MSN City Guides suck

                                                                           

Ok, I don’t know why I’m posting about it, but I thought I should.

I used to look at MSN City Guides, when they used to partner up with CitySearch and there was least good info. back then.

But now a days, City Guides offers scant content that’s it’s a wonder why MSN considers it a site. Like most other MSN sites, City Guides offers low on content and little else to visit for.

What’s makes the site so bad? Well :

  1. The ‘articles’ on the site don’t have ANYTHING to do with LOCAL info. – Yeah, surprisingly, the articles they post up every now and then have little to say about local affairs. The ‘articles’ (if you want to call them that) usually have this general topic, and show where in ‘some’ cities you can see this. But NOT all cities, so the articles might as well be considered useless. If you’re going to show articles, how about they actually talk about my city?
  2. Lack of Classifieds service on the page – Ok, is it that hard to integrate a Classifieds service on a page showing the local area? Even my local newspaper does a better job of that. There is Live Expo (a classified service) but the only integration with that is a link to go there. But the thought of actually putting some of these listings right on the City Guides page is dumb.
  3. No place to write reviews – Hmm. I see this business, yet I have no idea how reliable it is. Gee, I wish there was a place for users to write reviews, don’t you think? Sadly, you can’t even right reviews in City Guides. What kind of ‘City Guide’ doesn’t have reviews of local businesses, schools, hospitals, libraries, etc.? Probably a bad one. Could have integrated Live Local with this one.
  4. The whole site isn’t even consistent – Microsoft always has issues with consistency, and City Guides isn’t anything new with that. Click Yellow Pages or White Pages and you’re taken to a separate page. Wow, I just love being taken away from the site when I wasn’t even expecting it.
  5. City Guides is a rehash of other MSN sites – Not all MSN sites are trash, but when you put together other MSN properties that have little to do with the topic at hand, the site you’re on is trash. The link to movies has nothing special to do with the city. The "More from MSN" box at the bottom right of the page has LITTLE to do with my city if at all. They always put the "More from MSN" box on every trashy MSN site and it’s rather repulsive and has little to do with the site at hand.
  6. The map in the center of the site isn’t even good – It’s like they didn’t even try it themselves. The map takes a while to load (and I have a fast connection), and by default, they put the city’s central zip code. But thanks for not considering that a user might live in another part of town. So try changing it to just Houston and box comes up asking to specify ‘which’ Houston. Well, considering I’m on a certain City Guides page, couldn’t you recognize it? Sheesh.

I’m not saying all this just to complain. Just pointing out these little issues that MSN has with it’s content sites. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • Open up a place where users can review – Things like businesses, schools, hospitals, libraries, maybe even police deparments, etc. Sort of like bringing the concept of Live Local directly to MSN City Guides. Make it super simple to find one of these institutions, and super simple to review them with enough characters and even a 5-star rating. And make a section for users like MyReviews, MyFaves (for places), etc.
  • Make it simple to post local classified DIRECTLY on the site – How about bring a little of Live Expo directly on the City Guides site? Don’t just give a link, but allow users to post up classified listings. They could show up when a person searches for local things. Like if I’m searching for concerts, maybe a local band posting might pop up in the classified listings, and official concert events will show up in the main results as well.
  • Put stronger emphasis on real local events – It’s interesting to see a NBA game, but how about embedded links where you can hover and see a Live Maps of the stadium, or a link to the official team site, or even some pictures/vids of the game afterwards? Same with concerts – embedded link to hover over and view stadium map, link to official concert site, and maybe even some photos/vides with commentary. That’s really being dedicated to an area’s local events. Or at least being thorough.
  • Better site header that includes the city’s downtown view and weather condition – You want to be a little creative? Well how about putting a focal part of the city, such as the downtown skyscraper landscape, and making the city’s official header for the site? And maybe taking it a step further, where if it’s daytime; there’s a daytime view of the downtown scape, and when it’s nighttime; the night view of the cityscape. And putting the weather condition directly at the top, maybe somewhere right or on top of the site header.
  • Posting articles that ONLY have something to do with the city – You could hire the local tourism board to do articles once in awhile about the city. Or maybe contact the local newspaper and settling a deal to have one of their writers do a good post in return for a logo recognizing the company’s newspaper. At least get somewhere where a REAL local is putting together a good article about the city and current events.
  • Add better visual design to the site – a must-need for still most of the MSN sites. How about putting a much nicer modern look to the site, instead of the modular tacky old-style look? Like would it hurt to utilize the page margins, add more curves, and make it look less utilitarian? Just make it look more people-friendly, and add better scripts.
  • Make the map work better – Does the embedded Live Map have to work so awful? How about giving it the same streamlined menu like in the real site? With the translucent blue menu in the top left? Much more simplized than the bring rectangle plopped onto the map. And wouldn’t it be interesting if you hover over one of the pushpins and see it give real info., just like on the real site? It works that way on the embedded maps in the web search.
  • Drop the non-city related stuff (extra MSN content) – City Guides should have content dealing with a local city. Not sites MSN advertises as content. Please, don’t give a section with external links to other MSN content sites; it’s has nothing to do with the City Guides site, and it’s pointlessly stupid. Makes MSN content sites look nothing but a page-view generated ad revenues for Microsoft. Which I really hope it isn’t.

So that’s the gist of what I would love to see MSN do with the City Guides site.

Personally, I think Yahoo! Local does a better job in where I would expect these features, but then again, I’m not really a Y! user.

So just thought I should share some of my opinions of one of MSN’s not-so-good sites.

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