I really don’t like LiveBinders.com and neither should you!

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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.

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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.

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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).

wpid-lbh_05-2013-02-17-08-51.png

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.

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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.

Present this!
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.

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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!

About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
This entry was posted in Opinion, Patrick Cauley and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to I really don’t like LiveBinders.com and neither should you!

  1. I love LiveBinders . It helps me curate content for other teachers, create portfolios for my students ,for my PD trainings and organize my classes. It is one of the most versatile tools I have ever used. Its latest features make it even more powerful. As a user, I have always had timely support and feedback; as an advanced user, I know there will be improvements all the time because users’ voices are listened to.

  2. michesubs says:

    Actually, besides what it looks like (and you can add images and things, so this is still part of the user-error here)…..everything else you said seems like it is a user-problem in creation — not the site problem. Livebinders is a tool. It is up to the user to use it correctly. So, maybe your blog post needs to train people how to use it.

  3. decianabc says:

    Dear Sir:

    I respectfully beg to differ with you. IF YOU VERIFY WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY — PLEASE ADJUST YOUR ARTICLE — FOR PEOPLE SHOULD NOT MISS OUT ON THIS POWERFUL OPPORTUNITY AND SUPERB PRODUCT — on a seriously outdated impression. You may have been correct at the time this article was written — but this fine company is methodically maturing its awesome, thoughtful, and timely product.

    1. NO AFFILIATION: No, I am not affiliated with the Company — I am a private citizen (and EXTREMELY HAPPY USER) — resolved to produce THOUSANDS of binders on a host of entire-life management concerns. I find LiveBinders to be precisely what I had been searching for — since Lotus got rid of their “Organizer” metaphor (years ago) — AND IT IS MORE INTUITIVE TO USE THAN ANY WEB PLATFORM I’VE EVER ENCOUNTERED — functioning LIKE A 3-RING BINDER — IF YOU SET IT UP PROPERLY.

    2. THEIR CUSTOMER SERVICE IS SUPERLATIVE — COMPLETELY RESPONSIVE AND KIND AND CONCERNED.

    3. FLEXIBLE TABBING SCHEME: You took issue with the horizontal presentation of tabs across the top — BUT IT ONLY HAS TO BE THAT WAY WHEN YOU’RE DRAFTING. When you are ready to present, you can have the tabs appear either: (1) TO THE LEFT, (2) THE RIGHT, or (3) AT TOP — which deals with your presumption that it HAS to be across the top..

    4. MOVING TABS AROUND — TWO WAYS: Also, when one wishes to MOVE tabs (along with their content) — MORE THAN ONE SPACE, EITHER LEFT OR RIGHT — users should click the “Move” icon — this allows you to place the tab ANYWHERE YOU WISH. To move tabs a short distance, the little context menu, when you click the tab-name is just the ticket

    5. A FAST WAY TO BUILD LOTS OF WEBSITES: I FIND THAT WHEN I PLACE THE TABS ON THE RIGHT OR LEFT OF THE ENTIRE BINDER — the LiveBinder works and looks just like a typical website — in fact, each binder IS A STAND-ALONE WEBSITE — INCREDIBLY FAST TO SET UP. Furthermore, the LiveBinders can, themselves, be inserted into OTHER binders, as tabs — a nesting action of extraordinary power.

    6. I know you mean to be fair — and many improvements have obviously been applied during the conscientious evolution of the product-line — in sensitive response to their customers.

    I don’t want my fellow humans to miss out on an achievement well worth celebrating.

    Thank you, kindly,

    David Nelson

  4. Jo Davis says:

    I am with the pro Livebinder crew. It all depends on the how you set it up. The one class I teach is on Library Skills. My students have assignments as well as being my library assistants. I find Livebinders as the best way to organize those assignments. I have read your argument about the better sites. I do know them and use them, but the do NOT do what I ask of Livebinders. So far, it’s the only one I’ve found that does.

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  6. Peter says:

    I have been using LiveBinders to share information in trainings I provide. I admit that it can take some work to properly organize tabs and improve the look of the binders I create. However, I haven’t found anything that allows me to share both websites of interest and documents I’ve created all in one place. Some new features have been added that help with the overall appearance. I prefer to have the tabs on the side as opposed to the top of the screen. This increases the amount of information that can be seen within the tab. Also, it is easier to see what tab the subtabs fall under when the tabs are presented to the side. The introduction of base tabs also decreases the amount to subtabs viewed under the primary tab. I’m open to using other tools though. Overall, I’m pleased with the site but I would be open to explore other options if you know of something that allows me to share both websites and documents.

