Startups: your web site sucks

I visited each website from the list of Demo finalists.

Boy, do they suck. Really, really suck.

Does no one understand how to market themselves?

It’s amazing to me that not a single Demo website has learned from the lessons of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Winelibrary.tv. Now THAT is a Website that knows how to market! (Interesting that Gary runs a wine store that sells $50 million a year, yet no one looks at his style as a great way to market your service/product yet).

Almost no company on this list is using video. Amazing that in this age of YouTube that statups aren’t understanding how to use video, or are even trying to use it.

But some are far worse. Mapflow’s company’s site only has a password protect up for it. Amazingly bad, especially since there are probably thousands of people who will get that as their first experience with this company.

Some other mistakes?

1. Lots of companies have Demo badges, but don’t welcome Demo visitors. Who cares that you’re going to show off at Demo? We do care about what the news will be. So, include something like “on Tuesday you’ll learn how we’ll solve xxxx problem.”
2. Photrade’s website gave me an error.
3. Some, like Plastic Electronics, just have a lame Demo logo and a sign that says “world leader in plastic electronics.” Who cares? What do you do? What is plastic electronics? Or, worse, look at Semantifind. Can’t they at least put up a few words about what problem they will solve and collect an email address? Remember, this is my first impression of these companies. Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame and, no, I won’t be back. Sorry. Usable says “come see us at Demo.” Um, out of all the visitors to your Web site this weekend how many are going to Demo? I’d guess almost none. After all, if you were going to Demo you’d be drinking beer in the bar right now, not checking out the list of startups.
4. Some, like Open a Circle, seem to aim at a problem that doesn’t exist or seem to be too early. They could really help their case by explaining the pain point that they solve.
5. Too many words, like this site at Radiant Logic. I fell asleep as soon as I saw the site. Oh, and lame stock photo too.
6. We’re a “me too” company, like Wild Pockets which looks to me like a copy of Kongregate but Wild Pocket’s doesn’t explain differentiating factor.
7. ToolTogether just gave me a form without explaining a thing about their company. That’s ultra lame. I can’t believe how bad these companies are.
8. Visit this website for Trinity Convergence for 10 seconds. Click close. Now tell me what they do. Buzzwords!!! Convergence? Multimedia? Embedded devices? Mushy marketing and I still don’t know what they do, the value they bring, the pain they solve.
9. Solves problems that don’t exist. This site, TurnTo, wants you to use your friends to solve problems, or find products. Um, Twitter already solved that. Facebook has all my friends. And I’m not going to get them all to join a new service, sorry. Especially one that uses lame stock photography.
10. I don’t know what this service does, but I know that it won some prize from some conference that doesn’t matter. The site isn’t even in English. Sigh.
11. UGA Digital has probably the worst example of marketing I’ve ever seen. It’s the antithesis of what Gary Vaynerchuk does. Who cares whether your team is in multiple countries? I love companies that claim they have “boundless imagination.” Certainly isn’t demonstrated on their Web site.
12. “Download Unity Solutions info sheet.” Ugh, FAIL!
13. Wait a second, this company wants to make a difference in the world? Why the hell are they spending $18,000 to go to Demo? They could have just donated that much money to some interesting charity and gotten more PR.

Ones that caught my eye?

1. Quantivo. Nice design, gets to the point. Uses video. Makes me want to click into the site.

Um, I visited every single company on the Demo list. Amazingly lame companies. Amazingly lame web sites. Is this it? Am I missing something? How did these companies get $18,000 to go to Demo?

Would you write about any of these companies? Did any of them solve a problem you have? Would any of you fund any of these companies?

My answer? No. No. No. Sorry Demo.

259 thoughts on “Startups: your web site sucks

  1. If the sites are under embargo why are any of them showing more than a simple logo?
    A simple logo with a “coming soon” or “launching at Demo” would have been a lot better than what most of them are showing the world at the moment

  2. Once a company has bought into the Demo or TC50 startup introduction method and put all their marketing effort into polishing their presentation it’s not too surprising that their websites suffer. Why put any effort into the site before the big launch? It’s a quite different technique then the closed invitation only beta and soft launch that most new social web companies are using now. The big splashy launch is a much risker strategy if you are trying to build buzz and you disappoint (i.e. Cuil) but not as risky if you are trying to raise money and you only need to convince one VC to fund you.

  3. Once a company has bought into the Demo or TC50 startup introduction method and put all their marketing effort into polishing their presentation it’s not too surprising that their websites suffer. Why put any effort into the site before the big launch? It’s a quite different technique then the closed invitation only beta and soft launch that most new social web companies are using now. The big splashy launch is a much risker strategy if you are trying to build buzz and you disappoint (i.e. Cuil) but not as risky if you are trying to raise money and you only need to convince one VC to fund you.

  4. I’ll tell you one major difference between Kongregate and Wild Pockets: Kongregate doesn’t give you a HUGE, NASTY message saying their games are WINDOWS only.

    I thought I was in a web browser. Not sure why the operating system even matters.

  5. I’ll tell you one major difference between Kongregate and Wild Pockets: Kongregate doesn’t give you a HUGE, NASTY message saying their games are WINDOWS only.

    I thought I was in a web browser. Not sure why the operating system even matters.

  6. Shel Israel: you are right, of course. But in this case, then, Demo screwed up by releasing that list early. That caused thousands of people to visit this list of companies. That’s OUR first impression of both the conference and these companies. Demo should have held the list until 7 a.m. on Monday morning, which is when the embargo ends. We’ll revisit each of these sites after their demos to see how they do.

  7. Shel Israel: you are right, of course. But in this case, then, Demo screwed up by releasing that list early. That caused thousands of people to visit this list of companies. That’s OUR first impression of both the conference and these companies. Demo should have held the list until 7 a.m. on Monday morning, which is when the embargo ends. We’ll revisit each of these sites after their demos to see how they do.

  8. But Anthony, I saw something on the DEMO site that said there were 800 attendees… that’s not much, compared to the number of clicks from viral marketing and people they could reach outside the actual conference. (I have no idea if that is correct right now.) As RS points out, they won’t have a video provided for them of their presentation (I assume they could recreate it or tape it themselves there) so the “killer presentation” is only going to be seen by a select few, and reported on by various degrees of professional, non-professional and non-subject matter journalists and experts. Your site is the TRUE source of best information about your own product.

    A presentation is ephemeral. Your website can (ostensibly) last forever. The math on this is very simple to add up, for me.

  9. But Anthony, I saw something on the DEMO site that said there were 800 attendees… that’s not much, compared to the number of clicks from viral marketing and people they could reach outside the actual conference. (I have no idea if that is correct right now.) As RS points out, they won’t have a video provided for them of their presentation (I assume they could recreate it or tape it themselves there) so the “killer presentation” is only going to be seen by a select few, and reported on by various degrees of professional, non-professional and non-subject matter journalists and experts. Your site is the TRUE source of best information about your own product.

    A presentation is ephemeral. Your website can (ostensibly) last forever. The math on this is very simple to add up, for me.

  10. Robert,

    Sorry, I’m not joined at the hip on this one with you.

    Each of these sites is under embargo. Each one of these sites will change this week when they embargo is lifted. For a startup, hustling to get the launch of their company going, leaving a little mess here is the usual option, even though you are right–they could have done a better job. But you core complaint is they are not telling you what you want to know when YOU want to know it, rather than when they have agreed to tell it.

  11. Robert,

    Sorry, I’m not joined at the hip on this one with you.

    Each of these sites is under embargo. Each one of these sites will change this week when they embargo is lifted. For a startup, hustling to get the launch of their company going, leaving a little mess here is the usual option, even though you are right–they could have done a better job. But you core complaint is they are not telling you what you want to know when YOU want to know it, rather than when they have agreed to tell it.

  12. I’ve read many comments from company sites about this post but I have to agree with Robert. If companies don’t expalin themselves in a very clear marketing way – then why the hell will first time visitors come back.

    The truth hurts but helps!!!

