One of the challenges for SmartNow is that it needs to present its readership with sensitive information that is often ugly in nature—whether it be medical advice or brutally honest fashion tips, as in the beauty article titled “Dr. Brunno Ristow: Your Drooping Face.” The website does an excellent job of balancing this direct approach with humor and a deft sensibility.
However, there is no such thing as the perfect website, and SmartNow could direct its attention to a few areas—the search function, for example. If the brand really does intend to be an information resource covering an impressive scope of material, then it needs to provide a robust search. It does not. Search results are given in order of popularity…or maybe alphabetically? It’s not clear, and that’s a shame. All the information in the world is useless if users cannot access it easily through a manipulate-able search. At the very least, SmartNow.com should offer search results by date, relevancy and popularity.
Some may recognize the name of SmartNow.com’s co-founder Julie Wainwright. Those same some may experience a Pavlovian reaction to the name, inspiring them to dump money into the NASDAQ and put on “Mambo No. 5.” Julie Wainwright’s name is most associated with the boom-bust Pets.com brand of the 1990s Internet explosion. Yes, the one with the puppet. She was also the CEO of Reel.com and of Berkeley Systems—responsible for the game you now refuse to admit you loved, “You Don’t Know Jack.” Wainwright writes that she was inspired to found SmartNow after her own personal search for information failed to reveal a site that "fulfilled the many needs of women 35 to 55.”
Unfortunately, SmartNow makes a common miscalculation many “community” websites are guilty of committing: believing it is possible to exist in a vacuum. Many such sites mistakenly believe that by ignoring, or not acknowledging, the existence of the rest of the Internet, they are not competing with other websites for visitors. Or at least that’s the assumed reasoning, because nothing else makes any sense—especially for a site that aims to be “comprehensive” but fails to exploit the endless opportunities and resources available.
Casee in point is SmartNow.com’s section “Today’s Health News,” which features specific health-related topics. These news sections are regularly updated under a SmartNow byline with the full text of what often appear to be press releases. In a recent update titled “Free Web Site Lists Breast Cancer Clinical Trials” the website, BreastCancerTrials.org, is not hyperlinked once. That’s a little peculiar, especially because the information being considered is just, potentially, a click away.
Wainwright says of this insularity, “SmartNow takes submissions from experts all over the world currently and we are 'opening' up for other community and more sites for links at the first of the year. However, the expert information submitted and displayed on the site will still be vetted. We have real health information on the site written by some of the top doctors in their field and have to be careful about protecting that information.”
There is no lack of SmartNow-produced information on the site that caters to just about any subject matter a woman in her mid-30s to -50s might find interesting and engaging. But woman-focused sites that aspire to be more than high-resolution photos of the latest fashions need to cultivate community discussion—an ambition that requires tapping the talent and passion of both readers and content providers.
While it does not target the exact same demographic as SmartNow, a great example of this is Jezebel.com, a blog “For women. Without airbrushing.” It relies on visitor comments to help create a community and a clearinghouse of content that adds exponentially to the publication’s foundation as a resource. Fostering and investing this type of community in a website and encouraging participation is a monumental, but essential, undertaking. And an entirely possible one.
The success of SmartNow.com rests squarely on its readership and the ability of the website’s vision and usability to inspire them. Fine-tuning the search function is a step in the right direction, as is capitalizing on the ability of other websites to contribute to the goal of offering “comprehensive” information—if not now, as soon as possible.