Yesterday, I put a really long post about my review/analysis of each MSN content site. So today, I’m going to focus on how each MSN content side could be better. It’s probably going to be another long one, but for the most part, they’ll be in alphabetical order. So skip what you want.
Here’s a basic guideline on what all MSN content site should do:
1. Provide quality content – Give me a reason why I should visit. If there’s no quality content, why would I bother going there? People want sites of quality, rinky-dinky articles reposted from another site won’t do.
2. Poll feature – Every content site should offer a voting poll related to their site. Like Health could have, "Which the best big brand pharmacy?" Or Travel could have, "What continent are you least interested in visiting?". And maybe there can be a message board tagged along with each daily poll. Provide some interactivity by offering a poll.
3. Provide a nicely designed site – These days, looks are important as quality. If a site ‘looks’ bad, then people are pretty much already going to turn away. There’s other sites they could hit. If it’s so cluttered, and hard to differentiate, I’m not going to be happy. Graphical icons could help in this case, or better reorganization. Just provide a nice aesthetic design site, and you’ll always have people coming back. Like for instance with MSN Entertainment.
4. User interactivity – Give people some way to interact with the content on the site. It may be content put by MSN, but people should still have a chance to do whatever they can with it. Like placing comments, right under the article. Instead of providing a link to a separate message board. If you worry that it might make the page load longer, or people don’t come in there for that, then by default, give an option like "See all comments (26)" so that you press it, the page extends, and you see 26 comments, if you want to. Provide a handy toolbox of tools to do something with the article. Like e-mail, IM, 5 star rate, tools like that in one centralized area. Give users the option to give their reviews/ratings of a place or gadget. Stuff like that makes people want to come.
So here’s my analysis of how each MSN content site could be done better:
A-List: (shows popular searches, and popular things) Kill it. Discard it. There’s no real point to this site. You’d have to be real bored to bother with this one. Instead, Microsoft should at least consider making a real search statistic site like Google Trends. You know, a comparison of the top/bottom searches and all that showing statistics of each search in countries and whatnot. Come on, that’s exactly why Google is still the top search engine, they just offer more search tools. A-List is dumb. Make a search statistic site for Live Search, and offer it is a Windows Live offering.
Air Tickets/Travel: (travel articles/air tickets) – #1 thing – get rid of all the Expedia flight deals. They’re like everywhere on the pages. It’s ok to keep the large Expedia deal maker module/box in the top right hand corner, but all the other little modules offering deals is too annoying and overdone. There needs to be travel videos. Why kind of travel site doesn’t offer travel videos? And please, not a link to the MSN video site. I want to see the player right on the site. It’s so annoying to be redirected to another site just to see a video. And how about a separate section of the site to plot my own travels? And how about user reviews? Depending on one article for advice, won’t help. I would love for the site to offer users a real chance to put their reviews of cities, or countries, or any destinations on the site. The full tools like 5 star rating, no character limits, and all that. I like MSN Travel, but the site really needs to improve to keep up with the times.
Autos: (site about cars) – How about more in-depth reviews and info.? I really hate seeing the "Not Available" and "Not rated" spaces. What kind of auto site doesn’t have complete info. on that? Autos should work on providing a quality site for auto industry info. With gaps in reviews, photos, specs, and even videos, how can people depend on this site for their auto news? How about teaming up with Motor Trends to provide real quality info. on autos? I’ve glanced through their magazine one time, and they really know how to pull design and quality content together real well. Especially with their neat comparison charts. Man are they cool. So MSN Autos should try getting a deal with Motor Trends to get some (or all) the goodies on MSN Autos. Because if MSN Autos is not going to focus at all on being a quality Auto site, then why bother?
Career & Jobs: (Job-finding site and tips) – There’s not much to say about this one. I think Careerbuilder already does a good job on giving you info. for finding and getting a job. Just put a more curved and styled modules, and remove the "More from MSN" links at the bottom of the site. If I wanted "More from MSN", I wouldn’t be there. Just add some nice style, and you’ve already got it done.
