Brownbook.net, the open local business directory for small and large businesses
 

New Brownbook stuff for Christmas :)

December 24, 2008

We released sprint 12 of Brownbook yesterday, just in time for us to relax a little for Christmas.  You may already know we use an Agile/Scrum development process which sees us breaking all our development down into 2 week ‘sprints’.  Each sprint is followed by two day’s testing, then we make it live.  Here’s a quick roundup of some of the main front-end changes in the last two sprints:

Sprint 11
-    The number of tags shown on search results pages is now restricted.  This is because some business owners are using very large numbers of tags, and whilst they are all relevant they were making the results pages hard to read.  So, on the results page, you now get a summary of the tags, with full tags shown when you click to the business details page.
-    Press links in home page footer.  We’re starting to build up quite a collection of write-ups and reviews from people like BBC, Wikinomics, and more.  So we figured by putting them on the home page new people will get a better idea of what we’re about.
-    “more…” links on home page.  On the home page you see up to 5 of the last businesses added and edited.  The new “More…” link lets you click through to see older entries.  This is useful for helping newly added and newly updated businesses get indexed by the major search engines.
-    Bugs – fixed a few bugs including the text editor in ‘customize my page’ in Safari that was not saving changes.
-    Return to previous page upon login.  Now, when you login, you are returned to the previous [page you were on, instead of getting directed straight to your ‘my account’ page.
-    Twitter this.  A new link in the tools bar on a business details page lets registered Twitter users tweet the business details with a link to the page.
-    Hall of fame.  A link in the home page footer links to show the most active users in terms of contributions and earnings (how much they’ve earned for their contributions)
-    Community forum.  A new community forum where registered members can discuss any topic relevant to Brownbook and promoting local businesses.  Would be great to see some tips posted in the sections about customizing your page and creating your website.
-    Shorten password.  We had some request to change the password minimum length from 8 characters to 6.  Done.
-    Various changes to Bidgets to provide better presentation of content in narrower Bidgets on external websites.
-    Fixed some issues with videos playing in IE7.
-    Fixed some erroneous emails.  Welcome email going out to wrong users (embarrassing one, that).

Sprint 12
-    New banners on results pages and business details pages to promote the benefits of Brownbook for business users and consumer users.  We’ve tried to keep them out of the main page area and hope they don’t interfere with the main page info.  Feedback most welcome.
-    Encode email addresses.  At the suggestion of one user we’ve now encoded all email addresses that are displayed on Brownbook pages to prevent unscrupulous people from scraping email addresses and using them to target spam. (Thanks Don at HTML Fixit for this suggestion).
-    Use your own domain name on Brownbook ‘create my website’ feature.  A link to a help page which explains how to use your own domain name with the website you created in Brownbook.
-    File size and format information on video and photo uploads in ‘create my website’ and on video units and image units.
-    New look for your public profile page.
-    Moved the ‘tools’ on business details page from out of the main page area to a horizontal space at the top of the page.  This is to allow the main page area to ‘belong’ entirely to the business without distractions.  Works especially well when the business owner has customized their page.  Take a look at this example.  This also required the movement of the country selection flags, which you can now see in the brown strip of the page header on all pages.
-    Slight re-jigging of the business details page to remove superfluous headings and some wasteful white space.
-    New ‘Brownbook for businesses’ and ‘Brownbook for everyone’ videos courtesy of the lovely Lisa P.  Also new texts on each of the pages that follow the videos to describe new features (chiefly ‘customise my page’ and ‘create my website’ for business owners, and ‘user earnings program’ for everyone else).
-    Some ongoing new SEO work to make indexing by the big boys even better. Ie get found even more easily and quickly in the search engines when you add your business to Brownbook.
-    Fixed some non-English character (accents etc) support problems in tags.

That’s about it (what, you mean you wanted MORE??).

Right, its Christmas eve now, and I am definately up for a glass of sherry about now.  We’re into Sprint 13 as of today which is a quick one over the festive period, then back to formal 2 week sprints at the start of January with some great new stuff for you so keep watching.

Happy Christmas and New Year

Dave and Marc

PS: remember you can now follow us on Twitter (@daveingram, and @marc_lyne)

The Value of Customer Testimonials

December 8, 2008

Hello from sunny Miami! I wrote another post for the SBDCNet national blog discussing the value that customer testimonials bring to a business. Please feel free to read the article here. Brownbook provides the ideal platform for customers to write reviews of local businesses and makes it easy for businesses to ask their customers to review them online.

If you’re on Twitter, follow me @ChristineMAdolf!

Online Word of Mouth Marketing

November 6, 2008

I have written an article featured on the Small Business Development Center National Information Clearinghouse (SBDCNet) about online word of mouth marketing for small businesses. The post points out several things that small businesses can do to create buzz for their company online. You can check out the article by clicking here. Feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback about Brownbook in the US by e-mailing me at christine [at] brownbook [dot] net. You can also connect with me on Twitter: @ChristineMAdolf.

Brownbook.com

November 6, 2008

Hooray, we just got the Brownbook.com domain name.

(but we still go by the name of Brownbook.net, we’ve become quite attached to it :) )

www.brownbook.com

Get inside my head

November 6, 2008

Want to get inside my head?  You can follow me on Twitter, my profile is here http://twitter.com/daveingram and click “follow” (if you don’t have a Twitter account you’ll need to register first).

Dave Ingram, CEO Brownbook.net