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  1. #1
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    First of all, thanks for creating possibly the most content relevant travel website I have ever visited.

    It is because you have been so friendly and helpful I have written some suggestions for this site, I was a IT Manager for one of the largest on-line companies out there and used to get involved in web development.

    1. The home page is very cluttered with links and to me is difficult to read, less clutter some pictures and a cleaner design are required.

    2. The forum's are great and have a lot of really good content from different posters and the helpfulness of the admin/regulars is excellent.

    3. The site never really makes use of my machines higher res settings resulting in me seeing a narrow display.

    4. I notice the forum doesn't have a very good retention of posters. This could be addressed by doing small things like emailing member's when good new content is added (i.e. the bar crawl) so they return and from experience this often results in a upwards movement of traffic and more posting.

    5. Why is there a google option at the top of the page? I realise that probably is intended to serve as a search function but it looks a little disjointed in the context of things.

    The site is superb and the content is unmatched from what I can tell but I think the design could do with tweaking.

    Thanks for the great site,
    Lee.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Hi Lee, I also wanted to second the emotion, and say for the record how much this site has helped Dave and me in our journey from New Orleans to South Florida. Without it, I'm not sure where we'd be right now! Gus, Michelle, Mirna, Maria, and the other regulars helped me generously through the planning process to post-arrival issues. Not only did they give me invaluable advice about how to find my apartment and get my things here, they gave me an opportunity to put my creative skills to work by letting me write about and photograph local points of interest. More than anything, I can say from firsthand experience that they are very genuine, a sharp contrast to the preconceptions I had about what life and people down here would be like.


    As for the site itself, it amazes me how exhaustive it is! Whenever I do a Google search for something Miami or South Beach related, this site always comes up either at the top or very close. I've done a fair amount of city hopping over the last two years, and I've never found anything like this in Portland, Los Angeles, or New Orleans. Even Austin doesn't seem to have anything comparable.

    I don't mind the search engine box at the top so much, because I'm always referring back to earlier posts and articles I've read here, and it's easy to find them. But I'm no IT expert, and I'm sure Gus will greatly appreciate your feedback in this area, as it continues to expand.

    Thanks for sharing and I'm glad you got a lot out of the site, too! Glad you liked the bar crawl pics!

  3. #3
    Gus
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    Lee, thank you for starting this thread! I am honored that you would take the time to address how we can make the site better. Your and Doug's feedback is very much appreciated!

    I'm traveling to Boston today and don't have time to address your comments, but I'll be back to work on Monday.

    Until then, if anyone else has feedback about Miami Beach 411, please contribute by posting your thoughts, concerns and issues below.

    Have a great weekend, everybody!

  4. #4
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Lee, thanks for helping us out here. As you know I am a contributor so what can I say, my "home" is beautiful! :lol:

    I first met Gus over the phone years ago when I was designing a website for a restaurant. He was very helpful to me. As fate would have it, I was approached later after I started my blog to contribute to the site. I know Gus and Michelle personally. They make a dynamic and creative business team and it's clear how they attract wonderful and good people to this site whether they be end users or employees. 411 is truly a role model for successful internet presence and business.

    Doug - that is so sweet! Yes, you are right. There are many misconceptions about people in Miami. I realize there are a lot of jerks out there, but I also believe greatly in the law of attraction. One must always look inside to understand why jerks our crossing our paths. It's easy to blame things on external factors, but one must always look inside. I take great pleasure in helping people out when I can. It's so easy to share information! Why not, right? Easy as a smile! I'm happy 411 was able to help you in your transition process and tickled pink to have your beautiful writing here.

    Gus - here are some ideas.

    1. I agree with the Home Page being a bit cluttered but also all the info is there, which is good.

    I understand that the forums banner needs to get first dibs, but I would love to see that whole graphic with the waves on the top. It's pretty, I think. Perhaps if it was smaller and on the corner? Or perhaps a number of graphical links among the waves pointing to forums, feature articles, etc;

    Also, "featured articles" gets a bit lost too among the other business aspects of the home page.

    I'm glad though that the site is not Flash-based or some kind of glossy behemoth. It is very practical!

    I don't know if there is any way to work around this, but I always thought that it would be great for the featured article pages themselves to have more of a full blog page feel with copy extending wider. Currently they seem to be "embedded" within the larger site.

