WYSINWYG (All That Glitters Ain’t Necessarily Gold) And Thoughts On Product Descriptions

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We thought we’d talk about Product Descriptions again since the subject has been on our minds recently.

You may (or may not) be aware that there is no shortage of Amazon training programs around these days, competing with ASM, and like all good businesses, we do our fair share of spying to see what they’re up to.

It turns out a couple of these programs are offering tools that they claim will help anyone build their Product Descriptions, even if they don’t know any HTML.

That’s clearly an attractive proposition, as we already know that this is a daunting prospect for many people.

So, we took a look at these two tools (and no, we’re not going to name them – just read between the lines Sherlock ), and here are our thoughts.

Product A

This one is an online tool with an e-force where you can choose to add five different types of content: Headline, Bullet (aka Unordered List), Bold Bullet, Text, and Bold Text.

Once you do that, you can add your content to the appropriate blocks, and if you want to re-order them, you can drag and drop the different components to change the sequence.

When we first checked this tool out, it generated HTML that Amazon does not support, which means you see ugly-looking code on your Product Description. Specifically, their Headline block was meant to create text that is bold and larger than usual (in the same way that our own Scruncher handles H1, H2, and H3 tags), but it didn’t work.

We told them about this, as we were feeling generous that day, and their solution was to change the Headline feature to create bold text only – the size remains the same as everything else.

It also doesn’t create paragraph tags at all, and tries to use line breaks instead, but it doesn’t get those right either.

So, in essence, all this tool does is let you create bold text and bullet points, which is pretty much what ASM’s basic template provides.

You can preview your Product Description, although this does not replicate how it will really look, and you can generate the necessary code, which at least doesn’t contain unsupported HTML now.

But all in all, this tool is, for all intents and purposes, useless. If offers NO advanced formatting (unless you call bold text advanced), it doesn’t show you an accurate preview of what the code will generate, and it looks like it was thrown together on a Friday afternoon before going clubbing with friends.

Product B

Let’s move on to the second product we looked at, an online PD “beautifier”.

This one, which also is an online tool, has a much nicer-looking interface and supports a few more features than Product A: bold, italics, unordered lists, H1 through H5 tags, and two colours (Black and Amazon Orange).

However, it too generates code that is unsupported by Amazon.

Now, this tool also attempts to display how many characters you still have available but this is WAY off! For example, if you enter the simple text shown here:

…the tool will show you that you only have 1,190 characters remaining.

By comparison, if you create the same text and run it through our Scruncher tool, it will (correctly) show you that you still have 1,610 characters left.

That’s quite a discrepancy – not a problem for us or those using the Scruncher for that matter, because anyone using the Product B tool will be missing out on a lot of available characters that they could be using to better describe their product.

And as we said above, the code it generates will NOT work on Amazon.

So what can we conclude from all this?

Well, the people who are behind Product A claimed it was what they used for their own Product Descriptions, but we claim “Bullshit!” on this one, because there is no way the code it generated at the time could have worked – unless they didn’t bother to use the Headline feature, which isn’t credible.

In the case of Product B, we’re not sure whether the person behind it makes the same claim, but given that a lot of tools sold to marketers were originally developed for personal use first, it seems likely.

What it boils down to is that these people are simply not doing adequate (or even any) testing at all.

We suspect what is happening is that they outsource the coding of the tools to some freelancer, but there are a few major problems with this when it comes to creating Amazon tools:

  1. No matter how good the programmer is, it’s irrelevant if they are unaware of Amazon’s quirks. As far as they are concerned, if the code they write produces valid HTML (and CSS), then they’ve done their job. (However, in some cases, what their tools generate isn’t even valid HTML, which means they’ve not tested their own code properly either.)
  2. Writing unambiguous specifications of what you want a program to do is not easy – actually, it’s close to impossible. I (Mark) know this all too well, having worked in Information Technology (as both programmer and analyst) for over 20 years. So it’s highly unlikely that the people commissioning these tools are writing specifications for their outsourcers that are good enough.
  3. Given that these people know the programmers they hire likely don’t have Amazon Seller Central accounts and therefore cannot fully test the code they write, they should be prepared to do the testing themselves – but apparently they don’t. Why? Laziness? Can’t be bothered? Takes too much time? Costs more money? We don’t know, but it’s not acceptable when you have paying customers.

In contrast…

We only release tools that we personally use – it’s why we create them in the first place.

