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Snap Preview – Tell me What You Think

Posted By Darren Rowse 17th of December 2006 Blogging Tools and Services 0 Comments

There are a number of tools that I’ve been meaning to test on my blogs over the past few months and so this weekend I’ve decided to get a few of them up and running.

The first one that you’ll notice I’m testing at ProBlogger is Snap. I’ve added it to my blogging tools page.

Put your cursor over any external links on any of my pages (except AdSense ads as far as I can see) and Snap will give you a preview of what you’ll see on that site before you actually go there (see below for an example).

Picture 1

I’m in two minds about this – while I can see some readers as enjoying it I suspect it’ll annoy others. So consider this a test and your opportunity to tell me how you find the user experience of the tool.

PS: Snap comes with a ‘search’ tool which you can switch on or off. I’ve left it switched off at this point as I already have a search tool on my blog using Google’s AdSense tool.

The search uses Snap’s search engine tool which I suspect what they’ve developed this tool to promote.

Update: I think it’s fairly safe to assume that I’ll be removing these in the coming day or so. I won’t do it immediately to give other readers a chance to see them in action – but the overwhelming feedback to this point is that they are not working for a majority of readers (although as expected the reaction is divided).

I would consider leaving them active in the comments section though as I do like the idea of one of our comments below that they can be useful there (having said that I probably won’t). Feel free to keep having your say though!

Update 2: I’ve disabled this. Thanks all for the feedback.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Hey cool Darren. I saw this on another site earlier this afternoon and wondered what it was. I can see it catering to the coolness factor of a site. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what others think of it. I suppose some might consider it annoying but I can see instances where it might be nice to have a preview of the site that’s behind a link before it pops up on your work PC…

  2. nice little gadget.

  3. I’ve seen this on several blogs before, but instantly assumed they were ads. Not until you mentioned they were for external links did I stop to actually look more at the popups.

    With the availability of the back button in browsers, I personally don’t see why I’d have the need for a preview. It is neat, but don’t know if I’d use it, expecially when the popups cover text I’m trying to read next.

    Regards

  4. Hmmm, I’m not much of a fan of it in the post sections, but it’s quite fun to use as you read people’s comments… you can see quick previews of their blogs : )

  5. FrankB says: 12/17/2006 at 11:24 am

    Hi Darren,

    I, personally, find these previews a bit annoying. It’s not as annoying as those intellitxt in text adverts, but for people like me that love scrolling with their mouse wheel you sometimes pop these things up over the text you’re reading.

    And I’m not sure where the added value is for me. I can’t read an excerpt of the linked site and I frankly don’t care too much about previewing their page layout. Might be useful in extreme cases, like generic adsense sites, but then I don’t think a webmaster/blogger who links to those sites, would use Snap.

    From my perspective it’s just a gimmick or some fancy gag. Aside from that I noticed that on older posts the previews had long loading times what renders this completely useless.

    Getting into your shoes I’m not sure what the added value for you is. It doesn’t generate money and IF a page is THAT cool, that the visuals are important I guess you’d just do a screenshot of it. That’ll take about 1 minute more of your time – when needed – once a month.

    Hope this helps
    Frank

  6. yeah – hadn’t thought about it from the perspective of comments sections – that is useful.

    Frank – yeah – not sure what the value ad is for readers either.

  7. Marina says: 12/17/2006 at 11:41 am

    Not a fan … I trust that any links you provide are to quality sites, and since the preview is too small to see anything but a thumbnail of the layout, I don’t see what benefit it provides the reader here. (On sites of questionable integrity, it would be a great way to avoid spam-filled links, though.)

  8. yeah – that’s my worry with it too Marina. I wonder whether CTR to external sites will go up or down as a result of this. I actually would want it to go up as I’m keen to share the link love.

  9. I’m not too crazy about it. It can get distracting, especially you read with the mouse in your hand and it strays over a link. It’s kinda cool to see blog previews, but it can definitely go into the ‘can live without’ category.

  10. @ James – Coolness does not equate to usability. I guess if you want to be cool and annoy people then Snap is ideal. But if you want to give your readers a better information gathering experience then I don’t think Snap is quite the tool to use

    Personally it annoys the crap out of me and does nothing more useful than make me immediately want to leave the site that uses it.

  11. i worry about it as I do quite a few external links in some posts (ie go down to my latest speedlinking on the main page and see it) and it can get quite annoying there.

  12. Carolyn – good point on the distraction front. It doesn’t really help with keeping people focused on your actual content :-)

  13. And on another note about Snap – it seems to work with some affiliate advertising and you can can click through from the Snap pop-up to the site. I wonder if that carries your affiliate code over to the sponsor’s site or leaves it behind and loses you a sale?

  14. If someone wants to visit another post, the preview make no difference. Right now, I’m leaning more toward ‘no socially redeeming value’.

