In my last post I described the experience of creating two Squidoo lenses. While there were a number aspects to Squidoo that I enjoyed, there were a few annoying limitations that I struggled with during lens development. I have outlined the five changes I would most like to make to Squidoo’s advertising, content and formatting features.
Five Recomendations for Improvement to Squidoo
- Advertisements – The top of the lens page displays Google advertisements prominently before content. There is no way to control which advertisements are displayed. The advertisements are based upon tags and keywords listed in your lens. So chances are good that if you have a business that your competitor’s ads are going to be posted at the top of your lens. I understand that Squidoo needs to generate advertising revenue to support its product line. Why not offer an option to pay for an ad-free lens? I think a number of corporate lensmasters would not mind paying a small fee in exchange for less advertising.
- External Content – In Seth Godin’s e-Book introducing Squidoo he explains that lens are not supposed to be the source of the content, but rather focus on the links to external content. “Everyone is an expert” and therefore has the ability to create a lens. However, what if the area that you are an expert on has very little published about it on the web? This was the case with one of the first two lenses I created. If you are writing about mainstream topics such as social media, sports or travel then creating a lens full of external links is easy. But what if you are writing a lens about your small home town? What if you are writing a lens on a person who you think should be famous but actually is not yet? Neither of these topics would have much external content. If you can only develop lenses on topics which have lots of other Internet-based content, aren’t we limiting the content significantly? To use Chris Anderson’s taxonomy, Squidoo lenses are designed for mainstream topics in the “Short Head” when they should be focused on topics in the “Long Tail.” Squidoo should add more abilities to store text, files and original content on the lens itself.
- Limited Formatting – Although there are a number of modules which are designed specifically for text, Squidoo lacks any formatting capabilities. I was frustrated that I could not embed hyperlinks in text modules. Furthermore, the fonts are not configurable. I was not able to use bold, italics, underline or colors to accentuate key points within the text. There is an option for bulleted and numbered lists, which helps with the readability of the content. But in my opinion, Squidoo needs a WSIWYG editor similar to the WordPress or TypePad blogging platforms. Furthermore there are also many aspects of the page layout that lensmasters are unable to control. For example, I found it annoying that I could not remove the automatically generated “Contents at a Glance” from the top of the page even though I was using the “Table of Contents” module directly below it.
- Photos – I found the “Text with Big Picture” module very difficult to use. The layout of the default Squidoo page results in the lenses become very long pages as you begin to add content. To increase the visual appeal and break up the text, I inserted a number of graphics and images into my lenses. However, I found the “Text with Big Picture” module very challenging to use. First, the default size for image display is far too large relative to the text. I had to use Photoshop to resize all of the images to fit the usable dimensions of the page. Second, Squidoo does not automatically insert white space between the image and the text before and after it. Consequently, I had to recreate versions of the images with white space on the top and bottom borders. I had to follow a trial and error process which took 2-3 file uploads for each image. Squidoo should automatically format the images so that they are sized for the page and provide sufficient white space between the image and the text.
- More Modules – There is no easy way to link to podcasts. I was able to use the RSS feed feature for a blog to list all recent podcast feeds, but there must be an easier approach. Why is there not a module to include content available on Apple’s iTunes site? There is no easy way to link to people. You can create links to third party web sites with individual bios. However, the content on the links is then inconsistent. Why not partner with Facebook and LinkedIn to offer modules which provide a micro-profile of publicly available data from a social networking site? There is no way to quiz users on their knowledge of a subject. I had to create a new module with links to quizzes on third party sites. Much like the polling, voting and duel features, Squidoo should create a module for short quizzes.
Here are the links to my two new lenses: