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Seven rules for Web 2.0 startups

These days it seems like anyone with an idea and some time can crank out a Web 2.0 startup, be it a service, community, one-trick-pony or ambiguously named whichamadinger. It also seems like many of these startups could use some guidance to help them find their way. With goofy names, varying user experiences and questionable goals running amok, we figured it was time to lay down some ground rules. Check out our seven tips to help Web 2.0 startups be all they can be:
  1. Help me make the move: New blogs and communities need easy tools to let their users integrate some sort of blurb about their new hangout on their other sites and communities. For example: I've been playing with Vox for a few weeks now, and just recently they introduced a badge tool that puts together all the HTML users would need to insert in another blog sidebar. This makes it easy for users to tell existing readers they have have (or are moving to) a Vox blog. While it's a smart move and I'm using a badge on my personal WordPress blog, this generator should have existed the day Six Apart, and all who follow in their footsteps, flipped the switch on their service.

  2. Don't make me jump through hoops: ...or give you my e-mail address just to check out your service. Good: Tell me in plain language how your product works and how it can make my life better. Better: Show me with lots of screenshots or even a few screencasts. Best: Just let me start playing with it and worry about registration after I've decided whether it's any good or not.

  3. Tell me what it is, not what's inside: I don't care whether your service is powered by Ruby on Rails, .NET, AJAX, REST, or Vegemite, so don't waste another breath on it. Tell me what it does and why I want to use it, and keep the nerdy chest-thumping on your Developers page.

  4. Keep it simple: ...if you want me to do it a hundred times. If adding a bookmark or a hotspot on a map is a multi-stepped process, the likelihood of me doing it a lot goes way down. This is often the difference between making or breaking the site. Quicker processes mean I'll be back many more times to do it again, and more traffic equals more money for you.

  5. Play well with others: It's great that you have a (hopefully) unique vision for your community, but let's be real: you aren't the first startup on the block. This one comes again from my pleasurable experience at Vox: users can upload their pictures, audio and video to Vox, or they can find this media at other communities like Flickr, YouTube and even iStockphoto to easily plug into their posts. This "friendly neighbor" aspect of Vox earns the site huge points in the Web 2.0 community department, as they clearly recognize there is value in allowing their users to hang out at other sites.

  6. APIs!: Speaking of playing with others: the technical details shouldn't be on the front page, but they should be there. The gold standard of Web 2.0 is a well-documented interface that lets geeky users and other Web 2.0 developers get at all of your site's data and roll it into their own desktops, web sites, and services in a variety of ways. Bonus points for nailing the trifecta: XML, JSON, and YAML.

  7. Don't let your four-year-old name it: Flickr got away with ditching the vowel--you won't. We were through with double-Os long before Squidoo, Calgoo, or Zooomr (triple-O!) came along, and the same goes for your EEs. Domain name scarcity is not an excuse for stupid product names any more than improved traction is a justification for clown shoes.
Simple rules with (ideally) broad implications. We hope these can make their way into the hands of the next Flickrs and del.icio.uses so everyone can have a better time on the web. But is our list complete? Are we missing anything? If you have a rule or two that should have made this list, you know what to do.

Thanks to Jordan and Ryan for contributing to this post

Tags: company, delicious, flickr, startup, web, web 2.0, Web2.0

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