Julie’s gadget diary – you talked and I listened

We recently held a contest where I asked for feedback on what we’re doing well and what could use improvement. Although it’s always very nice to receive compliments and praise for the things you like and enjoy here on the site, I was more interested in hearing about the not so good things. The things that you think we need to change and improve in order to continue making The Gadgeteer one of your favorite surfing destinations. After reading through the 54 comments  several times, I have compiled a list of what I see as the main areas for improvement and what we’ve done or will do to address them. 

I’ve separated the list into 3 topics: Site mechanics, Subject matter and Advertising.

Site mechanics

What you want:

  • Better search, better site navigation, can’t easily find older reviews and articles
  • Updated layout
  • Load more posts while scrolling so you don’t have to press the Previous button so much
  • Add the word “crowdfunded” to the title of crowdfunded posts
  • Add thumbnail images to Julie’s Favorite Gear page
  • Need a mobile site or mobile app

How we plan to improve:

Search and having the ability to find older articles has been the biggest request, which goes along with asking for an updated site layout. We’ve had the same look and feel since early 2009, so I completely agree that it’s time to spruce things up. I’m in the process of setting up a test site on my Macbook Air so that I can play around with new layouts. My goal is to roll out a new design this fall. Until then, I’ve been trying out several alternative search plugins for the site and have been really disappointed in them. They either flat out don’t work or they aren’t any better than what we already have. The Google search that we are currently using is actually very capable if you realize that you can use some of the same advanced searching features that you use though Google’s main search engine. I posted a tutorial last year that might be a good refresher:

How to find reviews and articles using the search box

Someone asked that we figure out a way to automatically add more posts to the home page as you scroll down. Sorta like Pinterest. I’m not sure what would be required to set that up, but it’s on my list to investigate.

One person (Hi Sandee) has asked on more than one occasion that we add the word crowdfunded to post titles for products that are using services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I don’t want to clutter titles by adding prefixes like that, but we compromised and have been adding these types of posts to a crowdfunded category which shows up below the title.

Another person requested that I had thumbnail images to my favorite gear page. Your wish is my command, I plan to work on that asap.

Regarding a mobile site or a mobile app. We did have this implemented, but turned it off because there were some incompatibility problems with it and at least one other plugin that we use. I’ve just turned it back on but note that it only works for pages other than the home page (at least on my SGS3… the mobile app doesn’t seem to work at all on my iPad mini). We obviously have more work to do on this one…

Subject matter

What you want:

  • More camera/home security reviews
  • Too many Apple product reviews
  • Reviews are overly positive
  • Products too expensive
  • Short video reviews

How we plan to improve:

I think we do a pretty good job of covering a wide variety of products and subjects, but I know we can do better – and we will. As far as our reviews being too positive, I think are very honest and have no problem pointing out the good with the bad. But we’ll see how we can improve more on that. I agree that we do cover a lot of expensive products that not everyone can afford. I have some ideas for articles where we would offer alternative products based on price and DIY type projects.

I really enjoy doing video reviews, but I think I am horrible in front of a camera. I think I just need practice. So I’ll work on that and make sure the rest of the team knows that they can try their hand at video reviews too if they like.

Advertising

What you want:

  • Deal of the Day posts shouldn’t be in the archive of older posts
  • Deals of the Day posts have too many laptops
  • Ads that look like articles
  • Don’t like the ads that show up at the bottom of images

How we plan to improve:

I’ve made a lot of changes with ads recently, with more to come. I know we had way to many and it made the user experience lousy, so I fixed it. I removed the double underlined contextual links that caused small popup ads when you moved your mouse over them, I also removed the ads that show up at the bottom of existing images, and the text box ads under the titles of each article that prevented you from reading the article without first scrolling down.

As far as the Deal of the Day posts, that is an excellent suggestion that the old ones be removed so they don’t show up in the archived list or search results. We will address shortly by manually deleting all the Deal of the Day posts that are older than a certain date and then do this on a weekly or monthly basis going forward. We’ve also made it clear that the DOTD posts are sponsored so you know they are an ad and not an article. This goes for any sponsored article that we are compensated for. It will be clearly marked as such. As far as the DOTD having too many laptops, we don’t have any control over the deals. They are handled by LogicBuy who sends them to us each day.

