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Let Us Now Praise Famous Apps

Published: December 1, 2009

Author: David Rodnitzky

For years now, I’ve said that successful Web sites must have one or more of the following attributes:

  1. Lower prices that offline competitors;
  2. Greater selection than offline competitors;
  3. Better ease of use than offline alternatives;
  4. Offers a product that is embarrassing to use or purchase offline.
These all sound like easy things to achieve, but it’s actually a lot harder than it first seems. You can’t just magically make prices lower – you need to build operational efficiency; nor can you easily create online products that are easier to use than traditional offline products.
With that in mind, I would now like to take a moment to sing the praises of a few of my favorite online applications that solve attribute #3 – better than offline. As an aside, I am also going to give some free link juice to one of my clients, EchoSign, an electronic signature service, so let the FTC officially be on notice!
  1. EchoSign – Sign Contracts Online! OK, I know I already mentioned that I’m biased here as EchoSign is a client, but honestly, electronic signatures save me a ton of time. I hate scanning documents, I hate faxing even more, and most of all I hate mailing things. With EchoSign, I upload a document (word, PDF, whatever), add someone’s email address, and then click “sign” and I’m done. Honestly this saves me at least five hours a month and the cost is like $20/month – totally worth it.
  2. OpenTable – Reserve Restaurants Online! Who wants to call around to dozens of restaurants? I don’t. I love the user interface (keeps getting better) and I’ve gotten to the point that I rarely go to a restaurant unless I can make a reservation on OpenTable. Aside from the fact that the OpenTable CEO stood me up for a lunch meeting, I have nothing but love for OpenTable!
  3. FreshBooks – Invoicing Online. Invoicing is another one of those necessary but evil parts of running a business. And since I hate mailing things, online invoicing is a must. FreshBooks is super-simple to use and I am waiting for the day that they expand beyond invoicing to actually take over the entirety of accounting, because QuickBooks is way beyond me.
  4. Napster – I think we take music streaming for granted. Napster has millions of songs and it costs $5 a month – that’s just insane. No more sifting through used records stores for me – if I want that obscure 1969 Genesis album, I can get it in seconds.
  5. CrossLoop – I stupidly installed the Microsoft Office 2010 Beta on my computer last week and when it didn’t work I couldn’t get in uninstalled. I went to CrossLoop and found a computer tech online who remotely fixed my computer for me in under an hour, for $40. The whole process from me breaking my computer to getting it fixed was about 90 minutes. Incredible.
  6. Knewton and EDUFire. Want to study for the LSAT or GMAT from the comfort of your home, and get “adaptive learning” technology to boot (the teaching changes based on how you perform on test questions)? Knewton does that! And EDUFire offers live one-on-one or classroom teaching, so you can literally learn French from a guy in France if you want to.
So there you have it. What have I missed?
As an aside, the title of this post is an homage to a great book called Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, check it out!

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