I don’t rant about too much on IT Babble but I can’t help it this time. I hate LiveBinders.com and can you blame me? Maybe some of you out there are thinking “What a jerk. What did LiveBinders.com ever do to him? What offense could be so egregious that has compelled him to write an article about it?” Well, you got me there. It hasn’t done anything to me personally but I do believe that it is a terrible way to share information.
Before I go any further, let me explain what LiveBinders.com is. It is a site where you can collect, organize and share your web links. Instead of just having a list of links with maybe your own description, it actually loads the website right on the LiveBinders page letting you quickly surf from link to link. Sounds like a perfect medium for teachers, students, heck just about anybody on the web. So why the hatred? Click on past the break to find out why.
Let me start by saying that this is not a performance issue. LiveBinders works as advertised-no complaints. I’ve never had the website crash and it loads the webpages fine.
U-G-L-Y You ain’t got no alibi
My first problem, it’s ugly! Take a look below. This LiveBinder is about iPads in Schools and has been viewed over 350,000 times. It is the most popular one on the site and . . . well, it looks like it was designed in a 6th grade HTML class. It is not appealing in any way.
It is like the dirty, aging wall paper in a waiting room in a dentist’s office. Just brown, depressing, boring. It doesn’t make me want to stay here too long. They do have templates that you can apply, but they’re just as unimaginative as the what you see above. They even, give people the power to customize it. Normally this is not a bad thing, but when you give too many choices and the person does not have a strong design sense, it can get real ugly, real fast.
There are too many damn tabs!
I am sure there are some of you out there that are saying “Patrick, you fool! It’s not the appearance, it’s the content.” Well, let’s talk about that-there content. Obviously it comes to down to what a person puts on their LiveBinder but take a look at this particular Welcome tab.
Just under the welcome tab are forty that is four-zero different sub tabs . Dear lord and I have 15 more main tabs to go! So I went through all the tabs and counted all the links. The total was 258! Ahhhhhh! That is a lot of information. One may say it is too much. If I was looking for some real information on iPads I would spend about 5 minutes here, get frustrated and then head over to Google to do a search. I would also look up some of my favorite blogs as well. This is just too much and too unfocused and too unorganized. It would probably take me longer going through all of this than searching on my own. So much for convenience.
On the Welcome tab, there are informative articles, guides on how to do stuff, iPad apps, an iPad case to more iPad apps to more tips and tricks and this is just the first tab. Imagine you want your students to write a persuasive essay about the effectiveness of iPads in schools. Would you really point them here? Ask yourself would you really give students this link as a great resource for that project? There are articles here that will help them, but I definitely wouldn’t send them here. Maybe I would go through and find some good info here and then link to the original source, but I wouldn’t send them to LiveBinders.
How do I find what is important and relevant here? Isn’t this just vomitting links on a page? While the content is good not all of it is useful and most is not what I’d be looking for.
Think of another scenario. You are a teacher and you want your students to make a presentation about the iPad in schools. If a student turned this LiveBinder in what grade would you give her/him? It certainly isn’t focused in any way. The tabs are not organized and there are a few that are redundant. Also, almost nothing on here is their original work.
Now, let’s change the scenario. You are attending a workshop on iPads in schools. The presentation is short, sweet and then the presenter turns you loose on this LiveBinder. What do you think about that? I would think this person does not take my time seriously. When I attend a workshop I expect it to be organized and have the potential to be meaningful. I expect certain points to be highlighted and to give the audience a direction to focus their attention and consideration. This LiveBinder (while does have some good resources) is just too disorganized to be worth my time. If I wanted a mass of information I’d pull up Google and start sifting through search results.
There is also a viewing problem. When you put a link on LiveBinder you can just leave it as a link or you can LiveBinder load the webpage inside the live binder. So check out this article on my 13” MacBook Pro. This is my entire screen by the way (minus the menu bar at the very top).
Since there are so many tabs, I get the title, and the first four lines of the article. Over half the screen is taken up by LiveBinders. Why would I want to read much of anything on here? Oh, yeah, I don’t and neither should you.