City Guides: (Site about places to go in your city) – This is pretty disappointing. The old MSN City Guides did better. Where is a place where I can find reviews on any restaurant, library, bar, school, store, in my city? Nowhere. There’s an already set list of restaurants and events from MSN. With little reviews from the editors. Sadly, there’s no option to explore other restaurants, and events from around the area, nor does it give users the option to give their personal review and rating. What kind of City Guide is that? It doesn’t even cover schools, specialty stores (like drugstores, department stores, any store), libraries, dry cleaners, nothing like that. You can’t find it on there, or review/rate about it. You can’t even post an upcoming event in your area. This is a sad excuse for a city site. Even my city’s newspaper site can do a better job. Real sad. No way for users to jump in.
Dating & Personals: (online dating site + tips) – There really doesn’t need to be anything done to this site. Match.com seems like a great service to me. Unlike eHarmony, people don’t seem to get rejected, and they allow gay people to be on there. The site looks nice, the articles I’ve seen seemed pretty helpful, and finding people isn’t that hard. Nice simplistic design. I think it’s a great site as it is.
Dial-Up: (site offering MSN Dial-Up services) – Dial-up is like dead, period. Please, just scrap it. There’s no point to it, consider most people are opting for cable/phone/internet offerings from AT&T, Comcast, and Time Warner. Dial-up is like dead considering that it’s way too slow, and DSL is getting cheaper. I think the best thing to do, is to kill this one, and concentrate on other stuff.
Encarta: (site with educational articles/quizzes/tips) – Ok, I hate to say this, but I think Encarta is a joke. I bought Microsoft Student 2007, and I barely use it. Why? Because most of that stuff can be found on Wikipedia for free, or any other internet site. And sometimes with better quality and updates. Plus many features are pretty old and tired. It offers me little. Encarta should have more better and in-depth articles. The only thing pleasing, is that it actually has a nice look/design, and there’s some multimedia. But that’s all. Encarta on the web isn’t any better BTW.
Entertainment: (site providing entertainment news) – Same with all the other little sites, including Music, Movies, & TV – Offer up more content for people. Entertainment is basically a mash-up of them all.
Games: (casual game site) – MSN already offers a pretty neat set of casual games, and an interesting subscription feature. But how about going beyond casual games? Could MSN try putting other types of games onto the site, like video and more PC games? Or even board games? How about making 4 seperate sections on the site for each one: Internet games, video games, PC games, and board games? Internet games are played in a browser, hopefully for free or something. Video games offers a whole database of info. about practically every video game ever made, with full info. on publisher, year, videos, screenshots, and even cheats (yes, cheats). Same thing for PC games section, offer a whole database of info. on every PC game every made, and include any info. a person would want on it. Board games section can just have tips for every board game ever made, and a link to a shopping site to buy. So please, MSN, be the king of game content!
Greetings: (eCard site) – Fix up the site, to the new MSN UI look. Offer more quality eCards for free. The site just looks disgusting. Fix it please.
Groups: (community sites) – It used to have chatrooms, but they killed it. They messed up big time. Here’s how to fix it: On the chatroom side, build a new chatroom platform. Offering lots of more goodies than your usual chatroom place does. Like a consistent user profiles page, text toolbar (like emoticons, fonts, color, bold, etc.), and just anything to make a chatroom better.
For Groups, I expect them to kill it. Rebuild it, offering more tools, services, and better layout options than the old one. Integrate it into Live Spaces, and maybe call it Windows Live Groups. So now there’s more of a community/social thing going on in Live Spaces. Just make sure it offers way more than Yahoo! and Google Groups to get people on board. Or it’s sunk.
Health & Fitness: (site with helpful health articles) – The MSN Health site is pretty good. Lots of neat and helpful articles. Just focus on making it less cluttered, and a more cooler design. Everything seems to be cluttered on the homepage, and hard to differentiate. And how about offering a service? Like buying some prescribtions right off the site? Just kidding. Just do something more different, and more people will come.
Horoscopes: (horscopes/astrology site) – It’s pretty conveinent for what it does, not that I believe in it. Could the horoscope tabs, open up seamlessly on the page, instead of reloading the page? I know it probably brings more ad views, but people really like it if it works seamlessly. And please, remove the MSN Shopping ad at the bottom of the page. If I wanted to go there, I would on my own, thank you.