  15. i really like them actually

  16. I don’t like them. It’s the same with textsense and all the stuff wich opens a layer. I never click on those links.

  17. Darren,

    I tried this on my humble blog a couple weeks ago. I thought it got kind-of annoying, so I took it off. Since then, I’ve seen it on some other blogs and truly been annoyed. It definitely distracts from content quite a bit.

    Personally, I’m a fan of accurate “title” attributes on links. That should be enough to tell the user what you’re headed to.

    By the way, have you thought about a “subscribe to comments” feature?

  18. Warning if the site had popups, malware, or some truly value added info might be useful, but simply to show a thumbnail pic seems rather goofy.

    As other people mentioned I don’t see the point and I find them annoying..

  19. Definitely not a fan – I think they get in the way and are quite annoying. I think a good anchor text should be enough.

    I don’t really see any point in just seeing a mini screenshot of a page – it adds nothing to the usability from a readers perspective, imho.

    Darren – I think the masses have spoken … be rid of it. ;-)

  20. Hi Darren,

    Andy Beal uses this one on his blog down at Marketing Pilgrim. Personally, I don’t like it. There are usually a ton of links on any blog and just by scrolling down the page, you are bound to open at least 10 snap preview windows. Most of the time they block the content. So I find this tool counterproductive.

    Andrey

  21. I also have seen this on other blogs. I am right handed and find if there is a lot of links on the right hand side it gets annoying with this pop up happening as I move the mouse around a lot in that area. Because your links are on the left hand side I don’t notice it so much. It is a nifty idea though.

  22. I’m with most of the others…. I don’t think it adds any value. I was thinking about using Snap a week or so ago, and decided it really didn’t offer any value.

  23. So what, exactly, do you *expect* the more minimal guy to say? ;-)

    I think this is a cute technology. But the user value is primarily in its novelty, which — at the advertised 12,000 site additions in the last month — is going to wear thin sometime next week.

    The Snap previews break my personal rule about no unrequested media. It’s not as bad as an autoloading midi or MP3, but this sort of feature belongs on the user side. It would make a better browser plug-in.

    I nearly named these previews a couple weeks back when I wrote an article about things your blog doesn’t need. They’re going to junk-up a lot of pages, I’m afraid.

    I’m glad you threw them open for discussion, Darren.

  24. It’s fun to try new things but I can’t see much value in this for your readership. ‘Gee-whiz’ quickly tires.

  25. Personally, I find it annoying and unhelpful.

    best,
    Dale

  26. Maybe have a ‘lite’ version of this site on https://problogger.com/lite where it’s off

    and https://problogger.com where it’s oon ?

  27. I used it for a couple of weeks and liked it….especially thought it was a good idea for people to have a glimpse of what your links look like….I changed my layout a bit and didnt put it back on….Yesterday I got an email from them asking why I wasnt using it anymore…and if there was a problem with it that they could help with…..Good Service :)

  28. I put it on my blog to give it a whirl. I like it as a preview tool for internal links (good for navigation since my site includes sequential how-to instructions in different posts) and blogrolls. I’m glad it can be turned off for individual links as desired. I can see how it would annoy some but I like to look before I click so overall I like it on other sites.

    On a side note, I notice SNAP previews show up on my Sitemeter stats–bulking up the numbers.

  29. I’ve had “snap” on my HART-Empire site since Dec 4th and quite frankly, I like them and am thinking of putting them up on all of the sites (except the ones heavy in Ezine articles).

    I like that snap as it shows the current site, shows it is available and not a splog or ad or fake link .. you can see commenter’s blog or website, you can preview links in sidebars or blogrolls .. and it kind of reminds me of some other sites that you don’t have to click your mouse to see what’s going on in the site.

    It’s quite easy to disable the snap – just click the question mark and the first link you see, and you’ll get no more snap. I can’t believe reading people who claim they will ban from reading sites (like Problogger) just because of this .. SHAME ON YOU

  30. Yea, I saw this a couple weeks ago and at first thought “Wow, this is great, I want this latest-greatest gadget for my blog” but then after seeing it around at a few places it quickly became annoying. The windows block my view, popping up without an invitation and sometimes randomly obtrusive if I happen to let my cursor linger unattended. Perhaps the worst part of it is they don’t give me information that contributes to my cyber happiness.

    If I want a view of the link I click, I don’t need to “up periscope” on every link on the page.

    My two cents.

  31. It’s extremely annoying. Chris nailed it above — it makes more sense as a user-side browser plugin.

  32. I added it to my site after seeing it on TechCrunch. I think it does wonders for trackbacks and website links in comments. I’m not completely sure how I like it on regular links inside my posts though.

  33. I find them quite useful. Been using it for several weeks. When you write an article, you can selectively determine when to use the snap preview and when not to. The web 2.0 factor gives your site a more modern feel, and I’d think users wouldn’t mind seeing a preview before they click the link. I do, however, see that OVER-using it (like in a sidebar) is annoying and obtrusive.

    Another cool feature of Snap Preview is that if you link to an image, you can add “looks” to multiple images without clogging your layout or content. Snap intelligently fills the preview box with the image, regardless of size. So it helps a lot when you just want to quickly reference many images without wasting bandwidth.