Why not just a website with a list of links? It’s just as organized, in fact it would probably be easier to organize and find than this ridiculous tab system the LiveBinders uses.
Obviously an article that is displayed on a page with much fewer tabs looks better, but I still find it distracting.
This isn’t the only thing that is ugly about this site. The way it is organized is ugly I mean really ugly and it’s not the creator’s fault here. To move a tab over, you have to painstakingly use the Move Left or Move Right buttons to reposition a tab. Imagine if you have forty sub tabs and you want them in alphabetical order or even if you reposition based on importance? Now imagine you have more than 200 tabs and you are trying to organize them. It looks like you have a few hours of work ahead of you. This is not working smart.
While browsing through LiveBinders, I found others that were far more organized that what I have highlighted above, but it’s like a mystery. I have to keep clicking on tabs, more tabs and more tabs to find what I’m looking for. It is frustrating. Do you really want students and colleagues frustrated with all the resources you find and are sharing? Find a better way and luckily there are, but more on those options later.
LiveBinders is intended to be a place where you can store, organize and share your helpful websites. You can also write text to help explain or highlight certain aspects of the website. Check out this example made by a student. You can find the original here.
Hmmmm. It looks like a PowerPoint slide doesn’t. In fact, all the tabs look like a PowerPoint in this LiveBinder. This student decided to use LiveBinder as a means to make a presentation, I’ve seen this a few times while browsing through some of their featured LiveBinders.
If you are using LiveBinder just to present shame on you. There are far better solutions out there to present information. You can use a screen capture program (built into Mac and Windows Vista, 7 and 8) that will let you take a picture of the website if you want and then you can upload it to the presentation. Heck, if you’re using Google Drive or Prezi, you can search Google right from your presentation to add images.
What’s the problem and what’s the solution
I can hear them now, “Patrick you nitwit! LiveBinders can’t control what or how people put stuff on their website!” You are right about that, but let’s consider something before we start going back and forth. LiveBinders is a productivity website. It is here to solve a problem. So what problem is it trying to solve?
Here is what I think the problem is: You have a lot of links and information you want to share with my students (or others) but don’t know how.
That is a legit problem but LiveBinders is not a very good solution. If you have a ton of links using one of these sites will be much better for you to share your stuff. They are easier to organize and share. A lot less clicking is involved.
- www.delicious.com – Here you can make links public, group them based on tags (better organization) and you can make some public and private. If they’re public you can share that link with those specific tags to your students or anyone. When they view it, they get a small preview of the article/website. It’s easer more focused than LiveBinders.
- www.diigo.com – Very similar to Delicious but you can also add annotations, sticky notes, and more that you can share.
- www.symbaloo.com – A very visual way to share your book marks. It is very easy to use as well and can be found as a link
I’m sure there are more out there, but this is just to start.
Even, if a person does add a ton of links, it will still be easier to look through them in a list form, especially if they are notes or annotations. There is less clicking, easier to scroll through the mass and because there are no tabs to go through to see what or where the links are coming from.
If you want to make a slideshow out of your LiveBinders, don’t. If you want to present information and put that info online, you have loads of better options. Check out some of them below. All are free and can be shared to a wide audience by being on the Internet. All you need is an email account.
Why would you want to use LiveBinder when all 5 of those sites offer a better more focused solution? The answer is you don’t want to.
Summing it up
Don’t use LiveBinders. It is just a mess. Your audience (students/colleagues) will appreciate a better tool to display that information, even if they don’t know it yet. The good people at LiveBinders mean well, but when there are other, more focused and equally priced (free) services out there that simply work better . . . it is hard to justify using it. Being a techy guy I want to see teachers and students use the best products out there for their purposes. There are a lot of choices and sometimes people just don’t know that. That’s why I’ve offered other solutions. If you don’t like them keep looking, I just don’t see how LiveBinders as being a good solution for anyone.
I have no doubt that others will take some serious exception with my post. Just remember the comment box is below and I encourage and welcome all challengers!