Suppose you have this great web application idea. You successfully develop it and you are ready to have users experience it. You market the product through various means – ads in conventional media, blogs, word-of-mouth, etc. Users start visiting your site and some of them even register. How do you keep them coming back to use your site and its functionalities?
This question is more significant today because there are so many different web applications for different functions that it is tough to keep up. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! each have several competing products for search, photos, bookmarks, email, etc. Which product does one use? Not to say anything about the smaller vendors of web applications.
One of the factors that considerably reduces my usage of an application is when I have to remember and type my username and password each time I visit the site. I can understand this happening for financial sites, but other less critical sites do this all the time. Even crazier are sites are Orkut which has a checkbox for remembering the password, but seems to forget it all the time.
Another frustrating point is the lack of easy URLs for a site. It is so easy to type a word in IE or Firefox and press Ctrl-Enter, but some sites like live.com from Microsoft needs the extra sub-domain like http://spaces.live.com. Google seems to have done a better job of this with gmail.com and googlemaps.com.
The availability of a functionality in the Big Three (Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft) considerably lessens the appeal of another similar web application. There is no need for another registration. It is likely to be more trustworthy and stable (Google Answers not withstanding).
Among the three of them, Yahoo! does the best job of bringing the links to all its functionalities in its main page, but on the downside, the home page is incredibly cluttered. Google has a simpler interface, but hides most of its functionality under My Account and the “More” link, and sometimes 2 clicks away in the “Labs” section. Having gone all the way to provide a personalized Home, Google should have provided a simple gadget to show all the services one uses, instead of having users visit a My Account page where one has to scroll down to get to all the services.