After recent review of Acme Files I had exchanged few more emails with its owner. It is very young resource, eager to get feedback on what visitors would like to see.
Got me thinking - what do we really want and need from software portals?
Software portal is somewhat rare kind of site:
- unlike blogs it has little personal appeal;
- tracking software releases can become plenty of work (unless very automated);
- hosting downloads can consume a LOT of bandwidth;
- there are few giant established portals towards which most of users naturally gravitate.
Core idea of behind software portals is simplifying. Software is available from developer’s site anyway. To make people come portal must be better and simpler in some way .
Photo by Krikit
I think there are at least three tasks that software portals simplify (or should to if they don’t):
- downloading software;
- choosing software;
- keeping software updated.
There are two ways to handle this:
1. Provide links to developer sites:
- more credible (unless portal has long history);
- harder to control if links are working;
- when developer site is gone software is gone;
2. Host downloads:
- complete control over links;
- can provide more ways to download (like BitTorrent );
- can keep archive of old versions;
- can check files for malware;
- can provide hashes for checking file integrity;
- and more things that can be developed with access to files.
Overall download must be simple and bulletproof . Over that - the more the better.
There is a lot of software. A lot of software that does same things. A lot of good software. And a lot of bad. Helping visitor choose means he spends less effort and increases value of portal.
Following things make choosing harder :
- giant number of software titles;
- bad descriptions;
- outdated versions;
- mixing freeware with shareware.
Following things make choosing easier :
- hand-picked selection of software;
- thorough information (size, framework, OS compatibility, etc);
- editorial and/or visitor-submitted reviews;
- visual clues (ratings, badges, download counts);
- specific and highly focused categories (portable for example).
Keeping software updated is important. Bugs are getting fixed, security holes covered and there are even occasional updates of functions. As far as I know there is no coined common way to provide this. So it’s one of the areas open for innovation.
RSS is a must . Due to nature of updates one feed would be too much – so numerous options for precise control what and how much are you getting are needed.
Rest is open field:
- Custom updater software?
- Widgets for bloggers?
- Personalized email notifications?
- Many more things I can’t even imagine waiting for someone to invent and implement them.
So how do real and successful software download portals implement these? What makes them tick?
- giant number of software titles;
- links to developers, hosting when unavailable;
- precise information;
- tests for malware;
- editorial reviews and picks for popular apps.
Softpedia works on quantity . It may be pain to navigate and search but assortment of software is excellent – it’s very easy too look up set of similar apps for comparing. Extensive editorial reviews help evaluate without leaving site.
- moderate amount of software titles;
- links to developers;
- editorial articles and ratings;
- clear separation of freeware and shareware;
- multiply RSS feeds and separate updates page.
SnapFiles strikes the balance . Plenty to choose from without getting lost, editorial opinion without much text and various subscription options.
- hand-picked software titles;
- hosts files including archive of old versions;
- minimalistic and informative design;
- main RSS feed and per-application feeds;
- custom software updater.
FileHippo is focused and complete solution. You are covered from the choosing to downloading and helped keeping up after.
What do you need from those?
- Do you visit software portals?
- Which one is your favorite?
- What features do you like most?
Leave your suggestions in the comments and maybe Acme Files will be shaped by them into software portal you will adore. ;)