How to Make Your Web Startup Successful

October 5th, 2006

It’s a little old now, but boy is this a great set of tips for any web startup or web entrepreneur - 10 Rules for Web Startups.

The article is by Evan Williams who co-founded Pyra Labs - the people behind Blogger. He’s now the CEO of Odeo - a podcasting-related startup. He admits he’s made some mistakes along the way, but in my opinion his 10 Rules are gold.

The best part about the 10 Rules is that point number 1 truly is the best point in my opinion - Be Narrow. If translated into SEO/SEM talk - Pick a Niche.

There is a great side-effect if you pick something relatively narrow to focus on - chances are you’ll be able to do what you set out to achieve. If you attempt something too large at the start, you might find it takes so long to reach those goals that you lose motivation and give up.

If you aim to develop something smaller, you’ll find it comes about with relative ease, and then you get excited about expanding and developing your product. There’s a reason it’s called web development.. :)

It’s like they say - Release early, release often. Or for a twist - Release something, improve on it.

Ringtone Sites Drop in Popularity

August 2nd, 2006

Ringtones were once the big thing when it came to making money online. I think part of this popularity was due to non-techy people not knowing how to send files via infrared to their phones, and also because it was hard to work with the old midi/polyphonic ringtones.

Enter MP3. Most phones released today have MP3 support. This support not only allows you to listen to your favourite tunes, but it also lets you set your MP3s as ringtones. Furthermore, it’s now extremely easy to get these MP3s onto your phone via your computer, thus it’s very easy to get ringtones on your mobile. No more expensive DCU Nokia cables! :)

The adoption of such a popular format for ringtones and the ease of file transfer to mobile phones has meant even mobile phone web sites that generated a lot of profit from Google Adsense will suffer from the downturn in ringtone ‘hunting’. This is probably a good thing as a lot of these sites bordered on being MFA (Made For Adsense) sites anyway..

For the confirmation of the downtrend, check out Google Trends (ringtones). Or even better, Polyphonic Ringtones. And compare this to MP3 Ringtones.. :)

Hotmail Getting Hammered with Spam

July 20th, 2006

I don’t know if it’s just my account, but lately Hotmail seems to be getting hammered with spam. Normally I’ve found their spam filter to be extremely effective, however in that last 2 or 3 days a lot of spam regarding watches, mortgages and golf have been getting through. Anyone else experiencing the same? :P

RSS Barcodes

July 18th, 2006

Just when you thought there was enough acronyms in the world already, supply chain standards body GS1 has announced the introduction of a new barcode system called - wait for it - RSS. The barcodes are smaller than existing barcodes and can store more information.

The RSS stands for Reduced Space Symbology, not Rich Site Summary or Real Simple Syndication (which one is it supposed to be anyway..??). Just another acronym to cause confusion, or as these people would probably like it to be - JAATCC.. Or would it be JA2TC2? :P

Google Checkout Launched

June 30th, 2006

Google Checkout was released to the public earlier today. Google Checkout is basically Google’s equivalent of Paypal. In Google’s own words:

For merchants, Google Checkout is a new way to process sales. It works with Google AdWords to make it easy for shoppers to find you and buy from you.

You can get a quick summary of Google Checkout from the Official Google Blog

Unfortunately the program is only available to the US at the moment. Perhaps one day a major company can beta-test their new product in Australia? But I understand the logic.. just can’t wait! ;)

One key factor when it comes to online merchant accounts is how much information a buyer needs to put in before they can make a purchase. This was what held Paypal back for so long. Originally with Paypal, buyers had to sign up as Paypal members before they could make a purchase. Today they have the option of ‘no signup required’.

On first glance it seems like Google Checkout has no ‘no signup required’ option - meaning every single person who buys something will need a Google Account. In the long term this could work out good because it could result in buyers not having to re-enter shipping and credit card details on every site they go to. Sure, Paypal has similar options but the implementation of their API isn’t the cleanest resulting in merchants often handling the shipping address and rates themselves (eg. osCommerce).

