Probably you are aware. You’ve seen them elsewhere. The little prompts in the footer sections of other websites where something like this is mentioned: “Powered by Coffee.” Or, “Powered by Hope.” I’ve even seen a site “Powered by Tacos.” Cool, right? Mine? Mine is Powered by Frustration!
“Why frustration? Are you ill?”, you might ask.
Not clinically. Or at least not yet.
See, as a curious person from an early age. I always wanted to learn more about the world. Naturally, this led to me reading books. After that, with time, I’ve added to my mix of learning checking websites, listening to podcasts, and an uncontrollable urge to watch a strange blend of YouTube videos.
Initially, the web was an ugly place. Crappy-looking sites. Bad typefaces. Small letters, etc.
But we still loved it. After all, there was nothing better to compare it with.
Eventually, as people started to see that their websites are getting traction – and when online advertising was introduced. Besides the ugly layout of the site. We now had ads.
As if the small letters weren’t enough to ruin your user experience.
With time, some of the ugly websites turned into Picasso-like paintings. Others, remained sinfully unpolished. But more importantly, the volume of publications online increased exponentially.
Now, theoretically, all of your questions can be answered with a simple Google search.
Why, then, we are still not bizarrely smart?
Is it our fault, or it’s the fault of the people running these online storehouses full of information?
While, we, the users, are surely to blame – we have a tendency to consume short-form content and waste entire days browsing social media. There are a lot of things website owners are doing on purpose to prevent us from learning.
Not that the information they share is necessarily bad, but the way it’s presented and the incentives of a major part of the online publishing houses are not exactly what they say on their about page.
These days, despite our supreme technical superiority, most of the online pages we visit remain an advertorial assault on the senses.
Big sites are careless about whether the person reading will learn something, as long as the person reading will buy something from them.
Annoyed by this saddening norm – a visit to a website nowadays is more a dodging experience ( dodging ads and product offers), not a reading nor a learning experience. I use this irritation instilled when browsing online as an energy source to create something that’s not a melee of misdirection.
I’ve designed my website in a calming way (distraction-free). With a prime focus being learning.
Learning without having to battle popping elements that are asking for your email all the time or superficial content that is not intended to answer your questions – only get you to purchase something.
Inspired by old-school libraries, I’m on a journey to create a carefully curated bibliotheca of ideas online. A quiet place packed with tomes full of wisdom.
What Irritates Me Online
Three things in particular about the modern web that frustrate me:
1. Sites Focusing On The Wrong Incentives
Google people boast about their mission to organize the world wide web and provide humans with easy access to everything creators like me are creating. Sadly, the internet remains poorly organized.
Their secret algorithms are rewarding either big sites full of advertising or such that are tactically using SEO techniques to dominate the search results – which are, too, full of ads.
As a user, I see the content created by these publications as secondary.
They don’t create content motivated to help people become a bit brighter. For the majority of online publications – their prime purpose – is to extract as many dollars as possible from the people visiting their pages. To content is a money-making tool, not necessarily an educational component.
The question, “will people get a bit better after reading our piece?” is not something considered as long as it makes them more money.
These websites simply want to show more ads to the visitor.
This is bad for at least several reasons.
But I’m going to briefly touch on the following:
With ads, part of your brain is occupied with avoiding the popping elements that appear in every damn pixel of the screen. You are constantly thinking, “Avoid looking at the ad. Avoid looking at the ad. Damn, I’ve just looked at the ad…”
While you’re trying to read and understand the content, the other part of your brain is playing whack-a-mole – trying to close every erupting element from the page before it hurts your focus.
2. Not Properly Designed Webpages
In the early days, as mentioned, sites were ugly.
It was fine back then. After all, modern HTML was not invented. Ugly was the norm.
Nowadays, web applications are so sophisticated and easy to use that everyone looking to start a website can do it in just under a couple of hours – at least set the foundations.
Sadly, we daily have to deal with stretched pages or with tiny fonts that require the use of a magnifying glass.
You don’t have to be a designer to create an easy-to-read web page. You just have to think a bit more about the end-user – the person reading your text.
When the text is stretched along the entire length of the page, it becomes unreadable.
It’s extremely difficult to maintain a good reading paste because every time you have to move to the next line, you lose your orientation and it takes you forever to finish a post.
This type of design, makes me believe that the creator of the website is not taking a moment to consider how the reader will actually read, interact, with what they’ve produced.
3. Surface Content
The point of creating content online, in general, should be to help the people visiting your website solve a problem.
In contrast, the reason big organizations create content – at least many of them – is to make the visitor stay longer, so he/she can see more ads and/or purchase something from their websites.
As you can see, there is a disproportion between the two.
While you’re googling stuff online trying to figure out what to do with your life, you end up on a page. This page tries to send you to another page and then another – all of them asking for your email or your credit card, or both. None of them, however, actually answering your question in depth.
Finally, after visiting 3 to 5 pages, you close the site, and you repeat the process once again on another page. Or – something that’s also possible – you give in to the suggestions and decide to try their “proven method”. Sadly, you’re disappointed by the course because the only thing it does is to advertise another course.
What Are My Goals
Look, I’m definitely not a saint.
I, too, have something to sell. Something that helps me keep doing what I (probably) do best – writing.
