently building a niche web application on the side. I’m using AngularJS and the latest in HTML5/CSS3 to make it as lightweight and flexible as possible.

If I was a front-end web developer, working for an organisation that requires “3+ years experience in ASP.NET”, I would not have advanced beyond the stage of wireframing.

As it stands, I have a working prototype I can work with in less than a month. Working backwards from this, I’ve redesigned how the whole application should work after seeing it work in my browser window.

The friction that large organisations must deal with in order to get projects that embrace better web technology means that small organisations have an enormous competitive advantage.

If you are a smaller organisation, you should be at the forefront of experimenting with web technology because you can achieve the greatest competitive advantages from light and flexible web technology.

Outsource Your jQuery Library To Google

We are in the age of broadband, but every little page loading improvement counts. And when so many websites using jQuery use the Google CDN links for all sorts of libraries, the library your site uses might already have been downloaded by the visitor when they accessed another website using the same library.

Checkout the Google Hosted Libraries page and take advantage of the network effect. The more sites that use Google Hosted Libraries, the faster loading times will be for all manner of sites.

The only scripts you need to store locally are your custom ones. Let Google take care of hosting the libraries you use – AngularJS, jQuery, jQuery UI or Web Font Loader if you use Google Web Fonts in your projects.

Wheedle Does Not Reinvent The Wheel

The New Zealand online auction marketplace is currently dominated by publicly listed TradeMe. They enjoy a monopoly on online auctions and use this market power to frequently increase their success fees and listing fees. When you think about selling something online in New Zealand, TradeMe has the power of a verb.

I’ll put it on TradeMe if it doesn’t fit

Or

We’ll just get a new flatmate off TradeMe

The market position of TradeMe has had many attacks from both well-funded and not-so-well funded startups. So far, none of them have succeeded. For some reason I am yet to figure out, Rich Lister Neil Graham has moved away from his transport industry expertise into something he clearly has no first-hand knowledge of.

Wheedle Is Down For Maintenance

So far, Wheedle has encountered the following problems:

  • No restrictions on user names
  • A slow-loading frontpage that is a rip-off of TradeMe and shows no innovative thinking
  • No integration with social media
  • Password reset including plain-text passwords which presents a security risk
  • Lots of publicity but problems for people trying to place listings

Who is behind the Wheedle advertising and web development? There is clearly a transfer of wealth going on here. Neil Graham is being charged significant amounts of money to launch a sub-standard competitor to a major incumbent with monopoly power.

Having a $10 million dollar war chest to go up against a media behemoth (Fairfax) in a marketplace where the other major competitor is APN News & Media is as close as you can get to insanity. For starters, why has Wheedle done the following?

  • Kept the success fee model?
  • Not taken advantage of new web technologies to make search and listing far quicker than TradeMe?
  • Fell into the “build it and they will come” trap?
  • Outsourced to India pretty straightforward web development?
  • Not tested sufficiently before launch to avoid multiple “Wheedle Is Down for Maintenance” messages?

I don’t think that Wheedle can succeed. It will be a success for the “experts” advising Neil Graham. He will lose his investment unless some dramatic changes are made. If I was Neil Graham I would go back to the drawing board and ask – how can we make an online marketplace that is easier to use than TradeMe?

If his team can’t answer that question in an elevator pitch they should exit the marketplace immediately before burning through more of his hard-earned millions.