Cool Alone Won’t Cut It

Mapquest’s VP and GM Jim Greiner stood up a couple of months ago at Where2.0 (about next generation mapping and location-based apps) and threw some cold water on the party. After two days of dazzling new tools and cool mashups, Greiner told the crowd that he wanted to impress upon them “three simple truths” that MapQuest has learned in its more than 10 years in business: 1) focus on what’s truly useful to consumers, 2) make it economically viable and 3) aim for the mass market.

I read every day about 10 new sites that are interesting (to be sure), have cool features and are even genuinely useful in some cases. I’ve said this before but most of these new companies are creating apps and tools for which no demand or use case currently exists. That can only mean one thing: crash and burn unless they’re bought.

Now you could argue that there was no need for Flickr or MySpace or YouTube before they rose to prominence and massive adoption. However, I would argue that these sites — and there are other examples — are all built on existing consumer behavior, which they evolve or tweak in some way.

But all too many of these new sites (I won’t name names) are redundant or about the interesting capabilities of AJAX rather than actually fulfilling a consumer-user need or solving a problem. It’s impossible to keep up with all the new launches. (If I live and breathe this stuff and can’t keep up, how will consumers?)

There’s research that reflects consumers form their impressions of a website in seconds. By analogy, the value proposition of any of these sites needs to be almost immediately self evident. If there’s any complexity or opacity whatsoever consumers probably aren’t going to take the time to learn how to use the features. Exceptions are for college students who have time on their hands.

Maybe time will prove me wrong . . . Of course none of this matters if your objective isn’t to make money and the site is just a hobby or part time thing :).

One Response to “Cool Alone Won’t Cut It”

  1. AhmedF Says:

    I run … or used to run … an ajax/web 2.0 blog, and this was my exact gripe. People were so fixated on working on the dazzle that there was no meat once you got past the cool fade technique that you had already seen a hundred times before.

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