Friday, August 5, 2011

That Home Page Thing . . .

I’ve been doing a little thinking about Uncharted, trying to figure out how we can streamline things and get our mojo working a little better than it has over the past few months. Site problems, including a continual string of error messages when we try to upload photos and stories aren’t helping matters much, so here goes.

Does Uncharted need a home page any more?

I know that’s breaking serious Web 1.0 rules, and probably a few Web 2.0 rules, but we’re onto at least Web 4.0 now, and the rules are changing.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

We can’t guarantee any more that many people are coming into our site through the home page. I haven’t seen statistics, but I’d bet we get more hits from Google searches, Facebook links, and direct links that we or our Explorers may establish. I’d have to look at our stats to be sure, but I’m fairly confident this is right.

We’re spending a lot of money on web hosting, and, if we’re reading the error messages correctly, we need to be spending more. John tried to get the site to accept some photo uploads but couldn’t get anything to work until he deleted some photos from the site. That seems counterproductive to me.

We can embed YouTube videos on our site, but as far as I can tell it only works if that’s the only bit of text or code we have in the story we’re uploading. Try to combine a story and an embedded video and the world blows up around you. That seems counterproductive.

Back to that homepage thing. We’ve run into a few problems:

1) Updating the homepage is a bit labor-intensive, from working to get the story uploaded and edited, the photoset toned and fixed and tweaked and then the entire package built on the site. That’s fine – we want our stuff to look good. But then we run into the difficulty of our staff not having those stories or photosets appearing on their individual profiles, so if a user wants to look up a staff member and browse his or her stories, those stories don’t appear under their name.

2) The process isn’t as organic as I’d like it – we’re going through too many filters (myself included) to get Explorer content from obscurity on their home page to notoriety for everyone else to see. So we need fewer human filters, and more of a rating system to get people’s stories noticed.

I don’t see that we have to spend any money doing this – we can just use Facebook for that, right? Yeah, I know we end up making money for them by using their site for our stuff, but at the same time, we end up using their servers and such for free – for storing photos, linking to videos and such. And if we don’t want to do that, well then we spend money to revamp how we do things on the site so it’s a lot easier to get content noticed. I’ve talked about this before, and the more I think about it, the more I think we need to go this way.

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