Every time I have to manually cut the /blog/ out of the location bar I wonder how many users were lost by requiring that little bit of extra effort.
Maybe because it was not on topic but it does get on my nerves.
It's a missed detail, though whether by laziness or incompetence I'm not willing to speculate.
1. You're receiving this email because you joined XXXX's beta waiting list on xx June 2012
2. XXXX is a product that helps you do ....
It's so frustrating and at the same time, right before I hit the delete button I think, "Well, if they're not taking much time to clearly explain this at the top of the email or newsletter, what else are they taking shortcuts on?"
If you have something people will search for, you can start your SEO and start adwords. 6 months down the road you are actually getting some search traffic, and your adwords have over time built up a mailing list.
If you haven't read this article by Rob Walling I highly recommend it.
Usually this seems to happen because they have used some customised system to build their website and then just slapped wordpress or something on to use as the blog.
So as mentioned in the article you hit the blog page and "home" now takes you back to the home of the blog even though the site looks like the rest of the site.
Even worse when it's a tumblr or something and you have now ended up in a completely seperate Silo.
I can't imagine this is good for SEO purposes either.
The number of time this sin is committed by companies selling design services boggles the mind.
Adding a blog seems like a "good idea at the time", but unless you have a good blogger on your team, it'll just be an afterthought-task that gets shuffled around because nobody wants to do it. Don't let a blog waste your time and steal focus from the rest of your company.
This does two things. First, it gives people an easy mental on-ramp to follow the thread of what you are saying. And second, it forces you to back way up and cover the ground that is so central to your world you would probably forget to say it, even though it is completely unknown to most of your audience.
It was so simple, and it has probably brought SO a ton of first-time viewers.
On point #2: describe your product in clear, what-it-does language.
Mistakes I see are emphasizing: how it does it (C, Java, OO, Rails, REST, ...), where it does it (PC, mobile, Mac, Cloud, ...), "ecosystems" it integrates with (Social, FB, Oracle, ...), who your investors or team are (VC, founders, investors...) etc. All of which may or may not be particularly relevant, but ... they're not key to me understanding what you do. Tell me these things, but focus on the what first.
Use direct, actionable language, not vague or nebulous terms. It's a "NFS file security permissions auditor", not "Cloud information assets security tool".
Describe a workflow or workflows from the perspective of your users. Not developers. Not architects. Not
This doesn't just apply to startups. I use a lot of Free Software, and many of these projects also fail to describe themselves clearly (though most, especially over time, eventually get it right, if only because other people can come in and rewrite idiotic descriptions). Reading through a list of package descriptions from Debian or Ubuntu, where a pithy, one-line description is your shingle to the world, should give a sense of good and bad descriptions.
Even long-established technologies such as Java suffer from this.
At www.java.com we have "What is Java?": "Java allows you to play online games, chat with people around the world, calculate your mortgage interest, and view images in 3D, just to name a few. It's also integral to the intranet applications and other e-business solutions that are the foundation of corporate computing." Um. OK.
At Oracle, we have a Java landing page with ... no description of the technology or its components (which aren't self-evident): http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/java/index.html
One of the best succinct summaries I've seen in recent memory is from jwz's "Java Sucks" page:
there are four completely different things that go by the name "Java": 1. A [programming] language, 2. An enormous class library, 3. A virtual machine, 4. A security model.
Now that is something I can wrap my head around (he also goes on to describe strengths and weaknesses of each component, good essay, read it, it's still disappointingly relevant).
Note though: the best product description comes from a critic. If you fail to clearly define yourself, your critics will.
In the case of other tools, a lot of companies focus on useless buzzwords like "it's a cloud-enabled multi-tier architecture et cetera" instead of focusing on what the person using it cares about: "it's a content management system for blogs." OK, got it.
Again, as jwz noted, it's four things:
1. A programming language.
2. A class library.
3. A virtual machine.
4. A security model.
As a systems admin, I play mostly in 3, deploying, tuning, configuring, monitoring (to the extent that piss-poor Java tools allow any sort of monitoring -- want a dump of what's in memory? Sure ... let's just pause ALL activity on the VM for the next 25 minutes), troubleshooting, and patching/updating the VM.
I'm also concerned with the security model, within the parameters of my other system security concerns.
For the language and class libraries, it's largely ensuring that what my devs need and use is provisioned on our test, staging, and production hosts. There's also digging through some of the logging / crash / debug output to see if I can sort out what's wrong and fix it myself, or punt it over the wall to Engineering.
So no, it's not just developers.
There must be intelligent life down here
Doesn't tell me very much about who the author is, what he typically writes about.
I can only hope the irony isn't lost on him - maybe Owen (whoever he is) is purposefully giving us an example of how annoying it is to not explain what you do on your blog.
Having friends review is great, but sitting an intelligent stranger down and asking them to perform certain actions is what most startups need.
What exactly did WordPress have to do with his point?
Using WordPress for your entire product site makes a ton of sense for most companies. You can have your blog and your product info all on the same site. No subdomain blog. No separate SEO. It's simple to link the logo to the product, and have custom sidebars or after-content widget areas with a call to action. Your blog is part of your site, and feeds traffic to your product. Everything integrated. Easy to use. What's his problem again?
Habari was started by a group of ex-WordPress developers - http://asymptomatic.net/2007/01/09/29/whats-up
That said, Habari is also a good choice for a blog. ;)
I'm actually designing a blog for a new startup now and the first elements I created were at the top of the right sidebar with a quick "what we do" summary with a call to action button at the end. Also used the author summary box at the bottom of the article with similar content. I think just a quick "We're xyz company and we do [whatever benefit you offer]" and a "Learn More" button is a quick, clean and concise way of putting that out there.
Using something like Wordpress, it's not difficult to put a little box at the bottom of every post explaining what your product is and where I can learn more.
I cover the same two mistakes, plus a few more.