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The five ugliest (yet most successful) websites

Content is king. That’s the time-honored lesson you learn when you study web design and management. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that some of the most hideously designed sites are also the most successful.

For a business site, design does matter because a company’s brand is riding on the user experience. But for other types of sites, ugly just works. When design surpasses content and functionality, the user can feel left out, as if they are not getting the most from their visit. So some sites take advantage of this principle, and thrive on simplicity and lack of design.

So without further ado, here are my choices for the ugliest, yet most successful, websites.

5) Ebay. It’s a miracle that anyone can get anything done on this site. Navigation and content are all over the place, account settings are buried under mountains of navigation menus. Yet ebay remains the category killer for online classifieds.

4) Craigslist. Not to be outdone for simplicity,this classifieds site is the epitome of bare bones. Not a graphic to be found, 100% text, and no frills. But, for millions of users, it gets the job done.

3) Huffington Post. One of the best aggregators of content on the entire world wide web. Also one of the worst designed. It’s like someone threw up on the page. The Drudge Report follows a similar, design-despising structure, but the powerful content keeps users coming back. And the site has undergone some face-lifting lately that give users just enough structure and navigation to balance the eye sore a bit.

2) Amazon. Yes I know I’m an admitted Amazon addict. But the site — come on, big-time atrocious. The product description is found where? Oh, of course, down about 3/4 of the page below all the other items you might want to click on and lose track of your original purchase. And yet it works. How can something so bad be so good?

1) YouTube. This site was born during the dark ages of the Internet and essentially gave birth to video online. Despite an unbelievably bad design and user interface, it rakes in over 3 billion views per day, with 48 hours of video uploaded every minute. Simply staggering, especially considering how difficult it is to do. Again it goes to show how content rules.

So there you have it. For my money, the five best worst websites in the world. I’m sure there are others that are in the same league — so let’s hear it. What are your picks?

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Business, Random, Work

 

6 ways to stay positive in any situation

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I saw this blog post the other day and thought it had a nice sentiment on how to stay positive even when things are down. If you don’t want to click over, here’s what it said…

The power of remaining positive, whatever the situation, can never be underestimated. We are all here for a limited period of time, is it worth it to spend any of that time in a dismal mood? Being negative?

The true test of an individual to remain positive is when challenges become difficult. Remaining positive keeps one’s mind in the right state of balance and often opens resolutions to the problems at hand. Negativity is contagious; not only does it affect the individual, but it spreads to anyone they interact with. When only the negative perspective is in focus, the resolution process is impeded.

Eliminating negativity, or rather, being positive is a mindset that can be found at any moment, and turned into a habit. Here are some tips that can help you in shifting your mindset:

1. Shift Your Thoughts – Be conscious of your thoughts. Especially, when life just isn’t going your way. The moment you see that you are diving into frustration, agony, sorrow and low self-esteem – shift your thoughts, by thinking about something completely unrelated. This breaks the pattern of self-pity, mind-created stories, and negative downward spiral. What makes us different from other mammals is our ability to control our thoughts and think for ourselves.

2. Find the Lesson – There is a lesson to be learned from every situation. No matter how unfortunate the situation may appear, recognize the beautiful lessons waiting to be discovered. Sometimes lessons are expensive, but every problem is a learning opportunity in disguise. You may have made a mistake, but now you can accept it and continue, knowing that you will make a different decision in the future. Understand this and be appreciative for the experience.

3. Attitude of Gratitude – You cannot be both angry and grateful at the same time. Start counting the blessings and miracles in your life, start looking for them and you shall find more. What’s there not to be grateful? You are alive and breathing! Realize how lucky you are and all the abundance in your life.

4. Positive Affirmations & Visualization – Practice seeing yourself in a positive and confident light. Do this whenever you have a few minutes (examples; Waiting for a friend, sitting on the bus, riding an elevator.) Self-affirmations (list of positive statements about yourself and your self image) are another simple and powerful tool to train your subconscious to see yourself in a positive light. This is important, as many of us can be so hard on ourselves though social conditioning. I am guilty of being extra tough on myself, but have learned over time to recognize my gifts rather than finding false and self-imposed inadequacies.

