Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Project 1 - retain website loyalty

I began working with some friends on a website called My friend Mike has owned this Mercedes G-Wagen enthusiast website for over 10 years, and it gets an impressive amount of traffic from all around the world. The problem is that it has fallen into code-disrepair, and he would like to monetize it - as currently it is a free website community. This is a problem that a lot of websites have today (ie: Twitter?). How do you monetize a website that has become popular BECAUSE it is free?

We have thought of some obvious solutions, like charging users for enhanced services or other subscription fees - but decided that could potentially erode our single greatest asset - our user traffic! Rather than penny pinch the people who use the website, we are working to improve the services and experience that bring them here in the first place. We want to KEEP them here and ATTRACT more people. From there, you have a captive audience from which to launch your monetization strategy. (We have a plan, but I prefer to keep that quiet right now as we have competitors.)

My role in this is to enhance the classifieds pages (and to fix bugs wherever we find them). The classifieds are one of the biggest draws to Some of these vehicles are hard to find and hard to sell, so provides a central location for both buyers and sellers. It is FREE to review and FREE to post. It is wildly popular, as a result.

The classifieds in place now are very manual for the web administrator. A form is filled out by the user, an email is sent to the web administrator with the details, and the information is transferred manually by the web admin from email to html and then uploaded to the site. Boooor-ing!!!!, tedious, and not very timely.

I created a new frontend/middleware/backend system using HTML, PHP & MYSQL that stores new classified ad requests into a Database. From there, there is a backend Administration user interface (UI) application that will allow an administrator to approve a new ad or not. Upon approval, the ad will appear on the website. I'm enhancing the Administration system so that all classifieds can be managed through a web browser so that no technical skill is required by the web admin to manage the content. Even if the web admin does have technical skill, it will be a time saver to use the UI as opposed to having to login to backend components.

There will be 3 separate classified applications, each with Admin site support: Vehicles, Parts, and Wanted. I'm very excited to get this off the ground and see it in action. At current, we are testing it and making adjustments but it is almost ready (it even allows uploading of images, which I am proud that I managed to code myself :-) ). Also, the data in the database looks so clean and organized - I could cry with joy!

This project has kept me sharp in many areas that I will need in my future job: project management, product management, requirement gathering, requirements documentation, estimation, development, quality assurance, and release management. It has been the perfect project to keep my skills sharp, and something I look forward to discussing with a prospective employer when asked "What have you been doing since you were laid off?".

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an awesome project! I definitely agree with your thoughts on keeping your skills sharp and ready. Hope all is well with you, Craig. Good luck with the job search!