If the Google API allows consumers to sign up for a Google Account from within a merchant’s online store then they will be able to penetrate the market very quickly indeed.

I think the major advantage Google Checkout has over Paypal is Google is a known and trusted brand. While Paypal has made up huge ground since being purchased by eBay, I doubt they’ll ever enjoy the market penetration that Google does.

A fantastic marketing tactic Google are using is the fact that for every $1 you spend on Adwords, you can process $10 worth of transactions through Google Checkout. That’s a pretty sweet deal, especially for merchants who sell high-ticket items. Yes, that $10,000 web design job can be paid via credit card without hitting your bottom line too much! ;)

A final factor to consider is speed. Paypal is notoriously slow. It’s slow to even browse their help files which is extremely frustrating for developers. It may be a case of their popularity/traffic slowing them down, but Google seems to handle traffic well. So if Google can maintain their speed with Google Checkout they’ll be well on their way to the top. 

Google has come up with what looks to be a very formidable competitor to Paypal. Once they go international it shouldn’t take them long to be on terms with Paypal. However the process to go international could take quite a while yet (years?). Either way new competition is always welcomed and at the end of the day it’s both the merchants and consumers who win.

Firefox Scrollbar Pushing Content Left

June 28th, 2006

I just spent about an hour trying to work out why a CSS layout I was working on suddenly jumped left when I clicked on certain pages in Firefox, but not in Internet Explorer.

It turns out I made the silly mistake of forgetting Firefox pushes content left when the vertical scroll bar appears! ie. If you’re on a page that doesn’t have enough content to fill the screen and you then click on a page with more content than can fit on the screen, the vertical scroll bar that is automatically shown will push your content to the left!

I wonder if this feature can be turned off in FF? I know people love to bash IE but it seems to behave better with scroll bars than FF..

Bloody Typos

June 15th, 2006

You’ve spent hours trying to find a bug in your code. Why is your program/script not doing such a simple task!? I mean, you’ve done the same thing a million times before. The code is so easy. It should work.

Then it hits you.

You’ve spent hours trying to find a problem that didn’t really exist. What did exist was a typo.

Bloody typos!!! 8)

Adsense API

June 1st, 2006

When I first read the title Introducing the Adsense API beta I got quite excited.. Until I realised exactly what the API is for and who it’s targeted at.

The key part to read is:

We’ve started taking applications from people whose sites receive a minimum of 100,000 daily page views. To be eligible, your site must register users who then maintain their web content through your site. The types of sites we’re looking for include web hosts, blog hosts, Wiki hosts, forum hosts, and web publishers.

Ok, that rules a lot of us out right away. The great thing about it however is that it sounds like this API will pave the way to easier revenue sharing. Just imagine not only getting linkbacks for your forum and article submissions, but to be able to make money through Adsense on other people’s sites at the same time.. :)

Google Video Ads

May 24th, 2006

According to the Inside Adwords blog, Google are soon going to give Adwords advertisers the ability to show video ads on the Google content network. This is a fantastic development for both Adwords and Adsense users.

Site visitors are becoming all too used to text and images ads - to the point where they instinctively ignore them. This is bad news for both the advertiser and the publisher. Video ads provide a new means of attracting visitor attention. The only catch is Google video ads do not play automatically - they display a static image that has to be clicked to start the video.

Still, can’t wait till it is released here in Australia. :)

Italics cause DIV width problem

May 23rd, 2006

Internet Explorer 6 has a problem where it fails to calculate the width of DIVs containing italic text correctly. You’ll generally notice this problem in a 2-column CSS layout. Your fancy new layout looks great, until you add italic text. Suddenly your menu appears below your content or vice-versa.

The solution? Sometimes there is none (other than use Firefox instead of IE ;) ). However this little trick will work most of the time: Add the following to your content DIV that contains the italic text:

overflow: visible;
width: 600px // or whatever width you like.. but you MUST specify a width for this trick to work

And that’s it! Hopefully this will save you from hours of pulling your hair out 8)