I’ve made no secret about the fact that I really, really like Mahalo.com. Overall, I’m of the opinion that we need a lot more CHOICE than we’ve been having lately, to find things we want in the ever-enlarging haystack called the web.

I think the basic idea behind Mahalo is sound, combining algorhitmic search results with hand-made SERPs (and increasingly, user-made as well) – is an idea that holds a lot of promise.

Mahalo sign
Creative Commons License photo credit: RobotSkirts

If the content is well researched, timely produced, and has a low enough price tag to keep the company afloat, I’m all for it. For the time being, it looks like Mahalo is ending up ahead of their projections, and serving people quite well. So more power to them, I say.

But where I feel they could still improve a lot is in the organization and usability of the search results and content pages themselves.

I do hope that they’re constantly testing and split-testing everything this way to Sunday… and if not, I think it’s time. I haven’t seen THAT big an evolution in their pages over time, so I suspect more could be tested.

My sweet potato and canellini bean soup photo in Mahalo.com
Creative Commons License photo credit: exfordy

Here’s what I personally think, as a former information architect, a sometimes-obsessive market researcher, and always a writer.

  • A lot of people search to achieve a goal to do with the topic they search for – if the SERPs reflected this a little better, that would be by far the best improvement. It may take a little more thought, but it would also create fanatically loyal users.
  • Fewer people just do research, let alone comprehensive research, which the SERPs mostly seem to have been built for. If the front page successfully deals with more current topics, why not do the same on the majority of the SERPs? Do we really need a 17-category page on every actress in the headlines? For that, we go to IMDB. Feel free to trim.
  • Provide a logical path to take for more and more involvement, and actions to do based on the information you provide. This would also be a VAST improvement albeit I admit not always easy to make. You’d have to make assumptions about what people want out of a certain topic. HOWEVER, isn’t that exactly what makes human based search superior? Please think about it.
  • First answer the questions/mindsets the users have, coming in. Another thing that ‘human powered search’ could do so much better: based on what’s happening, provide the timely information first, and make it visually stand out.
  • Frontpage: the new front page with the ever-changing feeds are great, and I use them. However, what was great about the old design was the multitude of headlines. Nothing beats a great headline, pulling you in and getting interested. Sure, it takes a little thought, but once again that’s what you should be proud of. Add a section of well-written main headlines at the top, and see more people choose you as their homepage in addition to being the place they go when they want to research for their term paper or whatever.

So there it is, just a little something for the Mahalo team to think about… Turned out a little lengthier than intended,

Leave a comment below if you’d like. See you on Mahalo. 🙂

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Comments to: How Mahalo Could Improve
  • November 23, 2008

    Followed a link here from @jasoncalacanis on Twitter. Great to know that you’re being heard.

    Yay Mahalo!

  • November 23, 2008

    Hmm…okay, as someone who had never heard of Mahalo before, I decided to check it out and nowhere could I find a “This is what Mahalo is and here’s how you can help us do it better” rundown of the basics. It looks interesting–but why not include a decoder ring with this cereal?

  • November 23, 2008

    Never mind Mahalo. I’m hypnotized by the snowflakes!

    Wicked stuff 🙂

  • November 24, 2008

    I tried to read your post, but I got distracted by animated snow flakes. They make me want to leave. At least you did not write your post in all caps with the blink tag turned on. Sorry. Could not fini

  • November 24, 2008

    Sorry about the snow flakes. 😀

    I’ve had them on just a couple of days while it’s been snowing insanely over here…

    Just look:

    I’ll disable them as soon as I post the next one, I promise…

  • November 27, 2008

    I should really add one thing for marketers: Mahalo is GREAT for market research. Fantastic in fact.

    Need to find out everything about a single topic, as quickly as possible? Try Mahalo. You’ll get a comprehensive picture about the topic’s various aspects very quickly, and a picture about the commercial aspects too.

    Then you can drill down. Very good first place to go to.

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