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9 Things I Love About the Las Vegas Sun Website

The Las Vegas Sun is known for having one of the best websites of any newspaper in the country. The reputation is warranted.

In my experience as a web developer, I’ve found many sites that do a few things well. A site might have a nice homepage and a few cool features, as an example. However, it is a very unusual to find sites that deliver consistent excellence through the whole experience. To take care of the details that are so important in delivering a great experience. The Las Vegas Sun website does that.

Following is a list of some of those details that make me really appreciate the Sun website, as a web developer.


Is UserVoice New or Recycled?

Fledging company UserVoice is attempting to provide focus groups to those companies that cannot afford focus groups.  The site's general idea is to moderate user ideas and complaints by means of formal comment boxes, polls, and ranking systems.  The three-person ‘Team UserVoice' is quoted as saying, "UserVoice adds structure to feedback and reduces the overhead of an honest dialog with our users – It creates a market around good ideas so we get more quality than quantity."

The interface is currently in its public beta stage, allowing (free of charge) access to its platform.  Those who sign up can create a page for their company, product, project, or even blog.  UserVoice just recently released the ability to add custom CSS to a company's page as well as c-name inclusion for a completely transparent user experience.  This means that the customer never perceives that they are on another site.  The idea is to put the UserVoice widget on the company's official site and allow users to comment on their company or specific products.  The company can then do several things:

  1. Track user ideas as other users vote on them
  2. Provide official responses to comments
  3. Mark an idea as ‘planned'
  4. Push out new features that users want
  5. Collect fan mail


The new site has gained a lot of attention, but I question whether this new company can do things that are not already being done.  Sites like FeVote, Get Satisfaction, and Sales Force are already doing many of the things with which UserVoice claims to be able to help.  The only unique feature that I can discern is that UserVoice allows companies to create a specific page for themselves.  The effort seems to be made in keeping the comments more regulated and organized than the previously mentioned sites, but will that cause users to be less free with their suggestions and comments?  I applaud the company for creating a way for small to medium-sized businesses to have their own ‘focus groups' but it is going to be a couple of months before we will be able to decide if UserVoice shouts or gets silenced.

The Microsoft Surface is Bound to Surface Eventually

When I was young, I had a computer that displayed two colors, puke green and black, and I was happy with it.  I could type papers and play a second-rate version of Jeopardy.  It was all that I really needed.  Years later, I have a laptop that displays countless colors that I can bring with me wherever I feel like I need a computer.  Soon, as early as Spring 2008, I will be able to have a computer where I least need it:  my breakfast table.


Why did the Fred Thompson Blog Work?

As most of you know, The Bivings Group was a part of the team that built Fred Thompson’s Presidential campaign website. Our main client contact on the project, Michael Turk, has a good post up rounding up the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the online program we all put together. It is worth a read.

In the piece, Turk points out that one of the most successful aspects of the program was the campaign blog, the Fred File. He writes:

As an example of the strength of Thompson’s online effort, look at the Thompson campaign blog and you’ll see something remarkable for GOP candidates – comments. And not just a few comments, but hundreds and even thousands of comments.

Rudy’s blog doesn’t allow comments. Romney’s gets a few per post. Ron Paul just recently launched a blog (despite the fact that blog software is largely free). He currently gets between a handful and a few dozen comments.

I don’t think this indicates a lack of supporter enthusiasm as much as it indicates that the campaigns have created a blog with nothing to say on sites that are so scrubbed of interesting content they’re almost sterile. Most of the posts are rehashed press releases, rehashed campaign e-mails, or occasionally a video so overscripted it becomes almost completely unwatchable.

I think Turk is right on here. With any successful blog, 90% of the battle is producing readable content and engaging with readers. Many, many campaigns want a blog in theory but don’t have the stomach to do the heavy lifting that will make it actually work.  The Thompson campaign, lead by staffers Sean Hackbarth and Austin Walne, deserve the lion’s share of the credit for the success of the Fred File. But I also think there were some small, more technical decisions that were made that helped give the blog a greater chance to succeed. (more…)

Using SEO to Select a CMS

My favorite SEO blogger, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz in Seattle, has an excellent post titled “Choosing the Right CMS Platform for Your Website (from an SEO perspective).” It is about various aspects of SEO to consider when choosing a content management system (CMS) to build a site. 

Instead of doing a comparison and contrast between different systems like Drupal and WordPress; Rand provides 12 issues to consider. These issues revolve around the ability of a site owner to control various design elements that search engines consider when assessing a site.  These issues range from page title tags to CSS.

It is worth reading.  Other than SEO, what are important issues you consider when selecting a CMS?

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