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New Online Startups: Do they give enough importance to user friendliness ?

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This question comes up in my mind quite frequently, especially with number of new start-ups launching every week. I face some or the other problem with these online start-ups, either they have launched too early and don’t give service as promised, or it is just a hyped product or they are not user friendly.

Minekey startup news has been spread across blogosphere including Techcrunch. I was intrigued with this one as this space is one of the most crowded and it was covered by Michael Arrington. I decided to give it a try to see what different did this one have.

At first sight, I thought Minekey may not fall into user un-friendliness category. Infact I liked their homepage and simplicity. But when I tried to register, here is what I encountered.

I tried 4 times, and it just did not allow me to get in. Everytime I tried, it gave me “Image verification Error”. It was as if they just don’t want new subscribers. Yes, I was happy when I pressed the “New User sign up” link, it presented me with simple 5 field form, but everytime I got error, I had to fill 4 fields again completely. So in the end I filled in more than 20 fields.On the fifth try I came to know that the image verification was case-sensitive. Very well, you may say “It was your mistake in understanding. Isn’t it that simple. Don’t make such a big fuss”.

But why should I have to think about case sensitivity. Firstly, the image verification is all caps, it does not have a mix of upper and lower case, so you will never know whether you should enter lower or upper case. Secondly and most important, A simple instruction saying “Image verification is case Sensitive ” would have sufficed. I would not have to go through the labor of doing it over and over again.

Another thing that added to my confusion was “Encountered Errors” message, it is so near to the email address that I thought there is some problem with my email address itself.

MIneKey-registration-Page

These are pretty small things, but they need to be taken care of otherwise you will end up loosing a lot of users.

I must have filled hundreds of registration forms till now and normally, if case sensitive, either they either have instructions or they have mix of both, so one can understand that it is a combination of upper and lowercase.
I am pretty tech savvy and if this is my understanding, I am sure a lot of others would have same problems.

Here are some of the verification images I encountered:

Verification-Image1Verification-Image4 Verification-Image3 Verification-Image3

Tell me how will you know that I have to fill in all caps ?

Who ever made this registration form needs to make this form more intuitive and user friendly. We are living in a user centric world. One has to make things ridiculously simple for users and they will stay with you.

Another question that you may have is how did I capture all this information, did I do it intentionally. No, I did not. I did get registered at my 5th try by entering all caps, however, I decided to write about it. So I logged out and did exactly what I did for 4 times.

Actually, I started writing this post to put together the interesting start-ups of this week, but this post seems to have taken a different direction.

Let me talk about the actual service now:

Minekey is an intelligent Content discovery and recommendation service for your blog or website. There are loads of these widgets spread across the net and I am not too sure of what MineKey does differently. The evangelist behind this start-up is California based Rajiv Doshi and lead Investor is the famous Mr. Vinod Dham of NEA IndusUs Ventures.

More from their website:

Minekey’s content discovery service helps online publishers, marketers and retailers to maximize their revenue and improve user experience by serving the most relevant information to their target audience. The service enables large media companies to distribute content by means of the Minekey Recommendations Widget, directly to customers on potentially unlimited number of blogs, websites and portals. Bloggers and other website hosts use the Widget to present the most relevant content for each online user, based on what they are currently reading or have read before.

I created a widget for Trakin and here is a snapshot of what was created. You can completely customize the colors and look for your widget.

Widget-Content

Honestly speaking, I don’t know why I should use this widget. Here are few of the questions that I have:

1.) Can it monetize my site using this widget ?

2) Does it give me linking advantages?

3) Is it a PHP code that search engines can read ?

4) Why should I use Minekey and not widgetbox, or netvibes or feedburner widget or Google reader sharing facilities (the one I have on the right sidebar) or loads of other such services available.