    • Peter,

      Thanks for the comment. I just can’t get into LiveBinders. To me, presentation is very important and I can find more professional ways to present my materials. Blendspace is a good one. It will allow you to add websites, documents, hyperlinks and more. You can also make it private or share it out to people.

      I also find using website creators like Weebly and Wix are a great way to present information to a group of people in a more organized way than LiveBinders. I just find those options easier to navigate and maintain too.

      Patrick

  7. Angela says:

    I agree! I find it annoying. I love gdoc binders for students to organize info but it’s not web based and that’s a problem. Wish they would change that and develop an app too!

  8. Mike E Yonge says:

    I really like liveBinders and I am glad to know there are other options that you like better. A blog can be a better system? Really? Edmondo? I wonder what the learning curve is for that? Remember, those busy teachers, right? The simplicity of liveBinders is one of its greatest strengths. It does not need to be the best, but it needs to be simple enough for people to actually use. I could show someone how to do it in a couple minutes. They have nice video tutorials. Not everyone can always use the “best” and the ones that are just okay or good will work for them. Do you ever wonder why your preferred choices are not getting the buzz that liveBinders is? Everyone is not as techy as you, they want a nice choice that works easily for them. Something that is intuitive and user friendly. Apparently, a lot of people find that in liveBinders. Your opinion is probably true that the others are in many ways better, but this whole “best” is necessary mantra is really getting old. A good product will help lots of people and down the road they may change to “better” products, but at least they are willing to get organized. That is what makes a product great for the masses. A wiki could be better than most of these, but are we really going to go there? My goodness, it is free. I will check out some of your geeky choices and get back to you with a critique. Until then, I would just speculate that you are correct in your judgements and I will still keep liveBinders as one of my preferred tools.
    Thank you for writing your article. By the way, liveBinders is still growing and hopefully, so are the other ones you mentioned.

    • Mike,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment – we always welcome them. You bring up some good points so I’d like to address some of them. Edmodo is very popular – over 30 million people (including whole school districts) use it and it’s growing every year (https://www.edmodo.com/about). I have no idea the userbase for LiveBinders, but I would think that it is not that large or growing that fast. As far as ease of use, give Edmodo a try. It’s free so why not? Within five minutes you can have an online learning space that students can easily join in even less time.

      To me a proper learning management system (LMS) is far better and organizing and distributing information out to a class. Unlink LiveBinders, which just have tabs and links everywhere. I’ve seen some huge Binders and to many that doesn’t help – it only adds one more thing to try and make sense of.

      A reason why Edmodo (and others like Schoology) are so popular is due to their ease of use and support. Like LiveBinders, both have plenty of easy to follow tutorials to follow. These systems are designed for the everyday user – not a techy person like myself.

      “Best” is definitely a subjective term, but I can confidently say that Edmodo is better than LiveBinders – period. A lot of teachers use LiveBinders because that’s what they know and that is what they settle for. They maybe haven’t looked at other or better options out there. Try those out – it’ll be worth your time. The worst case scenario is that you lose an hour or two of your day. Best case scenario you find something that works better or in tandem with LiveBinders.

      On the other hand if all you want is a link farm – then go ahead and use LiveBinders because that’s all it is. A static place where a teacher can post resources – no discussion or real interaction takes place there. If you want to improve communication and build a more dynamic class then you need an LMS. They’re easy to setup, easy to use, many are free and will bring a dynamic to your class that LiveBinders cannot. It will also allow you to organize your resources and share them with your students – like LiveBinders.

      I have not hate towards LiveBinders. I just don’t see the inherit educational value that it provides. To me there are other services out there that can do the same thing and do it better and I hope teachers try those out and see it for themselves.

      Looking forward to your critique,

      Patrick

  9. Mary says:

    Thank you tremendously for this critique of Livebinders. I don;t see what the big deal is with Livebinders. Livebinders is just a way of creating a website with embedded elements without coding for it. Nice idea, but it is rather hideous looking. Plus, the endless tabs just drive me nuts. Any time a search link takes me to a binder I immediately leave the page because way too much time is wasted in finding needed information. People stuff too much information into these binders.

    • Mary,

      I agree whole heartedly. I was introduced to livebinders by a colleague and through his description I thought it had some promise, but when I actually delved into it I was pretty horrified. There are far better solutions out there that accomplish the same thing and are more useful such as delicious, diigo, symbaloo and so on.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Patrick

  10. Courtney S. says:

    Hi Patrick,

    I appreciated your comments about LiveBinders. I am both a teacher and a graduate student. I am currently trying to piece together a professional portfolio using LiveBinders and I find that due to the amount of tabs I need, it results in a cluttered appearance.

