Shopinterest: a Review

by Julie Gomoll on November 2, 2012

Shopinterest logoWhen I first saw the demo for Shopinterest, I was floored. The idea that it could be that simple to set up an ecommerce site made it seem like Shopinterest could be a real game changer. Plus — shopping + Pinterest? Duh!

And it’s true. It is that simple. But it’s got a ways to go before it’s a viable storefront for most folks.

Who Shopinterest is good for

If you’ve got your own products in inventory, and don’t require shoppers to choose sizes or colors, Shopinterest could be pretty sweet. Likewise if you want to set up an alternative Etsy storefront, this may be a viable option. Otherwise, not so much.

And who it’s not good for

If you’re a reseller or sell things as an affiliate, forget it. Shopinterest is for direct sales only. There’s no process for involving a 3rd party.

The upsides

  • You don’t actually need to use Pinterest to set up a store. You can use any photo and assign a description and price.
  • In addition to adding an item to your shopping cart, you have the option to pin it.
  • A running total of the items from a single store updates quickly in the right column (but not from featured items — read about that in the downsides)
Shopinterest product form

The downsides

I really don’t want to come down too hard on Shopinterest. They’re still in Beta, after all. I do think they’re on to something here, and they’ll no doubt be adding functionality. But it’s just not ready for prime time yet.

  • The FAQ says there’s a way to specify sizes for clothing items, but I haven’t found it. So if you have multiple sizes (or colors, or any other options) you’ll need a separate product box for each one.
  • There’s no way to order different quantities.
  • Fixed shipping rate: you can specify a shipping amount, or allow for free shipping. There’s no way to adjust the amount for location or delivery speed.
  • Hardly any customization: The name of your store runs across the top, and a teensy (~65 x 65) logo off to the left. That’s it. As a result, every store looks pretty much the same.
  • No way to create a customer thank you page.
  • Fixed sales tax: This won’t be an issue for most storefront owners, since it’s not necessary to collect sales tax if you don’t have a physical location. But if you do, you may have to charge different rates depending on location, and it’s not possible to do so.
  • Paypal is the only payment option.

And a few scary things in the fine print

Regarding pricing:
“we will offer a trial period and start charging after that. You will have the option to pay per item or to subscribe on a monthly basis to get additional features and services. The subscription costs will be based on sales volume and number of items. Buyers may pay a convenience charge.”

Right now they’re charging $1 per item. No hint as to what that may change to or what the monthly charge will be

And from the Terms of Service
“We reserve the right to modify or terminate the Service for any reason, without notice at any time.”
“Shopinterest reserves the right at any time to time to modify or discontinue, the Service (or any part thereof) with or without notice.”

So for me (for my client, actually), Shopinterest just won’t cut it.


Shoe Rapture

by Julie Gomoll on October 9, 2012

Photo of "god sky" with cutouts of shoe soles


Bitly is Dead. Long Live Bitly.

by Julie Gomoll on May 29, 2012

I read a handful of posts alerting me to the fact that Bitly rolled out a “redesign” today. Headlines announced Bitly had “lost focus.” Commenters proclaimed Bitly “ruined,” and complained of lengthy learning curves and many additional clicks to merely shorten a link.

My goodness! I sure don’t relish the thought of shifting to a new url-shortening service. Bitly’s not perfect, but the tracking is great and I’ve worked it into my process. That’s worth something. The cost to switch is not zero.

new bitly homepage with callout to text area to paste urlSo I went to a link I wanted to shorten and clicked on the bookmarklet I’ve been using forever. I was brought to a page that looks very different than what I was used to. But there’s a pretty clear place to paste your url.

Paste the url you want to shorten, and you get an interstitial window with saving and sharing options.

screenshot of the window allowing your to save or share the bitmarkAs far as I can tell, saving here is the only extra click.

I don’t know how useful the saving & sharing will be. But I’m willing to play with it. I do know that:

  1. I frequently want to recall links I’ve shortened. In this way I do use Bitly as a bookmarking site. I’m ok with seeing if it can evolve into more than shortening and tracking.
  2. Yeah, it was an extra click. But the whole experiences is so much faster it’s irrelevant.
  3. The new improved stats are pretty cool.

For a community rife with early adopters, we are too quick to dismiss design/UI/functionality changes. Yes, sometimes good companies make bad decisions. But the knee-jerk responses I’m seeing to the Bitly update strike me as…well, knee-jerk.

Give it a chance, folks. I see almost all good changes here.

If I’m wrong, you owe me a beer.



