Alright, these are a few ideas I've had floating around in my head regarding SysOpt over the years, with this new forum, it gives me a reason to write them down.
When I click on my Firefox bookmark to take me to SysOpt, it doesn't take me to sysopt.com. It takes me to sysopt.com/forum. Why is that, I have wondered...all the other sites that I frequent, I get taken to their main page. Anandtech, HardOCP, for example. I wouldn't be suprised if many other SysOpt'ers rarely look at the main page, and just focus on the forum like I do.
I think there are a couple reasons for this. For one, the front page seems rather stagnant to me. Yes, there is new content that is uploaded, in the form of news posts or reviews, but to me, it doesn't seem to be a fresh and inviting page to browse.
Take, for example, one of the latest hardware reviews, the Zalman CPNS8000. The SysOpt.com review of this was written June 28th, 2006. Almost every other review I find of this heatsink when I search Google, was published in early July. Neoseeker.com, for example, the #2 result when I type "CPNS8000 review" into Google, posted their review of this heatsink on July 1st. How could a website like Neoseeker publish a review of a product later than SysOpt, yet still be ranked as a higher result on Google? Shouldn't the SysOpt review have had much more popularity since it was out first?
I think that in order for SysOpt to gain popularity, more importance has to be put on effectively advertising what this site has to offer. What unique content does SysOpt have that other websites do not? It could be something as simple as taking a new hardware review and putting it up on Digg.com before anyone else has a chance to. What a perfect way to get hits and gain popularity.
Along the same lines, it would seem that SysOpt would get a lot more traffic if it had more unique content, specifically hardware reviews. Why can't SysOpt or JupiterMedia contact the major hardware manufacturers and get early engineering samples of chips and cards to test and benchmark? Other sites can...
Another thing, whenever I do go to the SysOpt homepage, I don't feel like I'm viewing a page dedicated to system optimization. I feel like I'm viewing a giant JupiterMedia billboard. Immediately on the top of the home page are sprawling Earthweb and Jupitermedia advertisements. When you go a bit further down, you see numerous tabs, but none of them relate to SysOpt itself. "IT Management", "Networking", "Web Development", all of these don't link you to different things on SysOpt, they attempt to take you to other JupiterMedia websites. Same thing with all the buttons right below the inital SysOpt logo, they all attempt to take you AWAY from SysOpt.com. Why is that? Surely there is a more effective way to advertise SysOpt's sister sites. Look at how tomshardware does it, or dealnews.com even.
Only a certain section of navigation buttons on the left side of the main page link you to SysOpt content, as well. One section is entirely devoted to earthwebhardware.com. In addition, all the "meat" of the SysOpt homepage seems to be crammed into a small middle section only a few hundred pixels wide. There seems to be a whole right hand side column, just as wide as the main content column, which again is filled with advertisements...this time tech newsletters.
A couple of other things. SysOpt.com certainly doesn't seem to be a website that is standards compliant. Just plug sysopt.com into the W3C validator. 219 errors. Ouch. Firefox has a horrible time with this website as well, tables are constantly out of alignment, advertisements on the forum quite often will spill over and overlap the forum itself. Not to mention the pleasant SQL errors that pop up whenever you create a new thread.
A majority of the advertisements on SysOpt.com seem to be marketed towards IT managers and high level system administrators. Not many home PC users want to check out Symantec Whitepapers and on-demand webcasts of data protection and advanced system recovery. I know someone mentioned recently in the OT forum that these companies wouldn't place money in these ads if they weren't getting something in return, but in my 3 years at SysOpt, 99% of the posts in the forum haven't been from IT managers or system administrators. They have been from home users who need help getting a virus off their computer, or people looking to upgrade their video card. A completely unrelated market. Why not tailor ads to these people? If there was an advertisement on the side from newegg.com showcasing their deals of the week, I'm sure SysOpt users could generate thousands of clicks.
I think my idea for a SysOpt "Makeover" would be a drastic one. I'd shift focus from highlighting the rest of the JupiterMedia sites, and attempt to emphasis more of SysOpt's unique content. I'd heavily advertise any unique content to other sites, digg.com, for example. (I know of a website which is just starting up, they published an article that they wrote which wasn't even original content to begin with, and they got thousands of hits from that alone!) I'd re-design the website to be more standards compliant, and more visually appealing. I'd get rid of all these ads that are geared towards IT professionals, and put some ads that are geared toward home users in their place. I'd use Google's adsense, as this has been a proven, less-obtrusive means of advertising. Heck, I'd even go as far as to put those word-highlighting ads on the main content of SysOpt.com if it meant we could get rid of the 300px wide ads on the forum. Along with a redesign of the main page, I'd look into customizing the forum a bit more. It seems to be completely detached from the rest of the website. Even the color theme doesn't really match up. It reeks of "VBulletin default template".
Sorry for such a long post, and sorry if I sounded harsh, I didn't mean to. I just wanted to get a few ideas out there. I do like this site, if I didn't, I wouldn't have hung around for as long as I have.
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