Why being single minded is a good idea…or Single Purpose Web Sites
As with everything in the world, the internet is subject to fashions; what is seen as a great idea one week is viewed as bad design the next.
Currently I am seeing an increase in the number of websites that do only one thing, but do that one thing extremely well. Of course there is nothing new about this, when Google launched in 1998 it was completely different to all the other browsers then available;
In contrast to the other search engines at the time, which all incorporated a search function as just one element of the package they were trying to attract you with – a bit of news here, access your free email there, a quick search at the top. When you arrived at the Google homepage you were presented with only 3 things; the static logo, a text box and the search button. While for everyone else, the search was just ‘one thing we do’, for Google, it was ‘everything we do’.
Competitors have been trying to recapture the market ever since; anyone remember AltaVista?
Following Google’s initiative there has been a rise in the number of tightly focused single-purpose, often extremely niche sites, for example;
https://www.whatismyip.com (1999) – the industry leader in providing IP address information
http://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk – checks and compares your broadband speed
http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com – checks if a site is generally available?
https://howsecureismypassword.net – estimates how long it would take someone to crack your password
http://freemypdf.com/ – removes restrictions on pdf’s so they can be edited, if you have any other types of protected PDFs, just upload them to Free My PDF and it’ll spit out a liberated version for you to do with as you please
https://who.is/ – finds the IP address, location, server type, and other statas of a specific domain
Although some of these sites wrap other services around their main function, their prime purpose remains very much front and centre. Their problem from a business perspective is that the one thing they do well is not perceived as business-critical enough for potential customers to justify paying for it.
But things are changing. A new generation of sites are defining their ‘single purpose’ to be the solution to a business management question rather than a purely technical query. Where before the query was ‘What is my IP address’ or ‘How secure is my password’, now we can ask ‘How much holiday do I (and my employees) have left this year – (‘www.timetastic.co.uk‘ allows a company to add and track paid and unpaid holiday) or ‘what have I (and my team) worked on this week – and how much of it is billable? (‘www.toggl.com‘ provides a timesheet system with reporting).
Whereas the old sites focused on single technical issues, providing a snap-shot answer to specific questions, these new sites still focus on single issues, but these issues have a broader business context and the answers returned have farther-reaching business implications.
Clearly these are insights you are more likely to pay for if you are a small – medium-sized business without the budget for a full-blown HR department and application.
For this reason, because they solve business problems, they are a great idea, and a small monthly payment for such sites may now be justifiable!
If you have any favourites, any great single purpose web sites you use, why not drop us a line and let us know….share your great secrets!