Why I switched from Blogware to Movable Type
We recently moved the Revenue Journal from Blogware to Movable Type. Our experience will help you if you're considering a blogging platform, or if you're providing some kind of online tool or service.
Movable Type is a packaged software program sold to end-users (bloggers and website managers). On the other hand, Blogware is part of a package offered by Tucows to its ISP customers - which, in turn, offer the web-based blog platform program to their own customers. In other words, the customer of Blogware is really the ISP, not the blogger. This is key. When the end-user of your program is not your primary customer, trouble is sure to follow.
Why did I make the switch from Blogware to Movable type? We'll start with the white screen of death:
One day when I went to my blog to check it, I found myself looking at a white screen, with this terrible error message in place of my content. Pretty embarrassing for someone who helps other people with their web marketing. I felt like I had come home from an errand and found my house missing.
I immediately contacted my ISP, who set up my account so that bandwidth would be automatically increased. Problem solved? Sadly, no. I encountered the same white screen of death several more times in the coming months. My ISP just couldn't get that automatic bandwidth increase setting to "stick."
But there were other problems, which I itemized in a note to one of the Blogware folks. I'm going to list some of these problems here, with notes about how Movable Type is superior to Blogware. Then I'll discuss the marketing lesson behind all this.
Here are some of the complaints I sent to Blogware:
- The text editing box is too small. There should be an option for an expanded version, a preference that the user sets once, which remains in effect. [The latest version of Movable Type lets you increase the type box to whatever size is most convenient.]
- It is impossible to tell how the text is formatted in the text editing box. [Movable Type displays HTML tags around formatted text.]
- There's no way to do bullets in the text box. This is really unfortunate. You can't code them in, either; the HTML tags are actually displayed on the page if you use UL and LI tagging. [Movable Type does let you use normal HTML bulleted list syntax, and the lists display properly in blog posts.]
- When you first edit in the text box, nothing happens when you place your cursor inside the box. You have to hit the spacebar before you can enter text. This is irritating and not intuitive. There are no clues anywhere near the type box, either. You just have to struggle until you figure it out, then remember to hit the space bar every time you want to enter text. [Movable Type lets you start typing as soon as you put your cursor in the type box.]
- The text editing box for the main story uses a different method of formatting than the text editing box for the excerpt. In the main entry box, you can highlight text and assign attributes to it (bold, italic, etc.), whereas in the excerpt box, you have to hand-code all the attributes. You should be able to swipe the first few paras of the main article, after you are finished formatting it in the main article text box, and then simply paste that clump of formatted type into the excerpt. Doesn't work. [Movable Type lets you copy and paste, and the formatting techniques for the main article and excerpt are the same.]
- Text boxes for the right and left columns are located under "Look and Feel." Look and Feel should be about graphics, not text content. [The difference between the Blogware application navigation and the Movable Type navigation is stark. Even after using Blogware for months, I was still hunting for things that should have been obvious. With Movable Type, I had no head-scratching moments. I just went to work, loading up dozens of previous articles in click-click-click fashion. Great navigation.]
- Blogware does not accommodate keyword phrases. Only single words are accepted. If I typed "search engine optimization," into the Blogware keyword box, the words will be listed separately, as "search," "engine," and "optimization." This is ridiculous. I don't want the Revenue Journal to appear in search results for "engines" as in, General Motors. What I want is for the phrases to apply. There are very specific phrases I want to associate with my blog, and Blogware does not let me do that. [Movable Type lets you type in keyword phrases, separated by commas. Perfect.]
There are more problems with Blogware - including weird application bugs. If you go to the main page where the comments and trackbacks are listed, sometimes the whole page is displayed, and sometimes only part of the page is displayed. You have to hit "refresh" repeatedly to get the whole page to display. This is a bug that should have been fixed ages ago.
I sent the email to Blogware on June 27. I got a response on October 27, four months later. Not good for any company, but especially bad for a company that sells a platform for "immediate communication."
What's the marketing lesson here?
I started using Blogware because my ISP recommended it. As I have mentioned, ISPs are the real customers of Blogware, which is why the user interface is so convoluted. It's also the reason Blogware doesn't have a user community infrastructure. Movable Type has a very strong user community.
Blogware just isn't paying attention to end-users. As of this writing, the most recent blog entry on Blogware's own blog is three months old.
Blogware is too isolated from its real customers. Blogware sells to ISPs. ISPs are not really set up to support applications; the more they have to support them, the less money they make.
If your product is sold to one group but used by another, you are asking for the same kind of trouble that Blogware has gotten itself into. Distributors, reps, and other third-party intermediaries can isolate you from your customers, to the point where you do really stupid things like this:
This error message, placed on my blog in place of my content, tells me, the blog owner, that I'm out of luck. I am not given a direct way to solve the problem. Instead, the real message Blogware is sending is: "Hey, we're not going to let anyone see your blog content, and we're not going to take any responsibility for it, either. Go talk to your ISP."
Why doesn't Blogware give the blog owner some advance notice that his bandwidth has been exceeded? Why post this terrible message right on the blog, without letting content display? Talk about rude.
Imagine a vendor providing a service to a retailer, and, when the retailer becames too successful, the vendor gets upset because the vendor's success is causing him grief (remember, I had "exceeded my bandwidth"!). So, the vendor goes to the retailer's store in the middle of the night, and puts a lock and chain in the door handles of the store, with a big sign on the door saying, "The success of this retailer has caused us problems, so we are closing this store until further notice."
The marketing lessons are clear: You can't treat your real customers like second-class citizens. You can't sell a service without making it easy to use. You should never remove that service without warning. And you should never, ever shut down that customer's service in a public way.