How can you help make The Gadgeteer better?

Please keep the comments, suggestions, requests and criticisms coming. If you’re a web designer who would like to help me come up with a  new look for the site, please shoot me an email. I welcome all help, advice and feedback. Thanks everyone! :)

Posted in: Articles

23 comments… add one

  • Forrester August 16, 2013, 1:38 pm

    We love you, Julie!

    1
  • Itchyd August 16, 2013, 3:34 pm

    You know what would be great? If interesting stories floated to the top and then faded away after awhile like reddit. I would keep the # secret but it could also be a good metric for what people are into and want to see more. Thanks for the awesome site I check it daily!

    2
  • Julie Strietelmeier August 16, 2013, 5:29 pm

    Awwww thanks Doug!

    @Itchyd that’s a cool idea. I know there are plugins that will keep display a list of the most popular posts. We use a custom plugin now that sort of does that, but we add the articles manually.

    3
  • Jake August 16, 2013, 7:03 pm

    Sounds really good, thanks Julie. The searching has bothered me but I did not see the article on improvements. Dang it. It all seems great though and am looking forward to the re-design. The Apple reviews don’t bother me, people can just not read them! Or do an Engadget and have a filter for all Apple related stories.

    4
  • Steve August 17, 2013, 2:17 am

    Hi Julie, my number one website design peeve, which I’m pleased to see you have addressed, is any info or link which requires hovering. This, of course, does not work with a touch screen and really affects the browsing experience on a phone or tablet. Anyway, big kudos for inviting these comments and listening.

    5
  • Steve August 17, 2013, 7:25 am

    Hi Julie,

    I think you cover a great deal of products. I have to say I have purchased more items from companies based on reviews from your site than any other site (perhaps only second to CNET). My only suggestion would be when you click on a link for a product, the page should open up another tab instead of leaving your page. This is one of my favorite sites and typically the first one I read. Keep up the good work.

    6
  • Julie Strietelmeier August 17, 2013, 10:21 am

    @Steve it’s interesting that you say to make outbound links open in a new tab. I was always led to believe that this was a bad practice since a person can just right click on a link to open in a new window or tab.

    7
  • Steve August 17, 2013, 10:51 am

    Maybe. I just think that the longer your page is open the more it is read. I find once I am on another page I may not go back to original page. It is a pain to hit the back button 2 to 3 times to get back to my original source. I am not sure how many people take the “extra” step of right clicking.

    8
  • Julie Strietelmeier August 17, 2013, 10:58 am

    I agree that once someone clicks on an outbound link that they are probably gone forever. I just don’t want to do anything to annoy readers by opening new tabs or windows. I’ll have to research more to see what the current thoughts are on this.

    9
  • David Grant August 19, 2013, 9:46 am

    @Julie
    I direct a very large scientific database and web site (http://soybase.org). We decided that a clicked link to one of our internal pages would open in the same window unless the link pointed to a help page or other static info that would need to be referred to while using the page with the link. Links to external sites always open in the same page.

    10
  • Julie Strietelmeier August 19, 2013, 9:49 am

    @David thanks for sharing your practices.

    11
  • Mike Roselius August 19, 2013, 9:56 am

    Wonder if you considered looking at a hosting company / web service like Squarespace. I’m not associated w/ them other then a satisfied customer – but it seems like they might meet your needs at a very reasonable price.

    They don’t have bandwidth limits, all templates have a mobile responsive design so they automatically scale to whatever device you are using. Great search is built in, they support multiple editors, have clients for the ipad / iphone. etc.

    Maybe the biggest challenge would be importing your content into their CMS but that might be easier than you think.

    Highly recommended – and an easy way to address a lot of what you have on your fix list for the website.

    12
  • Pam T. August 19, 2013, 10:04 am

    I also missed the original post, and like most of the suggestions listed here. My two cents worth:

    – While I don’t mind reviews of Apple products, I do think that when a product isn’t specifically for an Apple product (i.e. a computer backpack), the reviewer should take a more agnostic approach. There is nothing more annoying that reading (anywhere!) about a beautiful backpack “designed to fit a 15″ Macbook” – like a 15″ Macbook is dramatically different than another 15″ computer in size needs.

