Why City Portals Suck, and What To Do About It

discoversd.com Some say the city portal space is either a) overcrowded and/or b) not profitable. I believe in both, but I also believe that creates opportunity. The recently launched DiscoverSD.com is a valiant attempt at fixing some of the problems with city portals, at least the ones in San Diego, CA.

First thing’s first. Most city portals look like crap. Yes, really. Crap. DiscoverSD.com actually has clean lines, beautiful color combinations, and is very easy to navigate. So, coming from a web guy, I’m giving thumbs up for the design and UI. Outstanding job, and it definitely separates them from the rest of San Diego’s ugly city portals. (On an even less-biased note, even my coworkers, the ones with good design taste, agree with me on this note)

DiscoverSD is also trying to combine some of what Yelp does, by reviewing local establishments like local spas and salons, restaurants, nightlife and shopping. They’ll have a tough time usurping Yelp’s throne, but I hope they’re not just after the review niche.

Some of the other features DiscoverSD has that are pretty common to city portals is neighborhood descriptions and maps, some real estate agent contacts, and the token business listings (coming soon). I’m pretty sure that every portal which mentions real estate is created by a real estate agent (or groups of agents), which typically leads to a crap site. So, I really hope they stay away from that. I already get that vibe a bit too much from the site, and it certainly scares me away from putting in an email address anywhere on the site.

As for what they could do better; social networking! I hate Friendster and Upcoming. They don’t do jack for me. I hate Myspace. Facebook is ok, but I haven’t met anyone new. But a city portal that’s local, creates groups based on what I like to do, and facilitates communication and checking out new places with new people who I might get along with – now that I could get on board with. And a local portal is the perfect place to do it.

I don’t want to date anyone (I’m married). I don’t want to meet new people I’ve never talked to online first. I want to find cool stuff to do and do it with people who I could befriend simply by having similar interests and starting a friendship online.

Additionally, they need a ton more content if they’re going to make it as a comprehensive informational portal. Events could be easily integrated using Eventful.com‘s API (shameless work plug). Add social networks with a local flair, and you’ve got a great place to be.

What’s your thoughts on DiscoverSD.com, or city portals in general? i’d love to hear what could make something like this better. Does DiscoverSD.com have a chance to make it? Why or why not?

[tags]DiscoverSD.com, city portal, san diego, portal, neighborhoods, nightlife, real estate, shopping, spas, salons, restaurants[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

3 Comments on "Why City Portals Suck, and What To Do About It"

  1. JJ says:

    Almost tricked me into clicking on those sneaky AdSense links up there, Nate. Man, you’re so sneaky. Btw, aren’t you supposed to disclaimer when you do paid (or kickback) reviews?

  2. nate says:

    Well shoot. I almost got 2 cents from you reading my original content and clicking on an advertisement that is a different color, not inserted into the content, and specifically says “Ads by Google”? Man, I almost forgot how evil I am.

    Oh yea, and I got paid for a review by the folks above. They paid for an honest review, and they got one. Some good. Some bad. I haven’t decided if you’re “supposed” to disclaim when you do a paid review or not, especially if it’s pertinent to my location or things I see.

    I suppose it would probably be more of a courtesy to the readership, but I wouldn’t say I’m “supposed” to.

More in General
Contest: We have a winner, and we want more!

We have a winner! Thanks to everyone who entered the idea contest! We had quite a few entries and I'm...