    Lastly, I’ve tried user-side browser plugins, such as Cooliris. And those are even more annoying, I de-activated the plugin in Firefox. While it was neat for a little while, I thought it added too much overhead to my browsing experience.

    I say KEEP IT, but use it selectively.

    Good work as always!

  34. I had it for a couple weeks and eventually took it down. The issue was when I had many links that didn’t require a preview (example: a menu bar). I recommended ot the snap team that they add the ability to allow an array of divs for inclusion and/or exclusion. I haven’t tested to see whether on not this could be done external to their scripting… someday when I have some time!

    Regards,
    Doug

  35. I wasn’t sure what those things popping up were, but I sure as heck didn’t want to spend time reading the little popups. If I want a preview I can go the side anyway – just load it into a tab and still keep reading. But, to have a little picture pop up about a site I might think about going is very disturbing. Breaking the flow of thought that you have spent an effort to create is the worst sin of writing — like the scrolling markee or the flashing words of websites gone by– once the flow is broken, it is hard to get back into rythm and there is the real potential of losing a reader.

  36. umm.. I don’t think I like this one. Feels intrusive.

  37. Darren, I like most things on your site, but this isn’t one of them, I’ll have to agree with most and say that this tool is more of an annoyance than an useful tool.

    It seems very amateurish and something I’d expect on a teenagers blog.

  38. Personally. I didn’t like it. Its annoying.

  39. Scrap it. It just gets in the way of everything. Simply seeing what a page looks like won’t help me decide if I want to click on the link or not. It serves no purpose, and just gets in the way of the content.

  40. I used Snap on my blogs for a bit, but even *I* became annoyed by it. The Snap previews are small enough to not be able to really tell what features are on the linked page and do just enough to be annoying. I say get rid of them.

    I saw that someone else said they didn’t like Cooliris, but I think it’s better because it’s user-side. It allows users to decide if they want previews or not by installing the Cooliris extension. I like Cooliris, because it gives you a fully functional preview without navigating away from the source page.

  41. I have to agree with everyone who says it adds no value. This is one of those “geek features” that people love to add to their web pages:

    – page counters
    – “what I’m listening to now” sidebars
    – blogrolls (for the most part)

    Features like this seem cool to bloggers, and they’re great to show off to other bloggers, but they do nothing for your visitors. Snap is another one of those. It looks cool, but it solves a problem that didn’t need to be solved.

    Some kind of textual detail about a link you were about to click might be nice – if there wasn’t already enough context – but the pictures are just geek eye candy with no real value.

    It also clutters pages with unnecessary JavaScript, annoys readers (I had several of these pop up unintentionally while reading ProBlogger – just because I move over a link doesn’t mean I’m interested in it) and reminds everyone of IntelliTXT ads, which already have a bad reputation.

  42. I’m glad you’re taking down thos pop-ups. On my Mac, I can’t read any of the text in the popups — too small — they just annoy me. I hate popup ads on other sites too.

  43. If your using WordPress please check out my plugin

  44. I used these for a week or two as they looked ‘cool’ but then they started to really bug me as they tended to get in the way of actually trying to click links! They also started appearing on top of ads, which given the clicking issue was really bad in my view.

  45. Have to say, I actively dislike ANY type of pop ups – and these in particular as they’re EVERYWHERE. Mainly because I don’t want to have to think too hard about where I leave my mouse while I read a page – so inevitably they become distracting or obscure what I’m trying to read.

    Sorry, big thumbs down from me.

  46. Simon Gould says: 12/18/2006 at 2:06 am

    Annoying pop ups that block the view of the web page i’m viewing and to get rid of it i have to move the mouse where i may end up over another link where another annoying pop up occurs grrrr!

    It’s safe to say I don’t like them :)

  47. I was among those thinking of adding this feature to my site, but after reading some of the comments here I am beginning to wonder if my blog would be better off without it.
    Thanks for running this question by us Darren, it has given me some food for thought.

  48. […] I have been meaning to ask you whether or not you found it useful or annoying. It looks like Darren Rowse asked the same thing of his readers and most of the comments are negative. So, assuming that you might think the same, I plan on removing the feature this week. […]

  49. I’d have to say Darren, that I agree with those that say this is a distraction. A nice concept, but it definitely steals the user’s attention. Although, this might be better suited to your Links section, I would definitely avoid using this in your posts to reduce the annoyance factor.

  50. Hey Darren,

    Personally I don’t like them on blogs, for all the reasons above. But as someone mentioned, it’s very good for comment checking – for that reason have you seen an add-on for Firefox called ‘Cooliris’?

    Similar idea, but much more powerful – mouse over a link & the Cooliris logo appears-mouseover this & view the page in a Cooliris window and interact with it as normal. Move the mouse away from the Cooliris window & it disappears.

    I find it really speeds up replying to WordPress Comments, and it’s very good for viewing the contents of questionable links. Best of all you can turn it off & on as you need it with one click.

    Very cool.

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