5. Inventory of Memories – Keep an inventory of memories that can immediately make you smile. Occasions where you felt happy, appreciative and cheerful. When you were at peace with the world.

Whenever you are in a negative frame of mind, consciously and deliberately pick up any leaf out of this inventory and dwell on it. Reminiscing those happy moments gives a balanced perspective to your situation. You realize that what appears negative today will change tomorrow. Nothing stays the same.

6. Criticizing Detox Diet – Change your approach and attitude. See if you can stop criticizing others and situations. Our cultural conditioning teaches us to find flaws and problems at all times. Shift from fault-finding to appreciation-finding.

Whether you are positive or negative, the situation does not change. So, we mind as well be positive.

As with any habit, the habit of remaining positive in all situations takes practice and a commitment to yourself to take control. But start small, start paying attention to your emotions, start by wanting to change. I am working on this constantly, and I am here with you, working towards better understanding of my emotions and becoming a better person. Keep going at it, and you will gradually become a positive energy source for the others around you! Wouldn’t that be empowering?

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Family, Random, Thoughts, Work

 

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Which brands can you not live without?

What do Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, McDonald’s, and Disney all have in common? They’re all in the top 100 best global brands of 2011. A strong brand can be the difference between being Facebook or MySpace, Best Buy or Circuit City. In other words, brand is one of the fundamental keys to business survival.

Many things influence a customer’s perception of a company brand — but for me, two of the most important are product effectiveness and emotional connection. That is, how well does the brand’s widget function, and how does it make you feel.

So without further ado, here are the top 5 brands in my book…

5. Southwest Airlines From the innovative ticketing system to the non-reserved seats, on-time and highly reliable flights, and employees who “luv” their jobs — everything SWA does makes you want to fly with them again next time. I once tweeted about an issue with my Rewards account and a social media rep got back to me within 5 minutes. SWA just gets it.
4. Lexus – Uncommon service, high-performing, ahead-of-their-time vehicles, and massages while you wait. Lexus thinks of absolutely everything.
3. Amazon – Everything under the sun delivered to your door in 2 days, plus unmatched customer service and simple returns. Amazon is a system that works end to end.
2. Starbucks – Consistent quality, great tasting products, and imitators just won’t do (although the Keurig does come close) ;-). There’s nothing better than a Starbucks Americano, in my Lexus, on the way to the airport to catch a Southwest flight.
1. Apple – iPhone. iPad. Macbook. I’ve used all three in the creation of this blog post. Their products are the definition of innovation, they’re fun, and they just work. Apple is pretty darn close to perfection.

Agree or disagree with these? What brands do you love so much that you just couldn’t live without them? Let me know!

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Random, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Work

 

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5 reasons why Facebook may be jumping the shark

Is it just me, or is Facebook becoming…passe? You wouldn’t think one of the fastest-growing companies in history, a social media powerhouse on its way to 1 billion worldwide users this year, would be showing signs of decline.  But a closer look shows that Facebook’s growth rate is slowing in the U.S. and cracks are beginning to appear in its foundation. Can Mark Zuckerberg right his ship, or is the site destined to join AOL, MySpace, and Napster in the technology graveyard in the cloud?

Jumping the shark

Fonzie on water skis, in a scene from the Happy Days episode "Hollywood, Part Three of Three," after literally jumping over a shark.

The term “jumping the shark” refers to the point in time where a product begins its inevitable decline that is beyond its recovery. It’s the beginning of the end, when the product has moved so far beyond the initial factors that made it successful in the first place, outliving its freshness and importance to the point of irrelevance.  The term originates from a scene in the fifth season premiere episode of the 70’s TV series Happy Days where a water-skiing Fonzie, wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a shark, answering a challenge to demonstrate his bravery.

So why might it be all downhill from here for Facebook?

1) No more long lost friends. When Facebook first arrived on the scene in 2005, its initial appeal was the instant ability to re-form life connections that had long been lost. High school friends, distant cousins, and former co-workers came out of the woodwork, and the world was in a nostalgic mood. It was nice to know that your former high school sweetheart was a grandparent, four times over. Fast-forward six years and your friends list is probably the same size as it was then.

2) Design changes. Aside from making new friends and keeping the old, the other feature that kept you coming back to the site was Facebook’s wall. The magic formula of content and status updates that was relevant to you became Facebook’s secret sauce — and the algorithm used to determine what showed on your feed was more closely guarded than Col. Sander’s secret herbs and spices. Somehow it all made sense, the content was relevant, and you just had to check the wall 10 times an hour. These days, Facebook has been killing itself with innovation. Whether the motivation has been to add fresh features, make the site profitable, or keep up with emerging competitors, the news feed just doesn’t zing anymore. Timeline, chat, and privacy settings have all gone through massive redesigns from the original functionality. For the average consumer, the introduction of feature after feature has simply bogged down the user experience.  

3) Maybe our interests aren’t so common after all. Keeping tabs on your circle of friends is what it’s all about. A funny status message here, a heartfelt photo there…everything’s great, right?  But as people have become more adept with social media communication tools and as mobile phones provide instant access, some of our conversational filters have gone by the wayside. Especially in an election season, it’s easier than ever to hide behind the social media wall and post provocative, denigrating, or flatly wrong messages. Need proof? Check The 40 Absolutely Worst People In America and try not to vomit.

4) Other sites are better for news. Granted, Twitter and Facebook serve different purposes, but if you want breaking news as it happens or are trolling the web for something to catch your interest, your time is much better spent reading your Twitter feed. Twitter’s platform is faster, cleaner, and easier to scan…and it’s searchable. That doesn’t make Twitter more fun, just more useful. Content aggregators such as Huffington Post and mobile apps like Flipboard allow you to customize content that you want to see, filtering out the stuff you don’t. Users are catching on, but Facebook is lagging behind.

5) Other apps are more fun. Whereas you used to check your Facebook feed at every stop light, now you play Words with Friends. Whereas you used to harvest your crops on Facebook’s Farmville, now you kill pigs on Angry Birds. This intangible obstacle may be Facebook’s biggest challenge, because it’s simply the natural result of a product’s life cycle. People get tired and bored with the same old stuff, and a newer, shinier object emerges…which causes the product to attempt “enhancements” to keep your business (see #2 above).

So, long story short…does this apparent decline mean I’m going to stop using Facebook? No, not quite yet. For now, it’s still the best way to share information — or in my case, photos of my wedge salads – as well as links to great content with your circle of friends.

After all…I just updated my status with a link to this blog post.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Random, Thoughts, Work

 

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Why Words with Friends should restore your faith in humanity

Over 20 million people are addicted.

The maker of some of the most popular video games on the planet, Zynga, has just made a fortune.  Yesterday, the company — which makes Words with Friends, Farmville, and other games played mostly on Facebook and mobile phones — priced its initial public offering at $10 a share, raising about $1 billion for the company. 

Not a bad day’s work.

But what makes this a big deal, literally, is more than the staggering amount of dough.  When you reflect on just how fragile an economy we have in the U.S.– a system plagued over the last few years by mortgage-backed investment scandals, Bernie Madoff, auto industry bailouts, TARP, and so much more — you realize how many things can go wrong.  It’s more than enough to discourage you.

When so many things can be corrupted, politicized, and made to fail, it’s nice to remind ourselves that the basics of our free market economy still work — despite a global economic downturn.  Zynga created (and acquired, in some cases) products that have such a huge demand, people were willing to part with $1 billion to grab a piece.  Their products are so good they’re addictive: 20 million people have installed Words, and 31 million play Farmville daily.  I’ve seen folks unable to remove themselves from picking crops for hours.  And recently, Alec Baldwin was so engrossed in his Words game, he couldn’t put down his phone during takeoff – an act which got him kicked off the plane in the process.

So my message is simply: have hope.  Even if the economy is rough in your neck of the woods, and corruption and fraud are seemingly everywhere, you can still succeed through basic supply and demand fundamentals.  Make a widget that everybody wants, and you can still profit richly.

That’s the American Dream after all, isn’t it?

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Random, Thoughts, Work

 

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