Brian Armstrong

How to Make Easier to Use (With Pictures)

It’s been a cool week. I’ve been reading this awesome book, the 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing. It’s short, simple, and profound. Highly recommended.

I also met up for drinks with another American entrepreneur living in Buenos Aires (found me through the blog). Turns out he started Check it out and let him know what you think :)

I’ve continued to improve It is now ready for an international audience. Tutors can list prices in any currency and subjects in their local jargon. People can search anywhere in the world now, and I’ve imported a database of 80,000 cities around the world so it will continue to generate search engine optimized pages in various cities.

Marketing has already started internationally. I’ll be targeting other English speaking countries first, specifically the UK, Australia, Canada, and India. Did you know India has the second largest English speaking population of any country in the world (after the U.S.)? I didn’t.

I think I can get 10,000 or 20,000 tutors signed up by the end of the year.

Ideas On Improving

I’ve also taken a bit of time to refine my thoughts on - and gotten some great ideas from other people over the last week which have helped, so thanks for that. If you’re reading this I’d like to get your input as well.

I like the basic concept of user generated online reviews in ANY category, but it needs some work.

Specifically, the mental barrier to creating a new page is too high. There are too many fields to fill out for one thing. As a first time visitor to the site, I think I’d like the concept, but probably wouldn’t take the plunge to actually create a new page.

This is part of the brilliance in the simplicity of Twitter. There is a very low mental barrier to posting because you KNOW it can’t be more than 140 characters. If it was an open ended text field (like a blog post) people would subconsciously avoid it.

Another thing I’ve been looking at it the relationship between “pages” and “categories”.

The site right now is designed around the idea of adding a page, then you give it some categories later.

But whenever I’ve found myself wanting to use the site (like “man I wish there was a list of the best XYZ out there”), I’ve always thought about it in terms of a category, not a page.

So I got around to doing some sketches on paper (this is the best method of website design for me at least). Let’s put on our user interface design caps for a moment.


What do you think?

As you can see I’ve tried to make it based around adding a category instead of a page. You can add as many pages as you want under the category. The list of pages (or items) grows with some javascript similar to Google’s multiple choice forms if you’ve ever seen that, so you could add as many as you want there. You (or other people) could also add more after the category was created of course.

The “prove you’re human” is a captcha to prevent spam.

The home page could then be changed…maybe something like this with a search field, some currently popular categories (I like the idea of a homepage with changing content so people could start participating right away without actually creating anything), and most importantly a form to add a new category right on the home page?


Is this a better direction to take?

Some further simplifications could be made on an actual category page as well. Maybe instead of letting people do 1-10 reviews and averaging them, I should just use a simple “vote up” “vote down” number that tracks the total number of votes.


This is a slightly less fair method of voting because it suffers from a time bias - older items which have been around a long time could have accumulated large numbers of votes, where a new page with a higher % of up votes could actually be ranked lower. But I can think of some ways around this, like showing only votes for the past year or month as an option, so it may be worth it for the simplicity.

Actual reviews on the item page could be limited to 140 characters like Twitter as well, the lower the mental barrier further.

One downside to this approach is that each category would keep separate lists of items, so a page could not belong to multiple categories.

Right now, iPhone could be under the cell phone category, a smart phone category, and a web enabled phones category. Reviews and votes from ALL categories would be averaged 1-10 for a single iPhone page.

But if I switched to this, there would be no good way to keep them together. There could be half a dozen “iPhone” pages on the site in different categories, each with their own ratings and reviews. (In programmer speak, categories and pages would be a “one to many” relationship instead of a “many to many” relationship.) This bothers me a bit…but maybe it would be worth it for the simplicity?

I’m really not sure. These are all just ideas. I’ve been looking at some other similar sites too for ideas: see and Google Moderator powered sites like this (click “view questions”).

I need to find something that is a powerful voting engine, but drop dead simple to use and remove every single mental barrier possible. Eliminating the need to create a new account since you can use one your already have, for example, was a big step toward that.

Please let me know what you think in the comments.

And until next time, keep breaking free! Brian Armstrong