    4. "I notice the forum doesn't have a very good retention of posters." Lee- we do have a small number of regular visitors, but it does not generate as much commentary as local blogs, even when the same topics are covered. I think that if the forum was considered a "blog" it might generate more visits. however, it being tourism of course, visit will naturally be transient. At some point a balance between visitors/locals ratio could be achieved.

    5. Google search option does not bug me at all. in fact, as Doug said, it's super useful for searching within the site.

  5. #5
    Suzanne C
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    Well, I must say, before being an MB411er, I never used the site and NOW,

    now I even have my fam and friends using it for restaurant info, tour info and even income!

    That's CaptOtter and I back-in-the-day (he's going to kill me for this). Check out his Bad Boys Movie Review.

    I wish he would write more but he's too busy with his summer of sin!

    And I'd just like to say that the search engine box is what I use ALL DAY LONG!

    (and work is a little slow, I read restaurant menus...)
    Attached Images Attached Images   

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    I had been thinking of posting this for some time but never really got around to it as I didn't want to appear to be knocking a superb site.

    You know whilst I decided to not take the job I was offered in Miami because I choose to do something different where I live (stockbroker) I still check back on this site because it's an excellent resource for Miami. I plan to visit later this year for a short holiday anyway.

    It may be worthwhile for others too post and let Gus know if they feel the same towards the site as me.

    Keep up the good work Gus,
    Lee.

  7. #7
    Gus
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    Sorry for the delayed reply. I've been tossing and turning over everyone's feedback - in particular, Lee's comment...

    4. I notice the forum doesn't have a very good retention of posters. This could be addressed by doing small things like emailing member's when good new content is added (i.e. the bar crawl) so they return and from experience this often results in a upwards movement of traffic and more posting.
    Lee, thank you for pointing this out. I'm very proud of the featured articles and discussion on the site, and it upsets me when people can't find all the good stuff that's being written. Here is my solution...

    To help people find new content, we've started a weekly newsletter recapping the news, and prominently linked to it with an "announcement" in all of the forums. The newsletter will include all stories we've covered on Miami Beach 411 as well as headlines from other sources on the web. If you'd like to receive the free newsletter, you can subscribe to it via our news feed page, or have it emailed to you. Sign up here!

    Below is our first edition of Miami Recap:

    Miami Recap: The Week in Miami (8/17/07 to 8/24/07)

    Over the next few months, we will also be writing some help files to assist members in getting the most out of Miami Beach 411.

    We're excited about building a great website that answers questions and allows people to express themselves creatively.

    Thank you to everyone for your participation and feedback - I hope this discussion doesn't end here.

  8. #8
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    Gus, first of all thanks for taking our suggestions seriously.

    Secondly, the sign-up to let people know what is going on is good. I would allow existing users to choose to sign-up and new members are automatically signed up with an opt out link in the email.

  9. #9
    Gus
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    "new members are automatically signed up with an opt out link in the email."
    Our newsletter has an opt out link in every email, but I'm not sure how comfortable I am automatically signing members up, some people may get turned off by this. Then again, others may find it convenient.

    I've read that people are starting to complain about the amount of unwanted email they are receiving from other community sites. They just coined a new term for this type of email: bacn...
    “bacn” is the sizzlin' new term for “email you want, but not right now.” Considered a step above spam, but below personal communications, bacn refers to notification emails from sites like Facebook and MySpace and LinkedIn that let you know someone wants to be your friend (or prove it with winky comments). A byproduct of Web 2.0, bacn also encompasses all those email newsletters you signed up for and really, truly mean to read sometime, as well as bill payment notifications, Google alerts, etc. Basically, bacn is clutter, but not trash.
    Is Bacn Clogging Your Online Arteries?

    One solution is to add a "Subscribe to our newsletter" check box on the member registration page, already checked by default. ;)

    I plan to visit later this year for a short holiday anyway.
    Please tell us when you plan to visit!

  10. #10
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    Good idea's Gus.

    I have never heard of people complaining about sending automatic emails as long as they have the option to opt out if they don't want them.

    We used to send out about 12 million emails in each of our mailshots (once or twice a month) and nobody complained (except their ISP's!).

    I think the key is to only send emails when there is something worth visiting the site for, I have received emails from communities twice or even three times a week and when that happens I stop reading them and start classifying them as spam.

