When you make a site dependent on others for your data, it’s important to be able to get updates on those sites promptly. Most of the time, a site has way to see what’s recently updated, be it by a page that lists what’s new, or an RSS feed, or an email list.

But what happens when they don’t?

Well. Then you need to look into monitors. And the bad news? Nothing is perfect. I’ve picked the top two services I tried over the month of May

VisualPing

If the content of a page is HTML only, then it’s great. But if you’re trying to monitor a highly dynamic javascript site, it can time out. Especially if the site has a lot of data. The interface of the site is nice, having a simple UX that was easy to understand. At the same time, it doesn’t handle abnormal well, and often wouldn’t tell me there were changes because simply it couldn’t tell.

Overall, it was a disappointment for me and not useful for the javascript heavy page I was trying to monitor. As such, I’m not using it anymore.

Versonista

This is much better for a javascript heavy page that has a long load time. It can list out the URLs added that are new, and you can review the changes into the minutiae. But. The emails are incredibly inconsistent and the UX is overly complex. While I can go in and see what’s changed, down to the source-code, I’m supposed to get a daily email about that and I don’t. Also the options are too much. I just want to see what changed. A list of the changes, maybe a list of the new links. Instead I have to click around to figure out how to see the list better.

Between that and the email situation, I’m unhappily still using it.

Overall…

The real issue I have is not with these services, but the fact that the webpage I’m trying to monitor was not intelligently designed. It’s trying to list everything on one page, using javascript, and sadly it’s not well optimized. I can’t even get the page to load properly on my iPad. The content is also not sortable. It’s always alphabetical, no matter what.

My biggest takeaway from this is that with some content it makes sense to hard define your content. That is, sorting everything by name and not allowing it to be restored may make sense for many people. But you have to allow people an easy way to see what’s new if you want them to keep coming back.

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