Lifestyle: (site about things that interest specific age groups) – One of my favorite places on MSN. I really think they have some good content. So how would they improve? First, add more age groups. There should be 5 sections: Kids, Teens, Men, Women, Boomers (seniors). How about adding a kid and teen section? There’s no dedicated place for teen interest on MSN, and the kid section in the women section is real lame. The kid section would have lots of fun casual games and other stuff that interest kids. The teen section would have articles the deal with teen trends, advice, issues, typical stuff a teenager would want to read. And what’s with the so many human pictures on MSN Lifestyle? Or any Microsoft site? Putting real faces of us humans? How about graphical icon representations? Like the ones on public restroom doors? Just something graphical icon-like. Because human pictures are subjective. Like "Why would MSN put a picture of that guy there?" kind of questions hit when users see that. And just keep getting more good content and design in.
Maps & Directions: (site that offers free web maps & directions) – The directions follows your usual algorithim like thing. It works for me. My complaints are more based on Live Maps site itself, than the directions and the maps. I already wrote a post on how Live Maps could improve.
Money: (site offering financial info. and articles) – I don’t know what to really say. Financial and business stuff doesn’t really interest me. Just focus on providing good accurate info. and make it look less bland. Would it hurt to make it a little less cluttered? Every time I see an article, the whole page is cluttered, with more than just the article. I can hardly tell what’s ads, what’s actual links to other Money content, and it’s just hard to tell what’s what by a glance.
Movies: (site offering movie info.) – The site does very well on the design part, but the content is lacking. I want to see more info. about every movie. Like trivia, goofs, and more trailer & clips and pictures availiable. I want to see as much content as I can possible. Instead of having to go to the IMDb site all the time. Or better yet, buy IMDb, and integrate it real well in MSN Movies. I never really liked IMDb because of the pop-ups that try to infiltrate my browser, and just the way stuff is laid out. MSN Movies can do better if they added more needed content.
MSN Mobile: (site features MSN Mobile goodies) – It’s a nice clean site. However, pressing on the Ringtones tab, leads me to a page with the ugly old MSN UI. That’s gotta go.
Music: (site offering music news, tracks, and videos) – Same with movies – great style, needs more content worth seeing. There needs to be a more wider availiablity of sample music tracks, and full music videos on there. I’ve seen list after list, with no sample music availiable at all. They have the single’s name, but no way to play it. I could just load up iTunes and check, instead of bothering with this site. And lots of times, MSN Music doesn’t even have the most popular music videos ever on their site. Seriously, I could just go to YouTube and find it, instead of going to MSN Music. There should be a good reason why anyone would want to go visit MSN Music when sample tracks aren’t availiable (yet on Zune Marketplace they are, and not MSN?) and even the most famous music videos aren’t availiable on the site. Even I admit Y! Music does it better than MSN. And more exclusive interviews with more famous pop stars, instead of your small indies. Just please, put up more content, and that’ll be the reason why people will come. Also, how about putting the Zune store, on the web?
News: (site offering world news from MSNBC) – Gosh, is there a whole lot of things wrong with this site. I’m going to be writing a seperate post about this later. But you know why I hate MSNBC on the web? One thing is there’s too many advertisements! On one MSNBC article, I’ve found at least 8 placements of ads. And that’s not including the many sponsored links in some of them. There’s also that annoying text-hover ads. You hover over the text, and an ad pops-up on the site. Annoying! Reallly, I expected MSNBC to be a better news service than this. The layout is also awful. Like the right margin is completely unutilized except for an occasional ad. But most of the times, there’s just a one-inch white space along the right of the page. At the same time, everything is all squashed in the middle of the page. That includes the article and other extra ‘related’ MSNBC articles sections, ads, and more useless ‘multimedia’ that doesn’t even belong on the page. Really. Plus there’s no well defined toolbar for the articles, like the Internation Herald Times does it. All in all, MSNBC on the web, is my last choice for an online news site.
Real Estate: (site related to article/news about real estate, and development) – Not much to say since I’m not deeply involved into it. The articles and content seem pretty good. But just add some more nicer design into it.
Shopping: (site for online shopping and comparisons) – Hate to say this, but MSN Shopping ought to be tossed. Really. MSN Shopping offers absolutely no more reason for me to shop on their site, than any other site on the internet. It’s ugly, and I could get better deals on Amazon. It’s just ridiculous. This is just one of those sites that’s not going to make any difference. And throwing a lot of MSN Shopping ads around the MSN networking won’t do any good. I think Microsoft should just form a more stronger and full partnership with Amazon.com. Just redirect MSN Shopping to Amazon.com. I’m not saying to buy Amazon.com, just make it one of your partner sites. Don’t take over it. Besides, Live Shopping, was way better than MSN Shopping will ever be.
