Well… major at least for those behind the scenes. While not much will change on the front end, we’re significantly updating the engine room if you like for the site. Over the course of the year it will mean a lot more content, a lot more details about a place (for example official websites) and a lot more granularity. It’s really quite exciting. Really whats happening is we’re building on the big “phase 3” redevelopment of the site and taking it to its logical conclusion. Phase 3 has been a success for the site already but its full power hasn’t really come to the fore yet. A lot of the design that went into phase 3 ensured scalability and that’s what we’re trying to achieve here. It’s taking a little longer than planned to complete (we feel we’re half way through when we thought it would be largely complete by now) but the wait will be worth it. A target completion date has been set for next Thursday.
This major back-end update comes with some minor front end updates that are overdue as well.
Some exciting new features and developments going on right now for the site.
Firstly, what I’ve termed Phase 3 is now up and running. Phase 2 was rather dull so please don’t ask about it. Phase 3 is a project that will add granularity to businesses and allow them to be subcategorised. Why? Well if you’re searching for a restaurant in a town in the UK, it’s pretty likely you’re not looking for any old restaurant, you might be looking for a Thai restaurant or a Indian restaurant. With Phase 3, these extra bits of information are going to be in the directory. And perhaps more importantly, Phase 3 will see the addition of multiple new categories. Look out for Home Improvement, Health and Beauty and Web Services and many more in the near future!
Secondly, on my short term list of things to do are several more general site wide improvements:
1) Moving the ‘add a venue’ link from the rather obscure bottom of the page to the red title bar at the top complete with graphic. We receive many many requests asking us how to add a venue each day, quite clearly the current link is not obvious.
2) I’m going to add parking data to the site. I do think train stations are useful and that’s why they are there, and as such I intend to fully keep that data but quite clearly if people are going shopping or visiting an accountant etc, they probably want to know where to park their car. I’m collecting some data at the moment from 4 different sources and trying to carefully verify the integrity of the data. I then need to parse the data into the index with a bit of work but I think this will be worth the effort.
3) The search bar. The database search will be wider so that more results are captured. Although exact match searches is not what coded at the moment, the search function does have narrow parameters that mean many places that should be returned for a search are not.
4) Behind the scenes stuff: some fairly major developments to the site’s back end scripts that should improve database entry time for new places and update times for snippets of updated information.
Please – as always, feedback is useful for me and indeed very welcome.
Well, quite frankly too many updates to list here in detail but…
1) More categories (and sub categories) on the way, as requested by lots and lots of people
2) Many minor bug updates
3) Improvement to site caching system – should make pages “fresher” and update more frequently and new pages should become “live” sooner
4) Many graphical improvements, including some neater CSS rules
5) Rating history and distribution feature. You can now see the history of the average rating of a venue. If a venue has been replaced by new management, see how reviewers have changed their attitudes to the place afterwards
In a significant expansion of some previous work already being used by the site, we’ve updated a lot of code to bring all pages of the site to you in a very short space of time. Early indications suggest that this will have a huge impact of page loading times with many amenity page loading times (well) under a second and even the largest pages loading in a second or thereabouts.
Over the last few months there have been a few minor updates to the site mainly focusing on performance and content.
You’ll notice that the map for each venue and area page has been moved into the top section of each page. This allows the user to see the location immediately without scrolling down. I’ve also added a new venue feature list. For example, each pub can now specify whether they offer free wifi or play background music.
One update I’ve also implemented is bringing more adspace to the top of each page. The site now costs a lot to run. There’s a lot of processing power needed for some pages and likewise bandwith costs are considerable too. However with the new page layout I still believe our adspace does not detract from the user experience.
2011 was a great year for BigRedDirectory. Seeds have been grown in Canada, New Zealand and the US for sister sites. But my immediate focus is to build on the success of the UK site and then export those new features to the sister sites. At the moment we only host a handful of venue categories, pubs, restaurants, cinemas etc. We can definitely expand these to new and popular categories like accountants, department stores, hairdressers, sushi restaurants and just about everything else! As always, my time is a huge limiting factor in a way that imagination and hope can never may be.
I hope to bring news on the development of these plans in weeks and not months.
Happy New Year!
Adding some more improvements to the site this weekend. Updates include a better “add a new venue” form with an improved back-end script that allows the team to add new venues much more quickly. We’re also updating the scripts that allow venue owners to update their details more easily. Things such as new addresses and new names of venues will now be also approved much more quickly with this update. Happy August Bank Holiday weekend!
URL structure is now hyphenated and URLs have been shortened excluding leading “thes” and trailing “ltd” for example. Amenity pages now have reviews for local pubs, restaurants etc. I’ve also added social media bookmarks to each amenity page so people can share/link/talk about each venue.
Well I hope this will be the last big development push for the site. I’m making a number of improvements which range from minor to significant. Specifically:
1) Improving page loading time. Reducing excess images and replacing with text or css clipart where possible. I want the site to read like a magazine – easy and quick to flick through.
2) Removing “excess” pages. Effectively taking information from thin pages and merging that information with existing pages so that information is more concentrated and more readily available to the website user.
3) Shortening and simplifying page URLs. Short page URLs are easy to remember. http://www.bigreddirectory.com/arzoo-bicester and http://www.bigreddirectory.com/tesco-bicester are ideal URLs as opposed to http://www.bigreddirectory.com/tesco_barrow_in_furness_extra-barrow_in_furness-hindpool_road.
4) Links to official websites for pubs and restaurants. Currently pub landlords can update the listing to insert their official websites but I intend to make this automatic. The BRD bot will scour the web for official websites and insert them into the directory.
5) Improve pub etc duplication detection. My last code update improved this a lot but there is still duplication in the index. Each amenity has an associated longitude and latitude with it which makes duplication detection easier than cross referencing words in addresses and postcodes.
Will keep you up to date with progress!
Made a few very simple changes to internal page linking. Links to amenities are now much shorter and contain only the keywords necessary for efficient site navigation.
Each town and each venue now has nearby train stations listed. Sometime in the future I hope to expand this functionality so that a popup directions guide to the station can be displayed. I’ll see how the site’s users appreciate the current information first though.