Personalizing Your Internet Startpage

For quite a while now, whatever web browser I’ve been using, I’ve had my Gmail account set to open as my startpage. That’s been convenient in some ways. I have to admit it’s also been a productivity drain, because I tend to react to incoming email, rather than dealing with it in a planned way.

So I’ve been looking at other options for a startpage.

I’d heard or read comments by a few people to the effect that the iGoogle startpage is the bees’ knees. I tried it a couple of times and was not so sure. I was aware too that Netvibes had a good following. And Ole Brandenburg, who used to live not far from me, had encouraged me to check out his product, Pageflakes. So yesterday I spent some time playing around with those three.

Each is very good. I had some challenges with iGoogle and with Pageflakes: no doubt these can be overcome, but I do like things to work for me first time.

iGoogle

iGoogle was particularly unimpressive as it came up with an error message in the center of the page and another error message about Feedburner. Trying a different browser did not help and I could not discover any way to fix the problems.

iGoogle screenshot

Pageflakes

Pageflakes fared better. But they were not good on location. For my weather and local news they had me not just in the wrong city, but in a different state. Admittedly, I’m only five minutes from the border and the city is only an hour and a quarter’s drive from here, but we’re all getting spoilt these days with the granularity we have come to expect in information feeds. I would like to have more precision in local weather, maps and local news, thank you.

Otherwise very good. And the fact that Pageflakes has a community and forum is a plus. If someone can help me sort out the global positioning issue, I’ll be prepared to have another look.

Pageflakes screenshot

Netvibes

Netvibes was for me the winner on the day.

I liked the layout. They were only marginally more accurate than iGoogle about where I live, but at least they got the right State. The weather and other local information is described as being for “Richmond”, which could either mean the Federal electorate of Richmond (accurate, although a big geographical area), or the Richmond River area, not far from here but on a global positioning accuracy score not actually better than iGoogle’s effort in placing me in or near the city of Brisbane.

Netvibes screenshot

There was interesting information on the Netvibes blog, about the new “Ginger” version of Netvibes currently in beta and being trialed by a select group. The representations of the interface make it look quite interesting and I’m assuming it will have improved user controls.

netvibes Ginger beta scrrenshot

James Mowery at Mashable provided, halfway through last year, a comparative review, with convenient chart, of fourteen startpage offerings, or “personalized homepages” from Netvibes, through Pageflakes and iGoogle, to one named, with perhaps unconscious but apparently justifiable modesty, It’sAStart.

The review’s top ranking was, in order, Netvibes, Pageflakes and iGoogle. The Mashable post mentioned also, and not dismissively, the good old MyYahoo! startpage – with the comment that, “if you use Yahoo services, there’s no reason not to use the MyYahoo start page”. I noticed just now that my MyYahoo page doesn’t try to be cute about where I live and just gives State capital city weather listings around the country.

But as I say, the review gave Netvibes the top ranking. Emphatically so:

Netvibes is without question the one to beat. Its customization is practically unrivaled. Not only that, Netvibes also provides social functionality by sharing modules with others. Netvibes, all in itself, could be your one stop solution to finding all your information on the internet.

If you have a preferred solution as a startpage, I hope you will share that here. Of if you think the whole startpage caper is a distraction and works against productivity rather than enhancing it, I hope we will get to see your comments on that.

Share this...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestEmail this to someone
About Des Walsh

I show business owners and other professionals how to navigate the social media maze and use LinkedIn effectively. I'm an author, speaker, business coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get my weekly Social Business Bites.

Comments

  1. Matt
    Thanks for sharing. As with Paul’s offering, I looked in vain for an “about” page to tell me a bit more – about the product, about who is behind it. Not saying you have to provide this, just sharing with you that it’s something I look for when I haven’t seen a product or service before. Also, the blogspot link produces a blogger status page which is not helpful. I had to go to the home site to discover the blog site.
    Anyway, best wishes with Odysen.

  2. Another start page to consider is Odysen at http://www.odysen.com.

    A couple of the key differences include 1) the ability to integrate as many news feeds as you want into one widget (saving space, being more efficient) and 2) free-formatting widgets, allowing you to change the size of the widget to whatever you feel is most appropriate to the content.

    There is also a blog available for feature updates and page examples at http://odysen.blogspot.com.

  3. Paul

    Thanks. Is this your product? I could not find an “about” link on the site. My hunch from looking at the home page is that this would be of more interest to “visual” people than to tex-oriented people like me. I’m reluctant to sign up for new apps where I can’t see who is behind them and a bit of their story. Maybe that’s just something the author(s) hasn’t got around to rather than a desire to be mysterious?

