Predominantly people use our site to find events to participate in. Events like the or the Turkey Trot in Cartersville, GA. We have over 300,000 relevant events in our system. And by relevant I mean things that have recently happened or will be happening in the near future. Past events are archived and are a lot harder to find in our system, but we're working to fix this.
For example, the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon happens every year. Yet if you search through our system you'll only find next year's event (and possibly last year's). But what did people say about the event in 2004? Was it well run by the event organizer? What was the weather like?
Linking data from past events is one of the projects we're working on in our Directory Initiative. You'll be able to understand what people have said about previous occurrences of an event and can make a better decision about whether or not you'll participate this year.
Oh yeah and we're also working to make our event details pages load faster. Right now we receive a YSlow score of 'F', which we're not proud of. But I can say things are in the works in our prototype environment that will give us a better score. Changes will be rolled out incrementally, as we're touching several areas to "lighten the payload".
As you may have seen on the way here, we've redesigned... "refreshed" in the parlance... our home page. If not, do check it out. We'll wait.
So? What do you think? For us it is hopefully a big improvement in that it will get you the user to where you want to be on Active.com quicker. Now there's a lot to that statement, so let's unpack it a little.
As for the layout of the page - we've replaced the duplicate left navigation menu with an expanded global navigation across the top of the page. We also removed the tabbed content from the page because it hid more than it helped to display.
The page now has a nice focus on what our tag line says - and please forgive me if this crosses (or has crossed) the line into cliche - "your guide to an active planet". We've got lots of content, clearly displayed, to help you become a better, stronger, healthier runner, softball player, yogi, whatever. We've got videos, message boards, and blogs where you can share stories or ask and answer questions. And we're giving the core of our site (It's all about the Core) - our directory of events, races, classes, campgrounds, tournaments, etc - the prominence it deserves.
Again, all this should help you find what you want on Active.com quicker and easier. The organization of the page, the colors, the speed in which the page gets to you... it's all done for this same reason.
Of course, we could always use your help to make it better. We can look at all the stats, and we all have our own opinions too. But how are you finding the site?
On the Product Development side here at Active we haven't done a great job of communicating with our audience. We're hoping to change that now.
I'm a Development Manager with the Participants side of the Active Media Properties (AMP), the team responsible for www.active.com, results.active.com and community.active.com (we also have a few services/widgets we develop and support behind the scenes). We are distributed, with some people working from China, others in Michigan and even others in LA. But the bulk of us work out of the San Diego office.
I worked for a long while as a Management Consultant implementing waterfall-based projects with various Fortune 1000 companies. Consulting companies love waterfall. Changes in scope = more dollars in the pocket. But I've always been troubled by the inefficiencies that are inherent to waterfall and to the disconnectedness it brings to the parties involved in delivering a project. So I was keen to implement Agile software development with my team here. Agile is hard with remote resources I quickly discovered. But I digress.
But then came our "Directory Initiative". In simple terms, we use the word "Directory" to describe search.active.com and the mechanism through which we submit information to it. Active is a network (my company is actually called "The Active Network"), and we are a conglomerate having acquired multiple companies throughout the years. Each of these companies have interesting artifacts (or "nouns"), such as classes, campgrounds, marathons, training plans etc., and search.active.com aggregates these making them discoverable to our consumers.
Directory is the core of what we do here within AMP. And we've recently launched a major program, the "Directory Initiative", to enhance and harden those features on our properties that are related to it. To do this we've split the team into smaller teams and have aligned each with a Product Manager. Although we've only just begun, organizing our resources in this way has already paid off (at least with internal demos). So, while we may not be fully Agile, the hybrid model we've adopted is promising.