Live Website Analysis at RISE Austin

by Julie Gomoll on March 29, 2012

RISE LogoOn Friday, March 30, I’ll be holding another session of live website analysis during RISE Austin. I first held “Room for Improvement” at the last BlogathonATX. It was such a hit, I’ll be doing again at the next BlogathonATX, and have done another at a recent B2B Meetup. Read the comments to see what people had to say.

People love it, and I love doing it!

Room For Improvement: Live Website Analysis (logo)

Here’s how it works: If you’d like some advice on your website, whether it’s regarding design, user experience, SEO, information architecture, messaging, or marketing, submit your url here, and I’ll choose 3 sites to review live. I promise you real, substantive, actionable advice. And be sure to register for the actual RISE session (it’s free).

So come join me. I guarantee you’ll learn something (and I probably will too :)



Commentary on Logos from a 5-year-old

by Julie Gomoll on January 31, 2012

She’s pretty damn perceptive! And I have to admit that it never occurred to me to think of the McDonald’s logo as an M “made of french fries.”


How to Make your Header Clickable in Thesis for WordPress

by Julie Gomoll on January 23, 2012

Thesis 1.8 (current version is 1.8.2) introduced a great, easy header image uploader. No more messing with code to get a custom image for your website banner.

Unfortunately for some folks, switching to this method rendered their header image not-clickable. I had a hell of a time figuring out how to make it clickable again.

Turns out it’s really easy :)

First, remove any custom code for your header image from custom.css and custom_functions.php so you don’t have to worry about conflicting information.

Second, upload your header image via the header image uploader.

screenshot of the header image uploader in Thesis

screenshot of Thesis design options with "show site name in header" selected

Third, make sure “show site name in header” is selected in Thesis > Design Options.

That’s it! You have a clickable header!


How to Fail at Customer Acquisition in One Easy Step

by Julie Gomoll on January 12, 2012

This is not an “I hate this app” post. Far from it. In fact, I really, really like this app. But I almost didn’t bother trying it.

A while back my friend Nando Tweeted the following: “Seriously, best productivity tool. Ever. WorkFlowy.” Nando has shared some great links in the past. I respect him. So I was very motivated to check it out. I clicked, and this is what I saw:

Workflowy home page with only a signin box

I was immediately skeptical. What is this product? Who makes it? Why should I hand over my email when you’ve done nothing to instill trust in me?

So I closed the tab, and responded to Nando saying I wasn’t willing to sign up for something I knew nothing about. He pinged me the next day and asked me (I’m paraphrasing) if I’d gotten over myself and tried it. He said he’d been using it for months and loved it. He also mentioned that there was a short intro video if I’d only scroll down a bit.

Sure enough. There’s a video. But it’s below the fold, and there’s nothing indicating there’s more on the page. Yes, this page is perfect for mobile, but that’s no excuse any more — there are other ways to handle that.

A simple link saying “what’s this?” or an arrow pointing down, implying there’s more on the page would help a great deal. I was motivated to explore this product and I left without learning a thing. Yes, I signed up after additional prodding, but how many people come to this page and think “nope, not going there.”?

The Good News About Workflowy

The good news is this really is an awesome app. Remember when wikis were gaining a bit of traction, and we had this idea that you could just start entering info and it would sort of “organize itself?” Yeah, that turned out to be wishful thinking.

Workflowy inevitably works the way your brain works. It’s drop-dead simple and flexible. There’s a really simple, intuitive tagging system, and it works just as well on your main computer as it does on your mobile devices.

And as much as the initial experience is flawed, the tutorial once you’re in is excellent. A couple of minutes with the walkthrough and you’ll totally get just how useful this tool can be. Like Nando, I’ve been using it every day ever since.

One screen from the Workflowy walkthrough

One screen from the Workflowy walkthrough

But really, Workflowy — with some simple tweaks to your home page, I’ll bet your user acquisition numbers would skyrocket.


Allthis: Fraud? Or Just More Lame Than Others Like Them?

by Julie Gomoll on December 20, 2011

Allthis logoI’ve long been intrigued with the idea of selling or trading small bits of time. Back when I was doing LaunchPad Coworking, I wanted to have a BrainBank for members. The idea was you could deposit x of your own hours, and withdraw hours to get time with people with whom you wanted time.

And after running the hugely successful Room For Improvement at BlogathonATX, I’ve been thinking more and more about how to monetize brief, info-packed consulting sessions that lots of people hope they can get for free over lunch. In fact, I’m about to launch a “Pick My Brain” experiment to do just that.

When a friend introduced me to Allthis a few weeks ago, I thought “Cool! Someone’s figured out how to do this on a grand scale!” They were boasting something like 600,000,000 “members,” whose time you could buy, and I wondered just how this site had managed to escape my notice. Mashable gave Allthis a nice writeup in October, and seemed quite oblivious to the sleaze factor.

