Why startpages suck ..

17 Feb
2007

Continuing from my earlier discussion on why startpages are so important.

The problem with the current corp of startpages is they are too damn confusing

I just headed on over to Netvibes and it made my head throb. There are so many potential choices it made my head spin. Modules, feeds, six different searches (‘web search’ vs ‘classic web search’), dozens of links, Mini API module … it is completely overwhelming.

Then each module itself has all these inner tabs – four tabs for web search, four for images, four for video search. Wasted space in the form of ‘Netvibes news’

Startpages that cater to parasitic users (eg early-adopters) are doomed to chase feature after feature. By focusing on ‘normal’ users they have the ability to really create a connection with these end users.

I originally bought the domain iBegin.com for a startpage. I had seen some JS examples of modular windows being moved around, and it was extremely

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thrilling. Problem was I took too long, and before I knew it, Netvibes had arrived on the scene, and I was still getting the machinery moving (really a blessing in disguise – iBegin as local search is where I want to be). To that end, when we had specced out what we wanted, our core goals were the following:

  1. Simple. We were not going to mention the word RSS anywhere. We were going to have some fixed RSS feeds, and thats it. There would be a module for search that would default to Google (and then users could edit that if they wanted).
  2. Connected. The end goal was to have a static url for every user that they could access. Eg http://www.ibegin.com/ahmedf/ or http://www.ibegin.com/ahmedsmama/
  3. Different audience. The hardest part, but we wanted to aim towards people who couldn’t care about fancy and instead wanted stability and usefulness. Eg my mother or my father. I would create them a startpage, ‘lock’ it (so that modules could not be accidentally moved/edited), and then set it as their startpage. Every day they would open up to a startpage that had quick links to where they wanted to go, weather, ability to perform a quick web search, a quick product search, place to scribble notes, access email, and (for my father) news links. I wouldn’t even mention the words module, API, feeds, or anything like that to them. By forcing a static url on them, they could go traveling and still have access to all their links (only having to login to edit notes).

You can even see the design we had formulated (click to enlarge):

The current crop of startpages are simply too damn confusing and complicated. I actually hope 37signals could maybe join the fray and create their own startpage :)

9 Responses to Why startpages suck ..

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Nabil Feisal

February 18th, 2007 at 4:53 am

Ahmed if you’re interested,

I would love to collaborate with you in the formation and creation of an Arabian Arabic language based startpage. I’m ready to provide the hosting, domain name and my arabic language to get such a startpage started!

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Ahmed

February 19th, 2007 at 11:03 am

Hehe – interesting idea Nabil, but for now we are very busy with projects like iBegin.com

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Nabil Feisal

February 19th, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Well if you change your mind anytime I will do everything my company can do to make it happen!

Simply because there isn’t such a thing as a startpage in the Arabian Internet portal market such as NetVibes etc, so I will gladly put in my efforts for making it happen.

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Ahmed

February 19th, 2007 at 6:32 pm

I’m pretty sure NetVibes supports localization – if you were to volunteer help you could have an Arabic version up in no time :)

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Nabil Feisal

February 21st, 2007 at 3:18 am

Ahmed, isn’t it obvious that there is a huge difference between contributing to Netvibes and running your own ala Netvibes site?

I would like to create and run an ala Netvibes Arabic site with anyone interested in participating and running the website with me.

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Ahmed

February 21st, 2007 at 11:23 am

Aye I can understand, just a suggestion :)

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Nabil Feisal

February 21st, 2007 at 12:36 pm

Thanks for the suggestion! :)

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Bob Slidel

February 23rd, 2007 at 7:27 pm

why don’t you give schmedley.com a try? it’s very un-complicated. A lot like what you’ve described – a uniquely different take on the “startpage” model.

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Ahmed

February 26th, 2007 at 1:30 pm

Interesting Bob, but confusing still. Eg when I did a search, and tabbed results showed up. The 20 or so icons on the bottom coupled with the extremely dark blue gradient (I searched for ‘food’) threw me totally off.

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