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.
You've basically (albeit more eloquently) got the exact same viewpoint on the matter of Sysopt as myself, i've basically outlined a 5-Point Programme
This is my general view on how we could improve the place - feel free to say what you think about it
1) Get Close To The Industry Again
If you look at the big crop of tech sites atm (B3d, [H] et al) they all have very close links to the industry. Exclusive interviews and discussions with leading figures in the world of hardware are a regular feature, preview details and other such things that draw an audience and get people talking. The look across tp the likes of Driver Heaven, which counts members of ATi's driver development team as active posters on its forums
2) Spice the experience up for the users
Simple really, people are drawn to bright shiny things. I appreciate that the main site was relatively recently republished, however (not to offend anyone) it still remains a little plain jane, as does the forum layout.
If we were to go wild, relaunch the site with a completely new face-lift and a new forum interface, complete with all shiny bells, whistles and other gubbins i feel we would draw in new users. Similarly, competitons or some other regular event would be a great way of generating interest in the site, as well as repaying members for their input.
3) Sell the site
As stated, we've dropped off the industry radar almost completely. We need to get back out there and let people know we still exist. I think this would tie in best with something like a relaunch of the site, lets get around the big publications and industry standard sites and shout "Hey, we're still here!"
4) Diversify our target audience
At present, despite the Gaming forum and OT, we are something of a straight laced "Technical Forum" with out focus leaning more towards the serious side of computing. A lot of the bigger forums today have a more "casual" feel to them, incorporating Gaming and DVD reviews and taking in the more general notion of "Computing and multimedia entertainment"
5) More articles
This is very much something that has to do with the community and their willingness to contribute - but i believe if we give the users a more enjoyable experience we will see greater contribution, and the more fresh content the more the site will grow.
I've also given some consideration to the idea that we could possibly do with is the creation of a core "Editorial staff" responsible for the writing of regular articles, gathering of news items etc - of course this would depend upon voluntary work from members, but i think such a staff would allow for a constant stream of fresh content for the main page
Anyways, let me know what you think
"You don't know Jakk..."
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From a different thread
Originally Posted by JPnyc
Yes, I read that, but if JPnyc doesn't have a say in it, then someone that he knows must. Any suggestions that are worthwhile should be passed up the totem pole. After all, I think we all have the same common interest here: wanting SysOpt to grow and flourish.
Originally Posted by porsch1909
I just think that a site which is geared towards the people who are using it would have much more success than the current path SysOpt is on.
I have to admit that not once have I ever even looked at the SysOpt homepage. (well there was the time back about a year ago, when upon reformat I realized that of course the link to the forum in my favorites was gone)
Honestly most of the time I forget it even exists, cause any review, advice, help, or reference I ever need is from the forums... of course there is also the benefit of going to a tech-school as a fulltime student, and being surrounded by hardware gurus.
Anyway, although its easy to poke at the aesthetics and LnF or a site, its often a far more grave issue at the cause... no self image Who is SysOpt? What do they offer? Why do I want to go to them for advice? If SysOpt knows the answer, then they sure are shy... because commanding self image makes it so people are not asking these questions, because they dont need to; they already know.
The easy part here is ripping the site down, and throwing up the latest and greatest in content management and SEO software and of course a forum. The hard part is making it work. Because afterall, this is a company (like it or not) and needs to be managed and run like one. Although I realize that there are many who "do their jobs" and manage the updating of information and do other necessary functions of regular website maintenance, but that is like saying that a laser-printed copy of the Encylopedia Britanica is just as valuable as the real hard-cover set. (Ok sorry for my outlandish analogies)
What I suggest is this: Stop being pushed around by the changing structure of web-optimization, and especially content management. Be bold, be courageous, and take command of the audience.
Although I am in the field of Electrical Engineering, and have a huge background in Computer Science, I have this one piece of advice, that can be taken many different ways, but has always seemed to help:
"People dont know what they want, but if you are just as confused as they are, they will go elsewhere."
"Study the past if you would define the future." - Confucius
OK MJC, you're hired! I can't exactly give you a real job, but I can act as a liaison between the busy managing editor and yourself. If you'd like to collect a few desirable user contributions, I can go over them and offer them up. I can't guaranty that they'll be accepted for the front page, but if they aren't...they can always be put up in the user reviews or forums.
Now, you have a few good observations, but you’re missing one thing: SysOpt gets a lot of traffic on its articles…from search engines like Google. Several of its articles have been #1 on Google for at least a day, and many have been on Google’s first page of results for over a week.
It’s true that SysOpt needs to get more people to visit on a regular basis. I’m sure you also know the managing editor and can make a few suggestions…but his power is limited.
Smaller brands have clamored to get SysOpt to review their products, because these brands were ignored by larger sites. Larger brands don’t value your business; they believe that sending out a review sample isn’t worth “only 1000 units” in added sales from “only 500,000 readers” of that single article. 1000 units matter more to upstarts.
ECS relied on sites like SysOpt when it wanted to establish its upper-midrange market. Foxconn used sites like SysOpt to establish its retail brand. These companies have been able to use smaller sites to establish their name, so as to get larger sites to take an interest in their products. Yet Foxconn and ECS are regular product contributors for SysOpt reviews to this day!
One thing that sets SysOpt apart from more popular sites is the focus on value. Sure, some big sites have budget buildups, but their priority is to support popular venders. This is reflected in that SysOpt’s reviews are often far more critical than those of other sites. Going by recent articles, look at the reviews for the Ultra X2 power supply and see how many of them overlooked its inability to support large loads at stable voltages. I’ve found only one, and that one was a big comparison with the X2 buried somewhere in the back.
There are approximately 12 large manufacturers that continue to overlook SysOpt. That’s a small number compared to the industry as a whole. Certainly AMD and Intel aren’t supplying processors yet, but that’s something you could work on just as easily as the site. After all, a deluge of readers asking “why isn’t SysOpt using one of your better processors” could be a lot more effective than a couple staff members asking “please send us a better processor”.
As for making the front page more attractive to the typical reader, that’s something you’ll have to take up with the “higher powers”. I’d like you to. SysOpt staff suggestions aren’t high on their priority list, but I’m willing to bet they’d be more interested in what the readers have to say.
So you've got contacts on the inside of SysOpt, Crashman?
I think it would be a great idea to get a list of recommendations together, and pass them up to the powers that be.
And yes, I would think that SysOpt does get traffic on its' articles, if it didn't, I don't think the website would still be around. However, I still stand by my argument that the site in general seems to be geared towards the wrong demographic. Almost all the information that gets generated on the forum, and almost all the articles and reviews that are published, relate to the home PC user, and the home PC market. I think if the site were redesigned and tailored to this group of people, there'd be a good influx of new members and website traffic.
Like I said, if YOU want to do the work of putting together recommendations, I can make sure that, at a minimum, the editor looks them over. Usually that's all that happens, but it's worth a shot.
Originally Posted by MJCfromCT
You've got an unofficial unpaid position, ambasador of the SysOpt forum.
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