We have launched a new website! Over the last months we have been working on improving functionality and speed. Recently, we already announced improved metrics and the availability of 2020 data. Now we also have a better and faster website. Here are some of the key changes that we made to Avoid Crowds.
Our old website was built on a WordPress website originally designed to show listings. It was a theme that could be used to make a new AirBnB or hotel booking website. When we started our website with about 0 budget, that made sense. Similar to listings we needed to show multiple destinations or regions and then show availability.
We bought a WordPress Theme and started working. After the release of our API last summer, we no longer needed the Listing Theme anymore. All the functionalities of a listing theme were now fixed by the API and the widgets that were built on it. A big downside of the listing theme was tht it came with lots of functionalities that we at Avoid Crowds don’t use. For example, the theme came with webshop integrations and payment possibilities. All these functionalities are great, but if you don’t use them, they slow down your website. A slower website means that the user experience suffers and that has now been taken care off.
In our need for speed we decided to use images with smaller file sizes. That way you don’t have to wait for the images to download from our servers while you are loading our pages. As a result, many of our pictures now load faster but aren’t as beautiful as before. This is a trade-off where we decided to favour speed. Our thinking is that people come to our website to find out when their favourite tourist destinations are busy. Users will look for nice destination pictures on other websites. At least that is what we think.
Cleaner website design
Although many of the changes that we made to Avoid Crowds are subtle, the biggest achievement is that the website is much ‘cleaner’. Avoid-Crowds.com is now solely about predicting crowds and we got rid of all features that were distracting our users from that.
We wanted to keep all important functionalities while stripping away anything that wasn’t essential to our tool. The result is a website that is much lighter, fresher and cleaner. Users can easily understand how our website works, how to change destinations, adjust the dates or how to read one of our blogs.
The news page has been completely overhauled. In the past it was a super simple WordPress style blog with categories on top. As the number of categories grew, that page became ugly and hard to use. It was no longer fit for purpose. We now have a brand new news page. The news page shows ‘featured posts’ on top. These are posts that go beyond cruise ship schedules or school vacations. These are posts about how we can smartly use data, opinion pieces, tips and tricks and much more. The featured pieces are displayed on top while the regular posts are shown a little bit further down.
More natural ad integration
Avoid Crowds needs income to survive. Although the website is still a side project for us, we do need to pay hosting costs, licensing costs and our developers need pay as well. To make sure we can afford to build on Avoid Crowds we need income. Ads are the answer for now.
We have extensively experienced with ads over the past months. We started with letting Google automatically place ads on our website wherever they seemed fit. Ads were placed literally everywhere and completely messed up the structure of the website. This did result in income but we hated the user experience of our own website. We took away all ads and are now gradually adding ads again. All these ads will be placed on places that have less effect on the user experience.
Changes to come
We are already very pleased with our new website. But we will never stop developing and improving Avoid Crowds. Currently we are adding public holidays and school vacations to our API. This will not have an immediate effect on the user experience of our website. However, once the new API has been released, we will start adding more and more school vacations and public holidays to our website.
In addition, we are working on adding new destinations. With Lonely Planet calling out several destinations as the place to travel to in 2020, we expect an increase in demand for crowds data. The first city that we will add is our hometown: Salzburg, Austria.