Thursday, January 03, 2008

What Makes a Successful Website?

So I've been giving this a little thought, and I've come up with some common themes between the uber-successful websites that abound in this digital age. Additions are welcome:

  1. User-Driven Content: Time proclaimed "You" as the person of the year, and they had a good reason for doing it. Not only the social networking sites, but even giants like Google and Yahoo! allow you to customize your place in the internet. A must.
  2. Functionality: If anyone could do it, they would. Instead, you have to have something going for your site that others do not (currently) have. This could be easy-to-create profiles, search capacities, freebies, information, or anything else useful to the user.
  3. Style: If your website looks like 1995, you'll probably have about as many users as you did in 1995. Sleek designs which work on all browsers are needed to attract a modern eye, as well as to tell your audience that you are serious about what you do.
  4. Speech Appeal: What I mean by "speech appeal" is that your site has to be good enough that people will physically talk about it to others, thus spreading the word offline as well as online.
  5. Freshness: I'm as guilty of this as the next blogger, but if content is stale, then so is your traffic meter. Get something new in there and bring in new traffic because of it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Grammar Rant

Maybe I've just been reading way too many unedited posts on the internet, but there are just some consistent grammatical errors which are driving me up the wall, and this is a good outlet. (Please note, non-native English writers are exempted from this tirade.)

  • Spell out "you," "are," and "for." You've been writing complete English words since you were four or five, most likely. It's not as if it takes that much more time to spell these words out, either.
  • The use of internet acronyms in semi-formal or formal writing is appalling. Drop the LOLs, ROFLs, BTWs, and OMGs if you're trying to sound even remotely professional.
  • "It's" means "it is." "Its" is a possessive. Saying "It's car" translates to "It is car" which makes no sense at all.
  • Learn to use "to" and "too." "Too" refers to something in excess and is used as a modifier. "To" is used with infinitives and prepositions: "to see," "go to the movies."
  • Learn the difference between "prize" and "price." I see this one messed up more than you would think.
  • "No" might sound a lot like "know," but they're very different words. Confusing these two will make you go from "respectable" to "dipwad" in record time.
  • Paragraphs are your friend! You can be awarded the designation of using stream-of-consciousness writing only after you have proven that you know how to write in paragraph form expertly. Until then, you just seem like you have a broken "Enter" key on your keyboard.
Finally, proofread what you have written! If you're too lazy to read over, even once, what you just wrote, then you probably don't have much to say and shouldn't be hitting the submit button. (I use this rule myself, as well.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Price Negotiability

Earlier in the summer, I learned a lesson about buying mattresses. Mattress prices are negotiable. This was not an obvious, advertised fact, but rather was learned through careful listening to the salesman (yes, that is politically correct - they were all men). I suggest trying to negotiate the price of whatever you're buying if your salesperson does any of the following:

  • Tells you there is a sale when no sale signs are posted.
  • Mentions a special discount for you.
  • Offers to throw in something free.
  • Offers to take off tax, fees, etc. when you mention they're high.
  • ...and of course, offers to drop the price if you allude that it's out of your range.
By their very nature, you're more likely to find negotiation possible on high-margin goods, such as mattresses, cars, jewelry, and furniture. This is because the high margin allows for a reduction in price, while still preserving some profit (just not as much).

Question to the audience1: What other products have you been able to negotiate a better price for?

1Do I have readers? This is still an open question.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Insurance is a Product

One argument that I am starting to hear more frequently is beginning to irk me. Well, I suppose it's less of an argument than a point of view, really. The point of view that insurance is a social service, and therefore needs to be provided to everyone equally, is sadly mistaken. This most often crops up in conversations about health insurance and the inability of some people to get health insurance, but I also have heard this conversation in the realm of flood insurance as well.

Insurance companies are a business. They are not a charity or a social service organization. This means that they have an obligation to their owners to make profit, not to society in general to provide blanket coverage. Ideally, the premiums you pay would exactly (with interest built in) cover any payouts that you get from a policy, plus expenses and a set level of profit for the company. This principle is called the Equivalence Principle, and it is how young actuaries learn to set premiums. I don't actually set premiums in my work, so I can't tell you if this is used in practice (comments are welcome), but that's how it's taught, anyway.

That being said, someone with a higher probability of having a policy payout will have a higher premium. It's easier, and cheaper, to get health insurance for a 20-year-old than a 50-year-old because the 20-year-old has less risk of health problems. The opposite is true with automobile insurance, however.

Anyway, insurance is not a social service. It is a product, not a right.

As always, comments are welcome.