Not only because I think that what I’m doing is worth paying for. But also because I believe that we don’t appreciate free stuff online.
When something is free, we don’t take it seriously enough to learn and study in-depth. As the saying goes, “Man only truly respects what he pays for.”
Unlike many websites that are on the top page of Google, where you need to fight your way through an army of ads to read the text. My ambition is to offer a calming online experience. Not posts dense with popping elements. But dense with knowledge.
I don’t want to steal your attention or ask for your credit card the moment you step on my website.
I want the latter to happen only if the person reading truly wants to expand his knowledge.
Here’s how I approach creating content online:
1. Content Tailored To Help – Not Make You Feel Helpless
I have a long-term goal. To create a charming online library that stores notes and actionable steps from the best books ever produced.
Do I want to make money from my efforts?
Will I do whatever it takes to get money out of my visitors?
I’m regularly contacted by growth hackers who are trying to convince me that I should add advertising pieces on my website that are – supposedly – “mutually beneficial”.
People are offering me cash to place links to products I have no interest in.
A third group, try to persuade me that I should add banners, video ads, affiliate links, and all kinds of other make-money-don’t-be-helpful techniques so I can get more cash from the eyeballs of my visitors.
I don’t plan on doing this. Like, never.
Not only because I don’t like websites full of distractions that make it extremely difficult to read the text. But also because adding advertising on a website prevents you from fully immersing in the words.
Every distraction on a webpage triggers you to think about something else. This prevents you from concentrating. When you can’t concentrate, you can’t understand the underlying goal of what’s written.
Every piece of content I produce – free or for members-only – is focused on helping you solve a particular problem. Plus, prompts you to think about a specific situation differently – and hopefully better.
And when I’m forming the piece, I do my best to present the information in a clean, practical, and understandable way so the people reading it can walk away with something useful to think about.
See, ads are not only bad because they add an extra element you need to avoid while reading. They are harmful to the reader also because they instill thoughts that are unrelated to the content.
Website owners who add such attention monsters surely enjoy extra cash from these elements. Some visitors will click and buy. However, they won’t care about the content, the brand, or get any closer to solving their problem.
My goal is quite different from this.
It’s to be resourceful and helpful. And the people who find the content resourceful and helpful will decide on their own if they should support me or not.
2. Readable Layout With The Reader In Mind
As I mentioned above, when website owners stretch their content, add pop-ups, use small font sizes, and do all kinds of other design disasters, only tells how little they are thinking about the person reading.
When I was designing my website, I’ve deliberately set a narrower box for the content. I tested probably 50 different font combinations until I found one that not only looks good, but also reads good.
I didn’t just go ahead and pick the default layout. I’ve spent probably a week only on the fonts and the colors.
Also, as you’ll probably notice if you haven’t already, I don’t have popping elements asking for your email.
If people are enjoying the content, they will find their way to my newsletter page. There is no need to ask for an email on every page.
A major goal of my website is that the various components of the site. The overall design. The colors. The typeface. The proportions. Would together become a suitable vehicle for the content.
Everything on a website should match the substance. Its importance. I don’t believe that hoarding a web page with advertising can contribute to the experience. Quite the opposite. It only distracts the reader from the idea you are presenting.
3. In-Depth Content Creation
The world is slowly changing.
The majority of the population, it seems, prefers bite-sized tweets and short TikTok videos instead of reading a 3000-word essay about how to start a business, how to grow a mustache, or how to become a better reader, for example.
Short content looks good.
Sounds awfully useful.
And it’s damn sexy.
Nicely designed Instagram carousels.
Ambitiously smart Twitter threads.
Sophisticatedly presented. As if they are beginning to be saved for later use.
I’ve done it myself.
I have a couple of hundreds of “saved” social media posts.
Do you know how many times I’ve looked at them after I’ve saved them?
The problem with short-form content, the way I see it, is twofold:
First, it makes you feel like you’re doing progress, but it only feels like you’re doing progress. You don’t engage a lot with the content. Secondly, the shorter the tweet, the post, whatever, the likeliness of you to read more, scroll to look for more, increases. This means that you’re not giving enough attention to the information. You’re simply consuming it and moving forward to consume more.
To instill an idea in your head, you need to spend more time with the problem.
As Einstein modestly said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Longer pieces of content help you stay longer with the topic. When you stay longer, you think more about the concept. All of this, helps you form new solutions in your head. New ideas. And new ideas, are the prerequisites for a new, and better way of living.
Some Closing Thoughts
The best thing about being driven by frustration is that when I’m not feeling exceptionally motivated to continue working on my website, I just need to visit a popular website.
In less than a second, my browser gets flooded with all kinds of commercials telling me what I don’t yet have, but should.
The moment I get bombarded by pixels offering me a storehouse of products, I tell myself, “I shouldn’t be like that. We should have the option to read. Not just try to read.”
This keeps me angry. And this anger keeps me on my course.
Patient experience as you’re reading a book.
Curated content. Not just any content.
Pieces of information I wish excited.
These are some of the principles driving me forward.
If, when you’re browsing online (or even offline) you see something that frustrates you. Guess what? You can do something about it. Use frustration as a driving force. As a motivating power to change the things you don’t like.
Be powered by frustration.
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