in Week in Review

Weekend Reading – The Design Edition

This weekend: The Design Edition. A number of Canadian Startups (PlanetEye, b5media, LetsCube, etc.) have been working on redesigns. These overhauls are more than a coat of hex paint… in many cases, they reflect a evolution of the business thesis.

First, let’s head on over to PlanetEye. They’ve noticeably cleaned up the site and reorganized around the travel pack. The idea being that users will research trips, build up travel itineraries, and then book their trips. We’ve written about PlanetEye before, so you probably already know the genesis related to sharing of geo-tagged photos and travel plans. Things now seem to be shifting towards travel booking. They are also working hard on content partnerships to backfill listings. My only concern is that getting to ‘booked’ is way more work than on other travel sites. For example, compare the booking experience at TripHarbour.

Going through the re-design process is really interesting because it’s not just the look and feel but how the site meets the needs of users. In many ways, it forces you to re-think a lot of things. – Mark Evans, Director of Community for PlanetEye.

Next, let’s gather around b5media’s latest creation: the Starked entertainment portal. As familiar as most of us are with RSS readers, my guess is that the general population has no clue how to use those odd little orange icons. The central question b5media seems to be addressing is how to pull users across its network. They’ve already organized channels and now are presenting these channels as portals. Will these portals be able to aggregate the long tail readers? For example, will a Britney fan want to read about Alba? And if so, why not visit a mainstream site? We’ll have to wait and see… But I would bet that at the very least these portals help attract advertisers.

As one of the most successful channels in our network, entertainment was a natural choice for b5media to build a destination website for the constant flow of new information published on each individual blog. In the next few months, we will be launching more b5media portal websites. – Jeremy Wright, CEO of b5media.

At an earlier stage is Let’s Cube. Much like PlanetEye and b5media they are working on refining the product, albeit without OPM (other people’s money). I asked the founders recently to describe their site in 140 characters or less. Here is what they had to say: “”Discover what your friends find exciting. Share what you find interesting. Let Let’s Cube recommend you what you’ll find fascinating.” Give *cubing* a try and let the guys know what you think!

We have been working on making the UI as clean an possible. We have deployed the first iteration. What do you think? – Shahzad Salim, Cofounder of Let’s Cube.

And finally, I would be remiss without pointing you to three excellent recent ‘redesign’ posts by members of our local tech community:

Dan McGrady, founder of Integrate Sales and Contrastream, put together a list of 10 Inspiring SaaS Website Designs and shared his thoughts on what each site achieved.

Mike McDerment, founder of Freshbooks, shared the story of how the team surrendered to process and elected a Design Dictator (less scary than it sounds)!

Jeff Fedor, founder of ParkVu (still in stealth mode), wrote about his early days quantifying the ?right? amount of change in shoe cushion and how those lessons carry over to software design (less boring than it sounds and a lesson innovators need to pay very close attention to, lest they find themselves ahead of the curve).

Love the redesigns? Hate them? Your startup been making design changes also?

Constructive critique in the comments :)