    Adapt and improve or die…

  13. I’ve read many comments from company sites about this post but I have to agree with Robert. If companies don’t expalin themselves in a very clear marketing way – then why the hell will first time visitors come back.

    The truth hurts but helps!!!

    Adapt and improve or die…

  14. From that Wine site: “Having trouble viewing this video? Try the Quicktime version.”

    You’re kidding right? Quicktime & Adobe Reader are 2 apps that never make it to my HD.

  15. From that Wine site: “Having trouble viewing this video? Try the Quicktime version.”

    You’re kidding right? Quicktime & Adobe Reader are 2 apps that never make it to my HD.

  16. STOP! while you are right… few problems. Don’t do video unless you can make it work, like Gary Vaynerchuk and you don’t need to be a Gary Vaynerchuk clone to make it work either. Stay away from stock photo’s, in fact if you can pull it off stay away from photos, they only say more than a 1000 words if they are spot on, otherwise they miss the mark.

    Content is key. So call around to a friend, your mom, you know and watch them go through your website. DO NOT TELL THEM WHAT YOU DO. then when they are finished ask them what you do. DO they know?

    OK now don’t make a long bland explaination of what you do. Keep in short, but don’t make it too snappy, maybe more conversation than marketing. Just my 2 cents. If you change the site and you are panicking, leave it :D

  17. STOP! while you are right… few problems. Don’t do video unless you can make it work, like Gary Vaynerchuk and you don’t need to be a Gary Vaynerchuk clone to make it work either. Stay away from stock photo’s, in fact if you can pull it off stay away from photos, they only say more than a 1000 words if they are spot on, otherwise they miss the mark.

    Content is key. So call around to a friend, your mom, you know and watch them go through your website. DO NOT TELL THEM WHAT YOU DO. then when they are finished ask them what you do. DO they know?

    OK now don’t make a long bland explaination of what you do. Keep in short, but don’t make it too snappy, maybe more conversation than marketing. Just my 2 cents. If you change the site and you are panicking, leave it :D

  18. you are only bashing thtese web sits cos you live in arringtons echo chamber and get your American ‘global’ view of the world from your ever excessive and increasingly tedious use of ‘tweeting’

    sorry fail

  19. you are only bashing thtese web sits cos you live in arringtons echo chamber and get your American ‘global’ view of the world from your ever excessive and increasingly tedious use of ‘tweeting’

    sorry fail

  20. I agree that most of these websites suck. Their products? Well, that’s a different story…

    Take Plastics Electronics. I agree both their website and brand name suck.
    But their product? You will love it!!! It a flexible display!!!

    Check this out, it’s really innovative because so far it was only experimental (by Sony, Panasonic etc…). With this brand, seems like it could hit the mainstream market…

  21. I agree that most of these websites suck. Their products? Well, that’s a different story…

    Take Plastics Electronics. I agree both their website and brand name suck.
    But their product? You will love it!!! It a flexible display!!!

    Check this out, it’s really innovative because so far it was only experimental (by Sony, Panasonic etc…). With this brand, seems like it could hit the mainstream market…

  22. Very interesting post; Nice reality ceck.
    I enjoyed reading it.

    Perhaps someone will go ahead and also compares the sites on loading times etc. For example on the Plastic Logic site I got images of 1926px × 2302px (scaled to 251px × 300px). Is there something like a “website checker” that checks your site on how many words you have compared to video/images and spits out some usability help. How big are your buttons compared to the content, how deep is your navigation and how freaking huge your images are etc. Seem like such a service is needed quiet a lot ;)

    Cheers,
    Philip

  23. Very interesting post; Nice reality ceck.
    I enjoyed reading it.

    Perhaps someone will go ahead and also compares the sites on loading times etc. For example on the Plastic Logic site I got images of 1926px × 2302px (scaled to 251px × 300px). Is there something like a “website checker” that checks your site on how many words you have compared to video/images and spits out some usability help. How big are your buttons compared to the content, how deep is your navigation and how freaking huge your images are etc. Seem like such a service is needed quiet a lot ;)

    Cheers,
    Philip

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