Tag Archives: web

The Up-Sell

I don’t mean to single out a single business here. The flaw I’m pointing out is shared by many sites but this post was inspired by a recent visit to TripIt. In general it’s a great service. It’s well thought out, allowing you to enter all your details with a minimum of effort; just forwarding your email confirmation to them is a masterstroke.

However. (You knew that was coming.) However, many links on the main page are non-functional, by which I mean they push you straight through to their paid-for service sign-up form.

The “tricky” part is that before you press them it is difficult to know which links actually work and which ones just ask for money.

There are a number of other tricks that some sites have. Another favourite is the interstitial screen, forcing you to view adverts before you can do what you actually want to do.

But it’s not just that I find it obnoxious. I don’t have data but I do have a nice anecdote that shows that it doesn’t really work.

During the dot.com boom I helped build a website. The launch went pretty well but the client decided that they wanted to push a secondary product, one with great margins but where customers really needed to be vetted. (I don’t want to get into specifics but it was a financial product.) The marketing people said that a pop-up would be the right thing to do.

We balked at the idea. At the time, pop-ups were the scourge of the Internet. They were used on all the least reputable sites. Technically adept users closed them without looking; the less fortunate were conned into either filling their screen with pointless adverts or visiting website they had no interest in. Pop-up blockers were a few years away.

In short, we felt that at best there was a reputational risk. Unfortunately we couldn’t come up with numbers to show that it was financially a bad idea, plus it was actually pretty cheap to implement. So they asked us to go ahead with it, over our objections.

As I recall it didn’t last very long.

After go-live there was a substantial up-tick in the number of people applying for this secondary product. However, there was actually a drop in the number of people who were accepted. That’s to say that it attracted exactly the wrong kind of person, which is bad enough, but there was also a cost associated with each rejected application.

Moving back to 2009, I think the problem with pushing your paid products too hard is that you actually make your free version less appealing. And, frankly, if your free version is a pain to use I’m certainly not going to pay for the full version just to make the evil bits go away.

To be clear, I have nothing against the so-called “freemium” business model. It can work really well. Flickr, for example, seems to have the balance about right: the site is useful even if you don’t pay for it with the extras useful for regular users. And paying LWN readers can get their content a week ahead of other people.

In short, if your paid extras are genuinely useful you don’t need to be obnoxious, you don’t need lots of “dead” links or interstitial adverts. And making your free version painful is most certainly not the answer.

Web-host Whinge

I normally try to be pretty positive here. Most reviews you’ll find here are of products that I’ve bought with my own money and that I’m broadly happy with.

That makes this post the exception.

You may remember that ZX81.org.uk went off-line for over twenty-four hours last month. Shortly afterwards I switched away from Adept Hosting, but it’s not only, as you might expect, because of the reliability.

I posted the following review at Review Centre:

When their systems are up and running everything was fine. Technical support tended to be accurate when a response was received.

That’s the good. But there’s way more “bad” to note. Their servers were not terribly reliable and tended to go down for extended periods of time without warning and with no mention on their support website. Worse, getting through to their technical support team was almost impossible. I have sent four messages so far about my domain name transfer and have not received any response or action so far. I may have to force through the change through Nominet which wipes out any savings that I obtained by using Adept in the first place.

In short: not recommended.

In Adepts favour they were cheap. Plus some of the things they were bad at — billing for example — worked in my favour.

Maybe that’s their problem, perhaps they’re too cheap. They should be able to support their customers. Their suggested response times are not great and they have, in my experience, consistently missed even those.

But whatever their excuse and however cheap they are it’s no longer good enough and I’ve gone elsewhere.


I try to keep ZX81.org.uk free of direct promotion of my iPhone applications but I think the launch of a new one warrants an exception to the rule.

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www.cut Icon

www.cut is a utility that shortens URLs so that they can be mailed, Twittered or FaceBooked without worrying about character counts or line breaks.

Find out more at the above link or head straight to the App Store to download a copy. It’s free so you have nothing to lose!

New Host

Welcome to ZX81.org.uk’s new host. It may look the same as the old one but will hopefully be more reliable!

If you missed the full story, here’s how I reported it on the old server:

If you came here a day or two ago you probably found that ZX81.org.uk was missing.

It turns out that this was not just an extended outage but a planned maintenance activity where they moved my account from one server to another.

Not that they told me — or their own server monitoring tool — about this.

This lack of communication meant that the linkage from the name to the actual server was broken and that no-one, myself included, could access it.

The link has now been restored and if you’re reading this is working correctly.

Hopefully the next change will be a little more seamless. Next change? Yes, frankly this was the final straw and I’m moving ZX81 to a new web host. Hopefully things will be a little more reliable from now on.

My delicious.com bookmarks for March 2nd through March 10th

My delicious.com bookmarks for February 7th through February 9th