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. I think that the most easy thing is to blame the others. So let me diagree, not all the sites are bad. And even if you consider they sucks, please substantiate your opinion.

  2. I think that the most easy thing is to blame the others. So let me diagree, not all the sites are bad. And even if you consider they sucks, please substantiate your opinion.

  3. Photrade has it’s share of funky moments. I had errors damn near a whole day about a week or so ago. I’d classify it as “getting there”, otherwise a great site IMO.

  4. Photrade has it’s share of funky moments. I had errors damn near a whole day about a week or so ago. I’d classify it as “getting there”, otherwise a great site IMO.

  5. I really don’t see why you think the winelibrary site is so compelling. I went there and all I see are a bunch of videos. Why should I have to sit through a video to find out what a site is offering me? I think that’s pretty lame. Give me the text version and convince me that your videos are worth my time. Or is the new standard that Web sites be dumbed down for the illiterate?

  6. I really don’t see why you think the winelibrary site is so compelling. I went there and all I see are a bunch of videos. Why should I have to sit through a video to find out what a site is offering me? I think that’s pretty lame. Give me the text version and convince me that your videos are worth my time. Or is the new standard that Web sites be dumbed down for the illiterate?

  7. amen. how so many folks can be this wrong when people like GaryVaynerchuk are showing you how to do it right – FOR FREE!- is really remarkable.

    the post is a little harsh, but all points are solid. people just need to have the right frame of mind when reading your blog. it’s your blog. your style. your opinions. and they are valid and spot-on.

  8. amen. how so many folks can be this wrong when people like GaryVaynerchuk are showing you how to do it right – FOR FREE!- is really remarkable.

    the post is a little harsh, but all points are solid. people just need to have the right frame of mind when reading your blog. it’s your blog. your style. your opinions. and they are valid and spot-on.

  9. It is easy to go through a bunch of websites and say they ‘suck’, because you get hold the bar as high as you like, and you get to ignore whether or not you are the target audience of the company behind the site. Also, you get an almost guaranteed win in the odds game–the odds say that none of the companies in the list will be wildly successful, so it’s easy to blanket them with a ‘you suck’ statement.

    A more rigorous critique would ask (and answer) the question: is there a real corollary between the quality of a start-up’s initial website and its success as a company? Can we take a survey of past internet start-ups that have succeeded and failed and determine whether the quality of their site was a benefit or a drawback in that success or failure? Can we then distill the qualities of successful start-ups’ websites into a set of guidelines that other companies can use to bolster their success?

    Of course, as you get further into those ‘hard journalism’ types of questions, black-and-white analysis turns into shades of grey, and it becomes harder and harder to distill your analysis into a short, controversial post that is guaranteed to get read and responded to by those such as myself :).

  10. It is easy to go through a bunch of websites and say they ‘suck’, because you get hold the bar as high as you like, and you get to ignore whether or not you are the target audience of the company behind the site. Also, you get an almost guaranteed win in the odds game–the odds say that none of the companies in the list will be wildly successful, so it’s easy to blanket them with a ‘you suck’ statement.

    A more rigorous critique would ask (and answer) the question: is there a real corollary between the quality of a start-up’s initial website and its success as a company? Can we take a survey of past internet start-ups that have succeeded and failed and determine whether the quality of their site was a benefit or a drawback in that success or failure? Can we then distill the qualities of successful start-ups’ websites into a set of guidelines that other companies can use to bolster their success?

    Of course, as you get further into those ‘hard journalism’ types of questions, black-and-white analysis turns into shades of grey, and it becomes harder and harder to distill your analysis into a short, controversial post that is guaranteed to get read and responded to by those such as myself :).

  11. Catering to your audience is always of prime concern. You can presume ‘who’ but not ‘how’ though, too many website make the mistake of choosing a feature or format because they are familiar with it.

    You either stick to what works or make sucess inevitable (ala Google).

  12. Catering to your audience is always of prime concern. You can presume ‘who’ but not ‘how’ though, too many website make the mistake of choosing a feature or format because they are familiar with it.

    You either stick to what works or make sucess inevitable (ala Google).

  13. 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

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