Back then, you could look around at profiles to see how much their time was going for. There were all sorts of luminaries listed — Mark Zuckerberg, Esther Dyson, Larry Ellison, Kathy Sierra… Right then, something felt wrong about the site. I read the “how it works” section, but couldn’t find anything that explained how or why any of these people would agree to chat with some random person for 10 minutes.

Well, it turns out they wouldn’t. And some of them are pissed off.

Rob Beschizza of BoingBoing posted a short, indignant post telling Allthis to knock it off. He explains exactly what his experience was in the comments.

screen shot of Rob Beschizza's comment on BoingBoing

Amy Hoy of Unicorn Free is says Allthis is “at best, copyright infringement, and at worse, fraud.” And Joel Houseman focuses on the copyright issues surrounding scraping public info in his post, “This Week in Douchbaggery: Allthis“.

Is fraud really what’s going on here? Is what they’re doing all that much different than other sites? There are all sorts of “profile” sites I seem to be listed on that I never signed up for — Intellius, PeekYou, BusinessCard2 seem to have found their way onto the first couple pages of search results for my name. And there are new ones sprouting up all the time.

Hell, Facebook pushes the privacy and copyright envelopes all the time. The unveiling of Seamless Sharing (or Frictionless Sharing) has all sorts of unpleasant ramifications. And we all know how easy it is to inadvertently opt-in to oversharing. Personally, I won’t use Facebook as an OAuth login, because I simply don’t trust them.

So why is Allthis inspiring all this acrimony? Because they imply that all these people have opted in when they haven’t. Mike Monteiro’s succinct Tweet sums it up nicely:

Does @allthis realize the hostile interaction they set up between me and someone who “bought my time” feeling I owe it to them?

Allthis vision slide, from the faq

Does Allthis really think "Literally Anyone" will appreciate unsolicited bids on their time?

It’s entirely unacceptable IMO. But is it fraud? Or is it just a clueless group of people making some really, really bad business and product decisions? Personally, I have a hard time believing they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. I think they’re being intentionally deceptive, and trying to grow a community without doing the hard work of actually building that community.

But I’m willing to be proven wrong. Anyone out there willing to try to convince me that Allthis is a good idea?



Meta Keywords: Good, Bad, or Indifferent?

by Julie Gomoll on December 16, 2011

screenshot of source code with "meta keywords" written over itNobody questions the value of most metadata in helping with SEO. Every SEO 101 article will explain the importance of page titles and meta descriptions. And for a long time meta keywords were considered a must-have. For the last year or so, though, the value of meta keywords has been questioned and debated. Even Google has publicly stated that they don’t use meta keywords in ranking.

A common conclusion is “well, they might not help, but they don’t hurt providing you don’t abuse them.” I reached that same conclusion, and have expressed that very sentiment to my clients.

Not any more.

Definition of Metadata

While metadata actually encompasses a huge range of values (see the Wikipedia definition of metadata), for the purposes of this article, I’m referring to Meta Titles (also referred to as Page Name, Custom Title Tag, or Page Title) and Meta Descriptions.

The Meta Title of an article is what appears as the primary link on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). It may or may not match the actual title of your article. The Meta Description is the brief paragraph that appears on the SERP right below that link. Without an explicit Meta Description, what will appear are the first 150 characters or so of your post.

(click to embiggen)

Screen shot showing Title of Post, Meta Title, and Meta Description

Notice the title of the post is different than what the SERP shows, and that the meta description on the SERP is not the first 150 characters of the post.

If you’re using WordPress, you can modify these using a plugin like All In One SEO Pack. If you’re using Thesis (as I do on this blog), you don’t need a plugin — it’s built right in. For me, the fields for SEO details appear right below the text editor, and look like this:

screenshot of SEO details fields in Thesis for WordPress

Why I Won’t Use Meta Keywords Any More

Yesterday I read this excellent article on conducting website audits on Tamar Weinberg’s blog casually mentioning the fact that Bing flags all pages using meta keywords as spam.


So I did some digging. And the evidence began to pile up. When I saw that Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land talked with a senior product manager for Bing webmaster outreach who confirmed that meta keywords are basically a bad idea, I was convinced.

There’s no need to panic here. It does seem that Bing, like Google, penalizes you for using useless keywords more than anything. But if the mere presence of keywords is a signal for possible spam, it seems best to err on the side of caution.

So. No more meta keywords for me.

Are you still using them? Does the Bing news change your mind on the issue?


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Ossify Wall Street

by Julie Gomoll on November 4, 2011

drawing of skeletons wearing suits & ties, slogan: Ossify Wall Street

The slogan is mine, but the original art is by vhm-alex.