A few days ago, the folks behind a new website called My South Africa contacted me, to let me know about the site and what it aims to do:
“The concept of this site is to create an exciting online community for everyone around the world to share all things South African. It’ll be an interactive and engaging place for people to share their experiences, images and videos of South Africa.
People from all over the world (us locals, too) are invited to log in and submit their own experiences of South Africa, whether it be in written, video or photo format. Visitors can then sift through these ‘experiences’ and be inspired to visit the country (whilst we locals gloat about how good we’ve got it).
They’re also planning on having a regular online interactive magazine (not so sure about its title: ‘Something Amazing’…), on various South African topics, all “collated from the best images / videos / stories uploaded on the site”, becoming a “user-generated archive of the best of South Africa”.
Problem is, online interactive magazines tend to be bandwidth-chompers, and not everyone has supersonic internet connections (or is willing to sacrifice download quotas reading an online magazine).
Anyway, I went and had a good look. I like the idea behind the website – promoting our beautiful country, and sharing our experiences with others who love it as much as we do – and it certainly looks very pretty, but in my opinion they’re going to have to work on making it more user-friendly before I’d start visiting regularly.
- Internet connection. If you’re on anything lower than an ADSL connection, this site is likely to be hair-yankingly frustrating. The opening page, for example, has an embedded video that stutters and starts, even on an ADSL line and you can’t switch it off (except by visiting another page).
- Too much Flash. I love flash for offline presentations – it flows and it can be very elegant – but flash websites drive me nuts. You spend so much time trying to find your way around, are prevented from using shortcuts like ‘tab’, and can’t cut and paste information. Anyone who spends a lot of time online will find this rather frustrating (so many websites, so little time).
- No member ‘home’. Once you’ve signed up, agreed to their 13-page terms & conditions, and ventured in as a member, there’s no welcoming page. You can’t see at a glance what you’ve uploaded and when, and there’s no easy way to edit your submissions or your profile (I certainly couldn’t find any way to do so). Possibly just technical glitches at this stage, but a bit offputting!
- No community. When I log in, I want to be able to communicate with others who also love Cape Town, or have been rafting down the Orange River, or also uploaded photographs of the wildflowers. Right now, there’s nothing like that – it’s just a pretty collection of photographs and ‘experiences’ that will become increasingly difficult to navigate as the quantities build up.
Overall, whilst I like the general look and feel, and the idea behind it, I think they need to rethink the interface.
What they’re going for is a “collection of real experiences from real people, … (to become) a great resource for not only those who live or have been to South Africa but also those interested in visiting and getting a taste of the country.”
And they’re close, but right now it feels much more like a website primarily aimed at tourists. Give us locals (and Saffas abroad) a simpler, less complicated version – one that encourages a sense of community, facilitates communication between visitors and locals (and vice versa), and doesn’t gobble up our bandwidth – and they’d definitely be on to something (and I would certainly visit more often).
My South Africa launches officially this week.
*UPDATE* – see comments below for the response from MySouthAfrica.