And we do test our code – we have to, otherwise they won’t work correctly when we use them ourselves. (That isn’t to say bugs don’t creep in – after all, nobody’s perfect – but as soon as we discover an issue, or one is brought to our attention by our members, we always fix them immediately.)

The moral of the story is, be careful who you buy from, because they may be hyping up tools that just don’t do what they claim. It’s always better to trust people who practice what they preach.

In summary, here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Capability Product A Product B Our HTML
Headline Although this tool has a Headline feature, it only generates bold text, which does not really count as a headline.
Bold Note, though, that you can only apply bold formatting to an entire paragraph – not to invidivual words.
WYSISWYG Although this is not a WYSIWYG editor, it does have a Preview function that tries to simulate what your Product Description should look like (not that this feature works correctly). Adding a WYSIWYG editor to our suite of tools and integrating it with our Scruncher tool is on our To Do list.
Unordered Lists
H1 through H5 tags The Scruncher currently supports H1, H2, and H3 tags. It could easily be changed to add H4 and H5 too, but we simply don’t see the need for so many variations of heading formats.
Black and Amazon Orange This tool obviously supports black text – but that’s all it supports.
ALL Colours Supported
Can Format BOTH Paragraphs and Words Bold and italics can be used for individual words or entire paragraphs, but the orange colour can only be applied to a paragraph.
Fonts, Size, Style, & Weight Commands
(Proper) Line Breaks
Line Height
Ordered Lists
Strong & Emphasis Although these are the equivalent of Bold and Italics, the Scruncher accepts either method when you enter your Product Description.
Text Alignment
Text Decoration
Detailed Accurate Manual
Correct Previews
Accurate Character Counts This tool doesn’t even attempt to show a character count.
Uses only Amazon-Supported Formatting It used to include unsupported HTML tags, but they have now “sorted” this by removing functionality rather than generating the correct code.
Generates Highly-Efficient Code (To Save Space)
Scrunches PDs To Free Up Extra Characters
Truly Generates Copy & Paste Amazon-Ready PDs
Offers Extensive Support (24 hours or less)
Offers Professionally Done-For-You PDs That Work!
Price $1995/Life $495/Year 1, Then $10/month $30/Month & 1-Month Trial, or $300/Year & 1-Month Trial (BTW, that’s 3 extra months for year one)
Payment Methods ClickBank PayPal PayPal and ClickBank

Fancy Formatting & Character Counts

On a tangentially related subject, we recently received a request (via our Done-For-You Services Product Description To Amazon-Ready HTML Conversion) for the most complex formatting job we’ve ever had to undertake. (We even had to tweak our Scruncher tool to compress yet more space than it already did.)

This is a replica of how our customer wanted their Product Description to look:

Now, we had to admit that this does look very pretty, but this level of formatting comes at a huge cost.

According to the current statistics from our Scruncher tool, which has been used just over 35,000 times since we launched it, members are using, on average, about 216 characters of HTML in their Product Descriptions, which equates to just under 12%.

However, by the time we’d finished converting the Product Description shown above to be Amazon-ready, there were 618 characters of HTML, which is almost 31% (i.e. nearly one third) of the entire listing. That means there are only 1,376 characters of actual content, because the remainder is being used for formatting.

So, you can make your listing very fancy, but you do have to balance the content with how it looks.

We usually recommend people aim for about 1,750 characters of content, which in most cases leaves enough space for the amount of formatting most people require.

This is less relevant if you’re going to be converting your own Product Description to HTML and then using the Scruncher, but if you were thinking of using our Product Description To Amazon-Ready HTML Conversion service, then while we can do some content editing, removing more than 100 or so characters risks us losing the essence of what you are trying to get across – we might remove vital keywords, crucial information, or even text that conveys whatever tone or character you want to use for your brand.

So What’s Next?

We want to build our own Amazon WYSIWYG editor to help you build your Product Descriptions, and then integrate that with the Scruncher.

This would probably be our most ambitious tool yet (yes, even more difficult to create than the Hijacker Smacker, which is well over 4,000 lines of code), and we have no idea when or if we’ll be able to accomplish this, but if we can, it would be head and shoulders above anything else we’ve seen to date.

We will, of course, let you know as and when it’s ready to play with- but don’t hold your breath.

As always, if you have any questions, then please do get in touch, or you could leave a comment on this article (or on any of our other posts).

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