    I will visit either later on this year or early next year business permitting.

    Lee.

  11. #11
    Gus
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    Lee, I just wanted to bring you up-to-date on some changes at the site:

    New Forum Footer
    We revised the forum footer (the bottom of the page) to display the most recent entries from our 4 weblogs: News, Events, Reviews and the Forum -- this should make finding new content on the site easier for people when they're browsing in the forum.

    Michelle says the weblog entry links are too samll. Tomorrow, I'll make the links bold and see how they look.

    Most Popular Posts
    We also added a page for the most popular articles on the site. Later today, I'll post an announcement in the forums that will make the popular articles easy to find.

    The weekly recap posts are going great. I'm very pleased with the amount of new subscribers, we're no where near 12 million, but the opt-in list is growing every day.

    Again, thank you for your feedback! The new changes wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for your thoughtful remarks.

    Have a wonderful day!

  12. #12
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    Thanks Gus.

    I hope the changes you have made are working well.

    I'm loving the new section at the bottom to show what is going on (would it look better on the left hand side?)

    I still feel the home page requires a fair bit of design work though. When I used to work with the web developers they always used a phrase (pardon my language) Bullshit Baffles Brains and this saying is absolutely true.

    When I visit a website I am immediately drawn to the style, presentation and look of a website. It's what makes the visitor believe in the quality of the information/company/product.

    If you develop a identity/design style/format for the site it will make the whole thing a lot more slick.

  13. #13
    Gus
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    I'm not sure what you mean by "Bullshit Baffles Brains". Are you saying the home page is cluttered with lots of BS?

    To be honest, I've designed the homepage to be friendly for both humans and search engine spiders. From a search engine ranking point of view, it's important that a search engine be able to find and archive the most amount of content possible....that's why there are so many links.

    I like to think MiamiBeach411 leans toward having an anti-marketing design.

    Robert Scoble has a great blog post about anti-marketing that's generated almost 300 comments (#13 from Craig Newmark of Craigslist; the poster child of an anti-marketing website design). It a nutshell, Robert says "sites with ugly designs are well known make more revenue, be more sticky, build better brands, and generally be more fun to participate in, than sites with beautiful designs."

    What's important for me is that MiamiBeach411 be uncluttered, that the site load very fast, and we remain approachable for a wide range of people, many who speak English as a second language.

    Lot's of people think a site needs to be flashy and beautiful, but I chose early on (probably because I had to for of a lack of Photoshop skills and financial constraints ) not to go down that path.

    My goal is to trim away the fat and focus our users attention on the high level of writing and discussions that take place here.

    As far as the identity/design style/format, I'm very proud of our Miami Beach cityscape at the top of the page. The cityscape was hand drawn by using photographs we took of the more recognizable buildings in Miami Beach. I think the cityscape servers us well for being recognizable and have a unique brand.

    Back in 2005, the City of Miami Beach liked our cityscape logo so much they used it without our permission on a community satisfaction, those dirty rats.

    I hope I'm not sounding defensive. I appreciate what you have to say, and have already had some restless nights because of it.

    Can you give me an example of a site you like?

  14. #14
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    Gus, I didn't mean the post to sound offensive in the slightest.

    Bullshit baffles brains relates not to your site but too the fact people are attracted to shinny things that look good rather than a high level of function.

    The best forum I have experienced is the highly simple pistonheads forum (www.pistonheads.co.uk). The site has become one of the most popular car forums in the world with several hundred thousand hits per day. The forum keeps things very simple but clean in design and there is also a huge amount of bespoke code and functionality going on there.

    I do agree with the fact that speed, ease of navigation can help greatly with the site experience but there has to be a line drawn between workman functionality and pure gloss.

    A test one of my old companies did was too create another site that was more glossy and give it a different url and then ask users to vote between the two sites (71% voted the flashy site was a more enjoyable place to be. One thing we didn't tell the users was it had less functionality and not one of the 5,000 noticed!).

    This site has all of the content anyone could ask for but I feel the design could be tided a little. Like I would implement a menu on the left hand side to allow users quick links rather than having to scroll to the bottom of the page. Just simple things that people seem to like.

    The other thing I notice is the site doesn't resize to fit my resolution (1600X1050) like other sites do and this then causes me to see a narrow view of the site.