Slate: (partnership magaizine style site) – Since it’s really another site’s content, I don’t have much to say. I like how it looks, but content is another thing. Most of the site is just about ads and politics. That’s what I notice. And by ads, I mean they just actually have serious in-depth articles about every ad they see. Kind of lame. And they’re so liberal. Nothing wants me to find another news site, than a site that is "too" one-sided. If you’re going to be a liberal or conservative journalist, at least say out loud you are. But it under your name. Instead of making me read through that biased junk. Plus, what kind of parntership is this? The only time I see MSN on Slate, is when I press it directly from the MSN Homepage. I’ll see the MSN logo at the top of the Slate page, along with the little banner at the top right. But when I just get it from another website, or search engine, I don’t see the MSN thing at all. Just the Ask.com search algorithm and Ask.com ads. Some partnership.
Spaces: (social blogging network site) – Not a real MSN content site, but it’s in the list of sites. I’ve already given my thoughts of how Live Spaces could improve. I’ll point out one main thing though – make it more of a social networking site . There’s no place where I can meet my friends from high school, or from college. There’s no local community groups, or any special groups on there at all. Until it can do that, it’s not a true ‘social networking’ site, since it’s so hard to find somebody.
Sports: (sports news site) – I don’t visit FoxSports much. ESPN is more my kind of thing (like most people). If we’re talking about the site, they need to just put a whole new neat look if they can. Much else than that, I’ve got nothing to say. Just that FSN should be more better and have better coverage.
Tech & Gadgets: (site related to tech news & tips) – I just have to say it right now – lame. Most of that is just reposted articles from CNET and PC World. Why doesn’t MSN Tech make its own articles? Oh, probably because MSN isn’t focusing on providing quality content, at least on this site. MSN Tech should just acquire CNET or any other site, instead of offering a lame excuse for being a tech site. There’s really no purpose at all to go there, if that content could be found anywhere. Either produce your own content, or you’re nothing.
TV: (site related to TV news, and series info.) – I’ll cut to the chase, and say what I’ve already said to the other two MSN Entertainment sites: Nice design, but a little lack of content. No user reviews/rating/trivia/goofs/extra info. is availiable on the site. None at all. It’s just a brief overview is all it is. TV.com provides much more in-depth coverage of TV series and episodes, offers more video clips, and is just overall better in terms of offering content info. So put as much coverage into MSN TV, buy TV.com, or just don’t bother. There’s potential just like the other Entertainment sites, but with no better content, there’s no reason to stick around there.
Weather: (shows weather status around the world) – This is like the only MSN site, where I don’t really need to complain. It’s like perfect as it is. Provides good quality info. about weather, has a good layout, and it’s just nice and simplistic. The only thing really, is the way you guys display your heat advisory and weather warnings. Reading an alert in ALL CAPS is kinda hard, especially when it’s all smooshed together in a box, like this. That’s really it. Fix it, and it’s like perfect.
White Pages: (white pages services) – All I have to say, is just make it look nicer. Give a better layout to the results, rather than a 90’s style rendering. It looks so crappy. Mish-mash together. And why the heck doesn’t it use Live Maps? Instead, it’s running Microsoft MapPoint, which is so old. I can’t believe they haven’t updated it. I’m not sure how releven the results are, but providing a better look would make me feel more confident.
Yellow Pages: (yellow pages services) – Kind of the same with White Pages. They just need to improve the look. But unlike White Pages, they use a well-known provider called SuperPages. They do a pretty good job actually. When it comes down to results. And the way it looks isn’t half bad. But the whole page renders awfully on my IE7 browser. When I want to see an enlarged map, it only loads up half way. And the results pages on there, is a clutter of search results and sponsored links. And they all seem gnarled together, which is confusing when you want to see results – not ads.
So that’s about it. I don’t know how more in-depth I can be. I’m hoping somebody will at least read this. I hope I haven’t wasted 2-3 days on this for nothing. That’s like all the feedback I have to say about this.
I’m hoping the MSN employees actually will read this, and consider some of my ideas. Or else I feel really wasted.