I just had a bit of a shock.
I’m an avid reader of TechCrunch – I like the topic matter, the bitchiness of Michael Arrington, the writing style, the fact that it’s a superb place for finding out about tech stuff.
But for about as long as I’ve read it, I’ve subscribed to their RSS feed and rarely, if ever, actually go to the site.
This morning, though, I was looking for some stuff on internet TV for a blog post I’ve got planned. And bloody hell if TechCrunch isn’t completely awful…a terrible visual hell hotchpotch of random adverts, blog tech “stuff”, searchboxes, tagclouds…the design is terrible, the usability just completely shot…
The fact that I hadn’t noticed (because I haven’t been) says something pretty profound about the distributed web. If asked, I’d say TechCrunch is in my list of top 10 favourite websites, and yet actually – and I only just noticed – it’s not. The notion of a “favourite website” is completely wrong here. This is a great example of what I talked about at Museums and the Web conference – it’s only the beginning of a much more complex shift in what “having a website” means. TechCrunch is actually on my list of top 10 favourite content experiences – and the fact that it looks like crap doesn’t (usually) matter one jot to me. Except when I’m trying to find anything on the site. And if that’s the case – as is so often with on-site search engines – it’s actually much more effective to use Google’s “search this site” functionality than the in-built one on TechCrunch.
The fact that I’ve been reading this thing for years and haven’t even noticed how bad it is to look at says a lot about RSS but also about TechCrunch’s delivery of it: not only do they deliver the full story but it’s also HTML enriched. There’s actually little reason to go to the site itself.
What *really* bugs me, incidentally, is the way some blogs don’t deliver the full story via RSS but just the first few lines. The BBC are an example of this, and it’s a blinding example of organisational inertia (“we’ll get more traffic if we make people click through to the site”) vs user need (“I can’t be arsed to read this story if I can’t see it all here in my feedreader”).
Anyway. I’ll keep reading TechCrunch. But I might avoid the eyeglare and confusion by sticking to RSS.