My Alltop is a simple, intuitive way to manage lots of news headlines from a broad range of topics and sources. It reduces my clicks and browser windows and drives me to read more diversely. However, I am already beginning to feel overwhelmed as I’m up to about 30+ feeds in 5+ major categories. Although I’m happy with its current state, My Alltop needs a couple new features and functionality enhancements if it hopes to be one of my primary click recipients…
“The purpose of Alltop is to help you answer the question, “What’s happening?” in “all the topics” that interest you. You may wonder how Alltop is different from a search engine. A search engine is good to answer a question like, “How many people live in China?” However, it has a much harder time answering the question, “What’s happening in China?” That’s the kind of question that we answer.
We do this by collecting the headlines of the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a topic. We group these collections — “aggregations” — into individual web pages. Then we display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph. Our topics run from adoption to zoology with photography, food, science, religion, celebrities, fashion, gaming, sports, politics, automobiles, Macintosh, and hundreds of other subjects along the way.
You can think of Alltop as the “online magazine rack” of the web. We’ve subscribed to thousands of sources to provide “aggregation without aggravation.” To be clear, Alltop pages are starting points—they are not destinations per se. Ultimately, our goal is to enhance your online reading by displaying stories from sources that you’re already visiting plus helping you discover sources that you didn’t know existed.”
Some Initial Feedback
1. Feed Management/Layout – The “Manage” window where you can drag and drop your feeds does not match up with My Alltop’s actual layout, due to a big advertisement in the top right of the My Alltop page. It’s not the easiest thing to order feeds how I would like them either. When I drag and drop a feed to a new position, it auto-shifts feeds that I had already positioned in proximal locations. It should be much simpler. How about a “My Feeds” list/column from which you can drag and drop or remove feeds from real estate boxes? Then over time I can always activate or deactivate my feeds, but still have the full set of feeds I am or have been interested in from which I can choose.
2. Feed Categorization – Let users categorize their feeds on the page. Then I can open/close categories to make the best use of my screen real estate at any time. This could then allow me to have a master feed for each category, sorted by date and listing the authoring site. I’m not saying to reproduce Google Reader, but I think there is some simple similar functionality that could and should be employed to make it easier to organize incoming information.
3. New/Old Links – Another similarity to Google Reader would be a functionality that shows new links versus those that have already been seen by the user. Google Reader marks a post or article as read as the reader scrolls past it. In My Alltop, it’d be simply useful to see which links are new on the page, whether or not they have been scrolled over for a preview or clicked on and opened in a new page. The easiest implementation would be something in conjunction with comment #2 above, where in a master feed the latest links are always at the top of the list, similar to Twitter’s homepage (but now for news articles from multiple sources).
–Google Reader certainly fits a different use case but provides a nice functional model for accessing and organizing lots of news information. So does Google Fast Flip, which was just released and allows for “fast-flipping” of articles from major news publishers, organized by topic, section, and source.
–Incremental developments are helpful for user retention and sustained engagement. With that, there are some simple features that, if implemented, would greatly improve usability and comfort for the My Alltop user.
–My Alltop should continue to become a nice complement to Google Reader and Twitter as primary, personal hubs of near real-time information. Check it out!