‘My’ Sites: And the Winners Are…

Thank you to everyone who responded to my column a few weeks ago, asking for your top 10 “my” sites. I expected the usual suspects (Yahoo, Amazon.com, etc.) to appear on everyone’s lists, but I was surprised that in all of the email I got, there were hardly any duplicates. That makes it hard to come up with a definitive top 10 list of “my” sites. There are some interesting trends and similarities in the lists people sent me.

“My” Sites Evoke Passion and Intimacy

I was amazed at how impassioned your emails were. Not only did you rank your favorite and worst sites, but you spoke about them as if they were your best friends (or worst enemies). One reader wrote about USAA.com’s “warm, fuzzy features” and how it “inspires” a secure feeling. A personalized site that inspires? That’s a strong statement. The same reader said of her least favorite site, mySAP.com, “I used to love this one, but they have completely lost track of the point.” (I think I said that when I was breaking up my last relationship).

Why does a “my” site evoke passion? Because it’s yours. Ostensibly, you own it. You control it. Type A personalities have a different sense of what control is than type B personalities. For instance, I’m an anal-retentive East Coast type A (read: obsessive-compulsive control freak). My more laissez-faire California friends are easier to get along with. Designers of “my” sites don’t understand the types of people using their services or the level of control people want. Many wrote in to say they want more control over their experience. One woman wrote that MarketingProfs.com has “tons of great information, but I don’t want to be limited to just two choices of so much great info.” On the other hand, one reader wrote in to say My.SportsLine.com had “almost too much control.”

What’s the best solution? My VAIO laptop has a program called “Sony Notebook Setup.” It’s basically a control panel for the laptop, offering settings for the computer’s ports, touchpad, printer, password, and other configurable parts. There’s an important “basic/advanced” switch hiding some of the more complicated controls. I can determine how much control I really want to have and how much I can leave up to the computer. Many software programs (notably Microsoft’s Office Suite) optionally show fewer menu choices, so the range of a program’s features don’t overwhelm the average user. “My” sites should learn from these programs and allow flexibility over how much control the user wants to have. Provide different views for the control-freak user and the laissez-faire user.

Favorite “My” Categories

The first ranking I want to discuss has to do with not individual sites people voted on but the types of sites people submitted. I saw a clear trend in the types of “My” sites people are emotional about. Here’s the breakdown of categories (in descending order)your favorite “My” sites belong to:

  1. Banking/portfolio management

  2. General information portals

  3. Vertical information portals

  4. Online applications

  5. Personalized e-commerce stores

Banking/Portfolio Management

Almost everyone included a banking Web site on his or her list. Here are your picks:

Hall of Fame: Chevy Chase Bank, USAA, E*TRADE

Honorable Mention: Citibank online banking (personal accounts)

Hall of Shame: Bank of America, Citibank’s CitiBusiness, American Express Small Business

General Information Portal

Hall of Fame: Excite, Yahoo, Lycos

Honorable Mention: My AOL

Hall of Shame: MSN

I’m glad you all agreed with me that MSN is a terrible personalized site. I love its new slogan, “More Useful Every Day.” I guess what it really means is, “Not Useful Yet.” My.Aol.com gets an unexpected nod for its use of click-and-drag content blocks on the personalized Web site.

Vertical Information Portal

Hall of Fame: My SportsLine, Apple.com‘s personalized knowledge base

Hall of Shame: My AARP

Personalized Applications

Hall of Fame: Blogger, Monster, Kinko‘s online document printing

Honorable Mention: MY UPS.COM, register.com

Hall of Shame: USPS, Network Solutions, Dotster.com

Consumer E-Commerce Stores

Hall of Fame: Amazon.com, Garden.com (RIP)

Honorable Mention: SmarterKids

Hall of Shame: CDnow, BMG Music Club

I agree with the Garden.com submission. I especially loved that you could build your own garden online. The site would warn against buying seeds that wouldn’t grow in your climate.

There you have it: your own rankings of “my” sites on the Web. The fact that we can all look at the “Hall of Fame” picks and find flaws in all of them is a good thing. That means we can improve upon what they’ve done when we create our own projects. Next year, I’ll do a follow-up survey, and we’ll see how this list changes as personalization continues to evolve and change the way we use the Internet.

Until next time…

Jack

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