Why Bonmots Exists

The World Needs a Half-Decent Quote Site
Dan on Jun 27th 2023
The Origin of the Idea

I wouldn't call myself a "quotes guy", necessarily. I don't go around quoting bon mots from Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln or Chris Rock.  But I do like ideas, and a memorable quote is nothing if not an idea expressed well. So from time to time I find myself googling "quotes about such-and-such", "quotes by so-and-so" or "great quote transcribed somewhat incorrectly because I can't quite remember it".

In response to these searches, Google often directs me to the same several websites: brainyquote.com, goodreads.com, azquotes.com, and a few others. About 10 years ago, I noticed something about these websites: they're not good. I then did some research and discovered that these websites collectively get millions of visits per month - maybe somewhere between 10 and 20 million. This planted an idea in my mind: if millions of people are visiting websites that are bad, maybe I could create a similar website, but good, attract some of those users, find new ones, and turn those visits into passive income.

I sat on that idea for seven years. Then three years ago, I decided to do something about it. And two years ago, I decided to commit almost all of my free time and a large chunk of my savings to turning this idea into a reality. Bonmots.com is the result of those choices. And in the rest of this post, I will explain what makes the existing quote sites inadequate, and how Bonmots addresses those issues.

The Problem with the Competition

The shortcomings of the existing quote sites fall broadly into the following 6 categories:

  • Bad design - Almost without exception, the competition's websites are poorly designed: they feature bad fonts, outdated color schemes, unintuitive interfaces, and difficult, unusable or nonexistent discovery functionality.
  • Too many ads - Nobody likes Google ads and most of the competition's pages are littered with them.
  • Misattributed quotes - A huge number of the quotes at other quote sites are misattributed, particularly the quotes attributed to the most famous and "quotable" people, such as Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein.
  • Inaccurate or nonexistent sourcing - The competition usually does not cite the source of the quotes in its database.  In the cases where it does, the citations are often incomplete or inaccurate.
  • Too many quotes - brainyquote.com has around 400,000 quotes in its database, and azquotes.com has 1,300,000. By contrast, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and Bartlett's Familiar Quotations have over 20,000 quotes each, and the Yale Book of Quotations has over 12,000 - a much more reasonable, human scale that allows for curation and more careful selection of quotes.
  • Useless tagging - Some of the other quote sites attempt to tag their quotes with relevant keywords, but they do this using bots that scan the quotes for "keywords" and turn those into topic tags.  For an example of how well this usually goes, take a look at the Related Topics associated with this famous quote from Winston Churchill.  Is this really a quote about "Beaches", "Hills", or "Whatever"?  You be the judge:


Observing all of these flaws together leads a neutral observer to basically one conclusion: the people making these websites don't care about their users.  If they did, the sites wouldn't be poorly designed, littered with ads, and full of misattributed, unauthenticated, pointless quotes that are carelessly categorized by bots.

Why Bonmots is Different

Bonmots was built from the ground up to address each of the shortcomings described above.

  • Design - I worked with a Paris-based graphic designer to develop a site design that is simple, intuitive and uses attractive fonts and colors in a thoughtful way.
  • Ads - Bonmots.com does not have Google ads, and it never will. Right now our only source of income is Amazon affiliate links below quotes from certain books, movies, songs and TV shows.
  • Attribution - I have spent tens of thousands of dollars to confirm the authenticity of every single quote in our database. This process will be the subject of a future blog post.
  • Sourcing - Every quote has at least one MLA-compliant citation (with minor variations to strict MLA requirements to increase usability), and for certain older quotes, sometimes two.
  • Number of quotes - Bonmots is launching with just over 10,000 quotes. We intend to add another 5,000-15,000 quotes over the next few years, but our goal is to increase the quality of the quotes in our database as we do that, and we will never sacrifice quality for quantity.
  • Tagging - Every quote in our database has been thoughtfully and carefully tagged by humans in up to 10 different categories. These tags allow users to discover similar quotes along various dimensions, such as Topic, Source, Genre, Original Language, Year, Decade and Century.

In addition, we have developed several other quote discovery features, which you can see on our homepage. Also, every quote from a song, TV show or movie includes an embedded youtube clip timestamped to the quote in question, to allow you to hear the quote in its original context. And finally, Bonmots includes sharing functions for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, text message and email that are simple and intuitive.

I think this is a good start for version 1.0. I'm excited to see where things go, and I hope you'll check back now and then to see what's new.