Monday, August 20, 2007

10 Essential Tips for Building Web 2.0 Companies

I've researched over 500 Web 2.0 companies, so far, and I'm working my way through 5000. Screw around with my suggestions at your own risk.

1. Present all the information I need simply

Everyone likes to be different, but don't be obtuse when it comes to handing out the information I need about your products and company. For your information, here are the names of the pages that must be available from your home page, and every other page of your site:

About

This page is about the site and product, as well as (or contains further links to) the company. The information about the site and product should be ridiculously straightforward. It should not be a company philosophy, a treatise on the Internet or communication, or your skeet shooting trip in Albania. It should not make grandiose claims about how your product has just solved the grand unification theory. It should tell me what your product does, it's main or distinguishing features, and why it will help me.

The information about the company should include: Team, Company, Press, and Contact (Press may be included within Contact). You don't need About Us or Corporate Info links on the home page, as well. Just About.

Contact

Feedback is acceptable, but discouraged, as it is too specific a type of contact. The contact link should not be a direct email address, but lead to a page with several types of contact methods, including a form and at least one main email. And, hello? You are a web 2.0 company. I've reviewed over 500 Web 2.0 companies so far, and only two have given any web 2.0 contact information such as IM, Skype, etc...

Don't use munged or picture anti-spam email addresses. You can set up a spam filter. Don't make me work hard when trying to contact you.

Tour

You can skip the video or Flash tour. If you include it, it shouldn't substitute for the simple About page.

Support

You can also call this Help. Support/Help leads to FAQ, user guides, a telephone number, and other contact info.

FAQ means FAQ, not About. FAQ lists are not necessary unless there are FAQs.

Terms

Or, Terms of Use.

Privacy

May be combined with Terms of Use.

2. Don't assume that I know what you are and do

Some of the sites I visit are so full of themselves that they start by asking me to do something without first explaining what they are. Give me a short description about the site on the top of the home page, and above the fold.

And don't hide your About page!

3. Your company's identity shouldn't be insipid

The first person to use a color and an animal, or a misspelled word, or a lower-case letter in front of a word, as a company name stood out. The rest of you don't. Don't follow the herd, please.

Furthermore, how do you really spell that name, anyway? In the browser title bar, it's spelled "companyName", in your logo it's "companyname", and in your descriptive paragraph it's "Company Name". How do you want me to refer to you?

And what's with the faux-Apple washed out rounded dim or pastel writing? I can't even read it. Don't use light gray, light blue, light pink, or light anything, on white or gray as your text palette. Distinguish between visited and unvisited links.

4. Keep your home Page URL clean

Don't give me http://www.foocorp.com/login.php?sessionid=;JS000000000001 . I want to see http://www.foocorp.com/ or http://www.foocorp.com/index.php at worst.

I'm going to be linking to your site. You don't want me to include a session id in my link, and you want me linking to your home page, not your login page.

5. Don't make your home page primarily Flash

It's large, it's bulky, and it's annoying. Make your home page static, and let me click to open your large Flash application.

I may have Flashblock turned on. Or I want to know what your site is about before I run the software. On slow connections, I don't want to wait for your program to be downloading and I don't want unexpected animation and sound starting up.

Furthermore, your program might not even work in my country. Don't force me to start a big program only to have it complain that I'm not in the U.S. or Canada.

6. Stop with the contextual ads

Unless your company's business model is really entirely contextual ad based, please don't put contextual ads on your site. You're trying to sell me a product. Meanwhile I think you're not really that invested in your product and would rather make some quick cash having me click off your site on the advertisements.

7. Make your product versatile

iTunes may be the most popular music store, but your product should not simply work only with iTunes. It should work with many products, including iTunes.

The same goes for any other proprietary businesses. You shouldn't base your business around someone else's proprietary business. For many reasons.

8. Provide XML integration

Your site should NOT be only an XML source for other sites. On the other hand, Web 2.0 is about integrating the best of what's out there into other products. That's why the best sites have open interfaces. Yours should, too.

Are you really worried that this will mean less visits to your web site? Didn't I already tell you to get rid of the contextual advertisements? Don't worry. The more your site is used, even as a filter, the more you will be able to leverage that usage.

9. Stop with the beta and alpha already

Public sites shouldn't be in Beta for more than a few weeks, and shouldn't be in Alpha at all.

10. Diversify your staff

Want to know something interesting about Web 2.0 companies? I've researched over 500 so far and I haven't seen a single Black or Hispanic person as a founder or executive. Not one. One: Kwaku Yeboah-Antwi of Peekko.com.

In the 500 companies, with between 1 and 4 founders/main executives each, I've seen maybe 20 or 30 women, tops.

Are minorities simply not interested in Web 2.0? Or is this because of whom the venture capitalists pick to fund?

I may be a middle-class white male Jew myself, but I'm pretty sure that I'm not representative of a large proportion of the world's consumers, who may, at least occasionally, want to see someone like them interested enough in your business to be a part of it.

Yehuda

3 comments:

Patrick Burt said...

Great post. Almost seems like you're saying what everyone doesn't want to hear. (btw, that's a good thing)

Yehuda said...

Thanks, Patrick.

Yehuda

Gavin Schmitt said...

Again, useful stuff and I wish it was more obvious to designers, but for whatever reason, it isn't. I've did professional design for a while now, and even I didn't think to put exactly what my company does on the front page until the third redraft process...

Now I've got to go add contact information / link in a more accessable place...