    – I particularly enjoy the wide variety of things written up here, large small, cheap and expensive.

    – I also think the reviewers are very fair about their reviews, neither being too positive or negative.

    – Love the Deal of the Day. Saves me the trouble of going to look myself. :)

    13
  • Julie Strietelmeier August 19, 2013, 10:05 am

    @Mike Moving everything to a hosting service sounds scary to me. I think we’ll stick with our own server. I do want to use a theme/template that automatically adjusts for different screen sizes instead of using a separate mobile plugin.

    14
  • Ted A August 19, 2013, 11:04 am

    1 I think David Grant’s suggestion makes a lot of sense. I was just giving that idea some thought to post and there was his suggestion.

    2 The suggestion to automatically add articles worries me. I use an iPad and Flikr now spends so much time churning adding more content that I can’t actually use the site, when it doesn’t just outright crash. I would prefer seeing more articles per page, 30 rather than 15 for example, and then having the previous link.
    Thanks for the great site for all these years.

    15
  • Julie Strietelmeier August 19, 2013, 11:55 am

    @Ted I’ve increased the number of posts per page from 15 to 25. 25 is the max I want to go due to page loading times.

    16
  • Janet Cloninger August 19, 2013, 1:42 pm

    I write many of the Apple-related news posts, so I’ll address something that many people are saying. Many products are designed for Apple products specifically, although they may work perfectly well with some non-Apple products. Often it seems that the manufacturer wants to be associated with Apple, so they include the name of an Apple product in their product’s name or specifications. I try to convey what the manufacturer says about their own products in news posts. If they say it fits a 15″ MacBook, then I can’t say “but I’m sure it will fit any 15″ laptop of any dimensions and shape.” I have a laptop tote that says it’s for a 13″ MacBook Pro, and the built-in sleeve is exactly the size and shape for a 13″ MBP; I’m not sure any other 13″ laptop would fit in there and zip. And I can’t just decide to remove the Apple designation from the name of products because it may work with non-Apple devices.

    When I do reviews of these products, I try them out with the equipment I have. I buy my own laptop, tablet, and phone, so I buy Apple products. I don’t have a variety of other stuff around to check the fit.

    17
  • jim sturtz August 19, 2013, 3:03 pm

    Hi All,

    I’ve wished for a site to ‘find’ things I’ve seen or would like to see. Probably 15 years ago i purchased a small, thin brass cardcase. I is/was ideal. Then i thought to purchase some for friends. As much as I’ve looked, sent specs off to manufacturers and wholesalers, I’ve never found them again. A site that could log the info on a request, perhaps as just a TAB where visitors could look thru and perhaps send some helpful info?

    Or a suggestion of an item to review. I know this is your site and your interests, but it might give you some products to investigate.

    thanks. jim

    18
  • Julie Strietelmeier August 19, 2013, 3:23 pm

    @Jim I like that idea. Years ago we had forums where user’s could post topics/questions. We took it down when we rolled out the current design back in 2008 because of spam problems. I sometimes wish we had some type of forum again.

    Btw, have you done a google image search for thin brass card case? You might find what you’re looking for that way. :)

    19
  • Bob DeLoyd August 19, 2013, 3:36 pm

    I missed out on the “Contest” for making The Gadgeteer better because the heavy ads that bogged down my browser and popups would sometimes cause it to crash. This made me shy away from visiting The Gadgeteer; though I feel you guys/gals are my friends, I haven’t visited here in months.
    We need more gadgets and less Apple cases and baggie thingys. How to’s with stuff we can play with and make like Raspberry pi and not just product reviews…
    I want to learn, I want to know the latest; The Gadgeteer can be much more!

    20
  • jim sturtz August 20, 2013, 10:31 am

    Hi Julie,

    I sent an email to you (newsletter@the-gadgeteer.com) with pic/info on the case if you’re of a mind to help investigate.

    Yep, i put in several days off/on over the years trying to find it/them.

    Thanks.

    Jim

    21
  • Julie Strietelmeier August 20, 2013, 1:08 pm

    @Jim I received the email. I have seen brass card holder, but not ones with an end cap like that one… Does it have be brass?

    22
  • jim sturtz August 21, 2013, 8:49 am

    not really, just not plastic i think. something that’ll take back-pocket abuse :)

    23

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