  1. easyRider says

    Two more sites worth mentioning for their amazing usability and web 2.0 design are http://www.burrp.com and http://www.ixigo.com

  2. trakin says

    Delip,
    Hmm…I have put up one on my blog. I will give it enough time to prove itself :).
    The only thing I am worried about is the widget should not slow the load time of the site. One of the reasons I don’t use much Javascript is that it slows down the blog. However, my initial impressions show that it is not delaying much.
    If it behaves as fast as it is now, it will remain :)

  3. trakin says

    Dear Delip,
    I am glad that you have taken feedback constructively and subsequent action impromptu. I am impressed !
    It is surely going to save time of quite a few users henceforth.
    About the points you have mentioned:
    1) Monetization: I tend to agree with you only to a certain extent. Yes, it may increase the “reader’s time spent” on the blog, but beyond that 30% to 40% may seem bit of a stretch.
    2) You have mentioned that Google is able to read the MineKey widget. It is generally a understanding that Google does not read Javascript. If it does, and I take your word for it, you have got me using your widget. I am going to surely give it a try for a few days and see if it makes any difference.
    3) The analytics things looks interesting…

    One Suggestion: You should give users facility to upload their OPML feeds along adding single feed, will save a lot of user time…

    Again, thanks for taking time and letting me and my readers know more about MineKey.

    You will find MineKey on this blog soon. I will post my impressions after using it for a month.

  4. Delip says

    Thanks. We’ll strive to keep the performance at the current level or even better. We’ll soon share some of the benchmark tests we ran to test the widget loading performance, through a blog post on Minekey site.

  5. Delip says

    Thanks. Well, we might screw up at times on usability and some aspects of the service :-( … But, we are certainly very responsive to the customer needs and work hard, fast and smart to improve things. For eg: pls. check this –
    http://startupsquad.com/2007/06/04/minekey-works-to-perfection/

    Perhaps you are right about Google not reading Java script. But, I have seen some of the blogs with Minekey widgets (and no other content or post about Minekey) show up in Google search results for Minekey (very deep down though … even now, I see some of them on Page 35 of Google results for Minekey )… I can send a screen shot if you would like.

    Yes, it would be great if you can try out the Minekey widget for 1 month. During that time if you have any feedback on what and how we could improve. Ideally 60 days would be a good time for you to see some really noticeable benefits from Minekey. We are confident that we’ll be able to deliver up to the expectations of demanding bloggers like you.

  6. Delip says

    Dear Blogger,

    Thank you for your very passionate feedback. Constructuve critisms such as yours certainly help us to imrove the product. The pains and effort you have taken clearly shows that you are some one who strongly cares about usability and we really appreciate honest constructive feedback such as this – which will help improve the product – so we can improve the user esperience for others.

    Missing out the “case sensitive” comment under the captcha box was a sheer oversight. My sincere apologies for the frustration that it might have resulted in for you and the other users. We went ahead and fixed it and added the comment under the text box.

    Here are brief answers to your questions:

    Monetization: We have observed that Mineky drives reader engagement and additional page views on blogs. During our beta phase we were able to improve the CTR on blogs by 30-40%. So, if you are already monetizing the blog with CPM ads – then this would mean higher revenues. Most blogs get decent chunk of traffic from search engines. Most search engine visitors do aback click right after they read the post search engine referred them to. Minekey widget would help you capture the visitor attention first time and every time by providing them other interesting posts from the same blog.

    Linking advantages and search engines readability: Minekey widget is based on Javascript. We have noticed that Google does read the Minekey widget on the page. If you search for Minekey on Google and go to some of the search results in the latter pages – you’ll see the references to Minekey widgets on the blogs.

    Why Minekey: Minekey would help you serve the most relevant content to every visitor on your blog and help improve reader engagement, stickiness, CTR and monetization. Also, you can get some interesting analytics and insight into the behavior of your readers from My Reports. Soon, we will be featuring bloggers using Minekey widgets on our website and also, we’ll be featuring their content and widgets – which can help drive additional traffic to your website.

    I hope this helps. More content is available on minekey’s website in the about, publishers and help sections. If you need any more information or have any additional feedback – please feel free to email me at “delip at minekey dot com”. I hope to see Minekey widget on your blog some time soon :-).

    Sincerely,

    Delip
    (Founder & CEO – Minekey)

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