May 07, 2005 | Category:

BlogTorrent: A Case Study

A while ago, I talked about the problems with open source software sites and how to improve matters. Today, a quick case study: BlogTorrent, a system designed to make Bittorent downloads less painful for those not in the know.

Let’s start by saying it downlods almost right: clear, single click downloads. Links for both supported platforms are above the fold on the front page, clearly labelled and right where the eye is drawn. Two issues though: the “Get BlogTorrent” text above the download area is not a useful piece of information. It’s already pretty clear from the box headlines what is going on. This text not only detracts from the design, it damages it. How? It immediately makes the user think of similar banner ads that have “Advertising” similarly positioned above it. There is already a problem with boxes being ignored as banners, don’t aggrevate matters.

It may also help matters to add a second download link to nearer the bottom of the page. Assuming a user has bypassed immediate download (at the top) to read more (the middle), it makes sense to put further download links afterwards (the bottom).

Next up: we want a plain English, jargon free explanation somewhere. To the sites credit, the how it works page is a good start. It talks through the process reasonably well, but skips over a few points. First, Bittorent. What is it? What is the smallest amount of information you can tell the user so that they’ll understand it? That is what you’re aiming for. No-one cares about the details; the point is to make the Bittorent experience seamless, right?

Then there is the copious jargon. It’s not overly technical, but the majority of people would give words “distribution” (try “download”), “client” (probably the worst offender as no-one outside of computing things of programs as clients), “server”, and “tracker” a wide berth.

The last main point is nailing a simple abstract at the top of the main page. Currently it reads:

“Blog Torrent is free, open-source software from Downhill Battle, designed to empower creators. It’s the best way to offer large files on your website without storage or bandwidth costs: posting torrents to your site is as easy as blogging.”

A good basis, but a bit waffly. Remove the clutter. “Empower creators”? Put the marketing gibberish away.

“Blog Torrent is free, open-source software that provides an easy way to share large files on your website without large storage or bandwidth costs. [Read More]”

Main differences: says what the product does in an abstract way, no bullshit, no jargon. The user does NOT need to know the technology involved at this stage, they don’t care who you are, they don’t need to feel empowered, they DO need to know that it will save them time or money. That’s your killer feature.

Also, provide the link to the newly simplified explanation page. If they want to know more about what is going on, then this is the place to say, “hey, you’re interested in how this works? Great, we’ll take you through it.”

Offt, some of that sounded distinctly like Hugh Macleod, all we need is better conversations.

Update: Kudos to the team at Downhill Battle. They’ve implemented some of my suggestions already.