Relaunch Update from Ted @ HQ

 |  Jun 18th 2010  |   48 Contributions


Hi everyone,

This is Ted @ HQ. I hope you're all having a great summer.

It's been a month since the site changes went live and I thought I'd pop in and give everybody an update.

First off, I wanted to post a list of the major changes we've made live since the relaunch:

  • Displayed thumbnails of each member's pets on the Community page
  • Added the old welcome messages to the community page. Removed "hello to hooman" name
  • Fixed the Community button so it worked the same way on all browsers
  • Made an option so a member can make the Community page their homepage
  • Added old tag lines to the Community page
  • Added fun imagery to the site's background images
  • Improved the display of recent gifts on the Community page
  • Moved Cat of the Day to top of the Community page
  • Reordered groups so admin groups display first
  • Added a link to My Account from the login bar
  • Fixed the display of diary pages
  • Fixed indicator in mail to know which mail is unread

I also counted up 25 other lesser items all related to the relaunch.

We've also manually fixed a number of people's customized pet pages or groups that had HTML that was so old it was incompatible with modern standards. Anyone else with wonky pet or group page layouts can just let me know.

Oh, and Plus people are now enjoying the permanent removal of the tall vertical add from their pet pages. We didn't like how they looked with the new wider design, so we just got rid of it for our subscribing members.

Here are things very high on our list. I expect these changes to go live soon:

  • Replace the white background on Community pages with a light color
  • Add links to popular blogs from the Community homepage
  • Decrease the amount of time each page takes to download
  • Provide an easy one-click way to get to the Community page from any other page
  • Link to search tools to search for a pet, for photo tags and videos

Here are a couple other notes I wanted to add.

  • As part of the relaunch NO NEW AD PLACEMENTS were added to the sites. No new real estate was given to ad banners or placements (and we even removed one).
  • The background image on Catster (the kitty carpet is not going to be there forever. We always intended to change the background with the seasons and times, and that's what we'll be doing.

Also I thought I'd repost some answers to questions I've heard a lot:

Why do you think the community is insignificant? Why did you put the community in the corner?

Are you kidding me? We love the community. We have worked ceaselessly for the last six years to make a safe, fun, secure, supportive environment. The reason there is no other place like our sites on the Internet is that no one else works so hard at this. We work 24/7/365 keeping trolls, spammers, haters, flamers and their ilk out of the community. It takes almost as much work keeping all the servers up and running. Then there's the matter of finding partners such that we can do it and not lose money while we do it.

It would probably stun people to know that our server bill alone is $108,000 a year, and that's after we negotiated a 30% discount in early 2009. We have to spend $50,000 a year just to keep our emails going to your inboxes. We've grown older over here and met spouses, had children and other things that make it impossible for us to live on ramen and share apartments with three other people. But we love doing this and we love having the most wonderful community in the world.

The reason we gave the Community its own area is this: a lot of pet people coming to the sites really love the information, but are not immediately interested in meeting new people. Now they can find the info they need to help their pets and their families. Trust me, as an outsider, even one that loves animals, it's a bit daunting to dive into our forums without spending a couple hours making a profile, decorating your page, figuring out which forum to post in, figuring out how people speak to each other and not feel like they are insulting anyone along the way. Now they'll come and get the information they need and also see there's a nice community behind it. Almost every article on the site is followed by tips and advice from one of you. Every Answer, every blog post has comments and tips by you.

Yeah, but new people aren't going to know there's a great community here when they come to the site now?

I don't agree with this one either. I've spoken with thousands of people who've come to sites, and through our logs I've seen the actions of millions. What we know if that even of pet owners only a fraction want to immediately dive in to a community site. BUT about 10% of all pet owners do want to dive in. By drawing many more people to the new site's we'll still see a 10% interest in people wanting to join the community. For old times the orange community button seems tiny, but for a person taking a first look at one of our pages it's huge and jumps right out.

So, no, we're not crazy. We're not trying to kill what we love. We're trying to make a place that can handle many more pet owners in the different ways they want to use the sites.

How many people work at Dogster and Catster HQ?

14

I heard the price of Plus is going up to $40, why are you doing that?

It's a rumor. We have no intention of changing the price of Plus. What we are thinking of offering is a fee to be able to use the sites without ever seeing ads. It would be totally separate from Plus. But that's just an idea.

I hear people are leaving the sites, what can you do to make them stay?

People always join and leave the sites. Happens every day. But from the stats I've been looking at: daily logins, total daily return visitors, total forum posts we have seen no change in activity. Either way we'll be right here doing this for you. For the last six years I've had to get comfortable saying "I understand the site may not be what you need now, but we'll always leave the kitty door open for you."

If there's something that wasn't addressed please post it here. Please know we'll be reading everything even if you don't get a personal response.

[Picture 1: Member Taz ready for some serious BBQ action. Picture 2: Member Tux and friend gettin some good porch action in.]

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