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Business Exchange: DOA?

August 27, 2008

Been crazy couple of weeks but I wanted to follow up on my BusinessWeek Business Exchange post as I have had an opportunity to test run the site. I absolutely understand it’s in Beta, so I would imagine a few of the bugs and missteps are being addressed. That said, here’s my initial take as I consider myself a target user.

First, the Web layout and interface is Web 2.0-challenged (did they build this thing on GeoCities?). When typing in the URL, the user is immediately greeted with two large ads to subscribe to BW – horizontally along the top and vertically down the side (“GET 4 FREE TRIAL ISSUES” and “GET 8 FREE TRIAL ISSUES). The user then has to scroll down to see past the third topic. Also, there’s no way to distinguish between the content other than “most active,” “news,” “blogs,” “reference.”

The text is also small and difficult to read. When logos to publications are featured next to the article, they, too, are tiny and hard to read. That said, more publication logos are needed (I expect this to happen over time). And why is the site uber text based? Multimedia, audio and video, should be a sub category under each topic area. End of story.

The most egregious and puzzling omission is the absence of search. Sure, you can search by topic but that’s it. Forget about searching for specifics such as, “liquidating a 401k,” that may appear in a news article in the “Retirement Strategies” topic page. Nor can you currently search for other BE users (according to FAQ page: Business Exchange currently doesn’t have this capability, but it’s a feature we plan to add in the future).

Here’s the problem. If you’re looking for some fast information on Starbucks, you’ll find information, but not fast. For example, the Starbucks topic “contains 1,138 news and 1,466 blog items” (as of 8/27/08). I hope you have enough time and a speedy connection to sort through 46 pages of links to Starbucks news pieces.

Another issue that’s bugging me, one core to the Exchange’s value proposition of sharing user-directed content with like-minded professionals, is the lack of interoperability with existing popular networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Again, surely this is being addressed by the BW brass but, then again, why deliver such a half baked product in the first place?

Ultimately, the target audience for a user-directed content community such as this is highly intelligent and highly tech savvy. If you don’t succeed in their eyes quickly, be prepared for increasingly dusty content and dormant users, which leads to a highly disinterested community of advertisers..

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One Comment leave one →
  1. A Lark permalink
    September 12, 2008 11:15 pm

    DDOA I think. I think you got this…It’s not easy to get into this biz, esp. for bizweek…ambitious though.

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