    Anyway you know what I think, it may be worthwhile to see if anyone else out there agrees with my views, if not then leave it the same (just don't ask anyone you personally know as you won't get a true opinion).

  15. #15
    Senior Member Bradaschenck's Avatar
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    Hello,

    I enjoyed reading the ideas and thoughts and of course love the site.

    I have also noticed though that a lot of postings are from the same people. Which of course makes me sad about the wheel of kindness you know trying to share your insight with others thanks to the insight others provided. One thought I had was maybe using some sort of points system. Similar to Yahoo answers if you're familiar and from there the top poster or top 5 of say the month would get a gift certificate to one a restaurant or an event. Honestly I have no idea how hard this would be to set up.

    But thoughts on using something like this to make it fair you could have like a 1-3 month waiting period before being eligible to win again, moderate it to keep people making frivolous post for the points.

    The home page clutter question.

    1. The home page is very cluttered with links and to me is difficult to read, less clutter some pictures and a cleaner design are required.
    I would say that there is a slightly cluttered feel to the homepage. But I think all of the links are very relevant. My personal suggestion might just be boxes around some of the sections that might help keep the eye form wondering and feeling over whelmed. My reflection for this is Yahoo's homepage which while it is packed with info feels comfortable and one of the only major differences I see are the boxes.

    I think though a photo or two might help break up all of the text from blurring. Maybe you could have posters submit photos of Miami Beach for the photo of the day or week.

  16. #16
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    Hi Brad, thanks for taking the time to give us your feedback; we really appreciate it!! I like your idea of the boxes around the categories on the home page, and photo of the week would be fun.

    I agree that it's nice to receive prizes for participation. However, we really try to go above and beyond that by hooking people up with things they really need/want, such as a discounted tour or transportation, restaurant reservation at a desired time (even if the restaurant is booked), or recommendations for a job. (I'll PM some more recommendations to you today).

    With that said, stay tuned for stuff we love to give away to our members. Whenever we get tickets to events, we are more than happy to share. :)

    Speaking of tickets, we are getting ready to announce our partnership with EXXXOTICA again this year. Would you like me to save a couple tickets for you?

  17. #17
    Gus
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    Hi everybody,

    Thanks to your all your feedback, we're getting ready to change the layout of MiamiBeach411.

    The biggest change you'll see is we're going from 3 column to a 2 column design.

    We're also adding a horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page, with links to the main sections of the site. The horizontal navigation was our friend, Alex Cabrera's, idea.

    In each section, the links in the right column and the footer will change to reflect the subject of the section you're in. For example, in the "Eat" section, you'll find links on the right side and the bottom of the page to articles about restaurants and food.

    Click here to see the new layout for the the "Learn" section.

    I'm really excited by the new design.

    For all the people who said MiamiBeach411 is too skinny, and there's too much white space, we've increased the width of the site by 150 pixels. Do you think I should increase the width a little more?

    How does it look to you?

    Is there anything you don't like?

    Feedback is very welcome!

    Thanks Lee and Alex for getting the ball rolling!

  18. #18
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    Gus,

    That new design looks great. Nice, clean, slick and simple.

    As for increasing the width, well that really comes down to testing. I don't know if you have a test machine(s). If you don't I would suggest a fairly good spec machine using virtualization either Microsoft's Virtual PC or VMware so you can try different operating systems and different browser configurations and resolutions to see how the site renders.

    It's a ball-ache but you can check out how the site renders under different configurations. This is the only real way to test site set-ups as people often won't report problems, they will just stop using the site.

    One last idea is, do you have anything in to place to monitor which pages receive the most hits? It is great to do this as you can then devote more resources to the most popular (and profitable) sections of the website so in future you can target your audience in a more efficient way which results in more $

    Anyway I shall stop now as I have way too much advice to give after helping build 4 very popular sites. Although I give advice to try and help as you have provided us such a great resource for Miami.

    Thanks,
    Lee.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Bradaschenck's Avatar
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    I like the new overall design of cityscape logo especially the splash of color. I did however like the fade to white on the bottom of the old one because I thought of it as sand.

  20. #20
    Suzanne C
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    How about a multiple picture upload?

    It takes me longer to upload them than it does to get in my car and go snap 'em...

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