Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

How to wreck a website in one page

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That’s the sign-up page at, a new book-swapping service getting a huge bounce from CNET. According to Alexa, they are–today–the 6,834th most-visited websites on the entire web, around the highest LibraryThing’s been. The site looks inviting, attractive and usable. It surely took a lot of skill and effort to make.

But look at how many books have been added—230! That’s the worst conversion I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to turn Alexa numbers into raw traffic, but Alexa 6000 is a fire hose. To get 230 books out of that is a disaster of Biblical proportions.

Surely the sign-up page is to blame. It’s an object-lesson in how to wreck a website’s chances.

Why does a book-swapping service need to know my gender? (Is there dating involved?) And my birth date?* And—good grief—my PHONE NUMBER?! I got to that question and closed the window. No, actually, I wrote an angry comment to the administrator, blogged about it and THEN closed the window. 🙂

Even if you take those away, I’m still not satisfied. Yes, they may need my address eventually, but why not let me play around a bit without giving them my address? Then, once I’ve determined I like the site and make a swap, they can ask me for shipping info. Doing this way is putting all the pain and risk up front, before you know whether it’s worth it. Do stores block your way in and require credit-card validation and a phone number before you can enter?

And what about the email? They’re not generating random passwords. (I hate sites that do that.) Is it for lost passwords? Why not trust me, and let me add an email only if I want that extra protection? My desire to look at a new site is NOT greater than my need to keep my email free of spam. Anyway, in this case, If I lose my password they can just call me up!***

The real kicker: they don’t publish their own email address, or their mailing address or who runs it, etc.*** Privacy for me, but not for thee!

Let me say again, so far as I got—which wasn’t far, obviously—there’s nothing wrong with the site. LibraryThing is still looking for a break-out swap site to partner with. We are currently tracking fifteen book-swapping sites on Alexa, hoping one will get big enough to throw our energy behind****. Maybe this is the one, but it sure won’t be if they keep the current sign-up page.

Hat tip to Steve Cohen of LibraryStuff.

*It’s not COPPA; they already note that you can’t sign up if you’re under 13.
**As a former usability person I’d like to add that first-name last-name is culturally wrong, notably for Chinese people. On the other end, it might be culturally sensitive to have the list of countries sorted alphabetically, starting with Afghanistan, but it’s obnoxious to 95% of the audience for an English-language site. Lists like that should start with a section including the United States and the United Kingdom, at least. Most people don’t know to use keys to get to the end of menus, so they’ll be scrolling down to the bottom, past hundreds of countries that will never contribute a single member to your site.
***You have to go to their WhoIs record to discover a post-office box in Moscow, PA.
****, Book Relay, PaperbackSwap,,,, Community Books, Swapthing, ReaderSwapIt,,,,,, If you know of others, let me know.

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One Comments:

  1. David Haye vs Audley Harrrison – I cannot get this makes any sense at all on boxing form so can this fight be arranged just as a farewell payday for Audley from his boxing mates?