    It is easier for my students to use who do not need to organize large amounts of information but I would prefer it to appear more “clean” given my professional use.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Courtney,

      Did you try having the tabs on the side? I find it much less cluttered and visually more appealing when there is a large amount of information in the binder.

      Barbara

      • michesubs says:

        Another interesting option is…..tabs on the side….and embed another binder inside a tab with tabs across the top on that binder…

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  12. Thank you for your post about LiveBinders. We appreciate your feedback. Though I do think it is a little unfair to take a binder that was created as a reference resource for teachers and administrators and talk about how difficult it would be for students to use.

    There are many people who create great resources for their students on LiveBinders. Angela Cunningham is one example: http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?tab_layout=side&id=376564#anchor

    What I did get out of your post are that you would like to be able to search within binders and you would like an easy way to organize tabs. These are both great features that we have on our list of things to do! I also understand that you don’t like the visual display of the binders. We have recently added more options here with side tabs and the ability use your own colors in the binder. That being said, some people are bound to use colors that you don’t like, so I’m sure you could take issue with that. too.

    LiveBinders has been a great resource for hundreds of thousands of teachers and students. We are always happy to listen to feedback. We got some good feedback out of your post and we appreciate hearing that.

    I understand that this is not the tool for you, and that is fine, it is not the tool for everyone. But why discourage others from trying it? 🙂

    • Barbara,

      Thanks for your comment and visiting IT Babble. We really appreciate it. I can see how you think it is unfair to take a teacher resource and compare it to a student resource, but the organizational structure remains the same. Too many tabs and subtabs make for a very confusing and difficult to navigate resource page. Here is a student/teacher example that has even more links than the iPads in School example: http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=51119

      While it is more organized than the iPads in Schools LiveBinder it is still a lot of information to go through.

      The resources are good but there are so many choices (for anyone-not just a student) to go through it seems like it would take a lot of time and this seems very inefficient. As a user, I find it a bit frustrating that I am clicking so much looking for information and unsure what resource lies under each tab or subtab. Sites like Delicious and Diigo, give me a better idea of where I’m going as I can see the URL before I click. With LiveBinders it is a bit of a gamble. It could be exactly what I’m looking for or something way off target.

      I am glad to hear that you are adding a search feature within individual LiveBinders. This is will improve the usability of the site. As for the appearance of the site, this is pet peeve of mine. I don’t see why websites in 2013 should not be appealing to look at.

      As for discouraging teachers to not use the site, We all know that teachers are very busy. I believe that technology should help make everyone’s life and work a little easier and faster. I don’t think having teachers surf through hundreds of tabs is a good way to spend their time. Whereas using bookmarking sites may be faster and easier for everyone involved.

      Patrick

      • Hi Patrick,

        Just wanted to let you know that search within a binder is now available. I don’t expect this to make write a post about how much you love LiveBinders, 🙂 but I did want to keep you informed. Again, we appreciate hearing your thoughts!

        Also, in response to your post above, most of the binders don’t have hundreds of tabs. Also, many of the teachers that use LiveBinders spend a lot of time to make their binders useful to their colleagues by organizing the information into tabs and subtabs. But hey, if they do happen to find a binder with hundreds of tabs now, they can now find things faster through a search.

        Barbara

  13. I use LiveBinders and love it. I teach high school Geometry and like to group together interactive practice and demos for each topic in separate LiveBinders. I have links to the binders in my Moodle. That way I can just tell the students to complete the first tab or the second tab, etc. I can also add activities without having to update the link.

    • Rhonda,

      That sounds very similar to what I’m doing with Edmodo. Edmodo is a learning management system. I create the main class for all my students and then smaller groups for all my different units. I place my entire semester/year up ahead of time. While due dates definitely do change, Edmodo gives me and my class more freedom when dealing with units and individual assignments. It’s easy for them to submit their work, collaborate with others, and ask questions online. It sounds a lot like what you are doing with Moodle and LiveBinders, it’s just consolidated in one place.

      My students (and I’m sure your too) really like this as it brings a level of transparency that is hard to equal, but have you tried using Weebly, Wix, Webs or another website creator to do what LiveBinders is using for you. These are free, easy to update and will allow you a little more flexibility as you can hide and unhide pages when you need. Maybe even a blog?

      I just find with all the clicking that people grow tired about a site and LiveBinders does not offer any place for comments or feedback of any kind. Something I really like with Edmodo and blog sites. Just some food for thought.

      Patrick

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