  4. Netvibes is probably the best web-based RSS aggregator but why not aggregating web sites rather than RSS feeds ?
    Find what you’re looking for by flipping through pictures rather than by scanning a list of text entries.

    Just try Web2Wave http://www.web2wave.com

    Web2Wave Cover Flow-style interfaces provide an easy and fun way to sort through large volumes of information and find the piece you want at any given time.

  5. Thanks for introducing me to NetVibes! I have used MyYahoo for ages but lately I have been getting so fed up with it… Earlier this week I spent some time searching for a replacement, but I must not have been searching for the right terms (portal, startpage?) because I couldn’t find anything. Your post was exactly what I was looking for, a detailed warts-and-all comparison of the top products. I appreciate it!

  6. Jeff

    I just did some testing. If I type in the name of a US city/town, it comes up with the town/city, state and country, comma separated. If I type in Gold Coast and pause it comes up with Gold Coast, Australia. Cool. But if, as on my previous first pass I type, fairly quickly, Gold Coast, Qld (for the state of Queensland) it says not found. So too if I type Gold Coast, Qld, Australia. So as a non-techie myself, it looks a bit like a coding thing somewhere in someone’s system.

  7. Jeff

    I would love to be able to make it work for me. I followed your instructions. Could not get the system to recognise Tweed Heads, or Coolangatta, or the City of the Gold Coast (but see correction below), the latter two of which would have been inaccurate but better than Brisbane. I tried Richmond (as mentioned above that’s the closest the Other Product could get to placing me)but to no avail and I finally tried Byron Bay, an hour and a half from here, and got it, but when I see it on the screen it looks no more useful or appropriate than Brisbane. Bear in mind Tweed Heads Shire has some 50,000 people, the city of the Gold Coast over 550,000 and is the sixth most populous city in Australia.(Update and correction: just tried again and this time the system recognized “Gold Coast, Australia” – but I’d still like it to find Tweed Heads.) I did a quick comparison. The town of Floyd, in Floyd County, VA, came up straight away as recognized by Pageflakes, map and all. From fairly recent memory, Floyd the town has a population of about 450 and the county somewhere between 14,000 and 15,000. I can find my own street in Tweed Heads on Google maps and MS maps, so the GPS lat/long data and technology are there. I don’t see what the problem could be. Hope you can come up with a solution.

  8. Jeff - Pageflakes Support says:

    Hi Des,

    Thanks for the write-up on Pageflakes. Last year was a long time ago! We have tons of new features (Thanks Dennis) including Public and Group Pagecasts, Themes, Social Networking, and loads of really cool Flakes.

    It’s easy to change your location setting:

    * Click on the big round Pageflakes button in the upper right corner
    * Click on My Profile in the menu on the left
    * Click on the Account tab in the profile window
    * Change the city next to “I live in”
    * Click Save Changes at the bottom

    Then, check out our new Community Central Page:
    http://www.pageflakes.com/Community/

    Hope that helps!

    Jeff – Pageflakes Support

  9. Des, your comment about a homepage prompting people to ‘react’ is both observant and, in January when many people promise to achieve more in the coming year, timely. I’m sure there are many individuals, even those working from home, still using default homepages that draw them into daily news or email without even thinking.

    The solutions you discuss are each a great way to quickly provide you with an information overview and a portal to where you may want to head when you jump online. My personal solution to the possible distractions is the Blank homepage – this forces me to select where I want to go first, avoiding the temptation of email or articles that (for me) can distract.

  10. Hi Des, very interesting article. As someone who runs online businesses myself, I have started using a Netvibes start page to serve as an improvised business dashboard. I have widgets or “picture in picture” type widgets to monitor all my traffic stats, Feedburner stats, with URLs to various functions in my websites, to monitor my social media sites, and so on.I feel there’s a real need for product to serve such business purposes for online entrepreneurs. Netvibes comes the closest to being able to deliver that — although it’s not perfect for that purpose. But it was the easiest to set up and use, and did the most of what I needed compared with all 3.

    Anita

  11. Dennis
    Thanks for the info on Pageflakes. You have prompted me to think that I could try Pageflakes on an alternative browser and get some direct experience of that functionality.

  12. What Netvibes announces in their Blog has been released on Pageflakes a long time ago. Not only can you share widgets but you can also create your own public pages (Pagecasts) and/or share them with your friends. I find Pageflakes to be much richer in terms of functionality. Certainly better than the rest. But that’s just my 2 cents.

    Dennis