Letter from Haroon

What's Going on

Hello everyone,

Haroon here. For those of you who may be newer, I thought I would reintroduce myself. I’m the CEO and co-founder of Webs.com. So I just wanted to give you an update on things here at the company and some of my thoughts around some recent topics that have been on people’s minds. First, I want to say that the priority in the company remains improving our system stability and performance. We have made several investments in this area and will continue to do so. (If you are wondering why we have been scheduling maintenance, its for this reason). Beyond that, we are continuing to improve our product offerings to enable you to push your site further. With that, I want to offer some of my thoughts around the new membership functionality that we have been adding to the system.

To begin with, it is my strong belief that the web has become a more social place, and that websites of all types have begun introducing social functionality to make the experiences more sticky and interesting to users. I believe community driven sites can offer a much richer experience for visitors than a more static experience. And our internal data supports this as well. For example we have found that sites with at least 10 members get more traffic and last a lot longer than on average than others.

At the same time, we realize there are some types of sites where community is less relevant, especially with some business sites. This is also dependant on the specific app in use. For example, enabling members to post photos works great for groups and communities but is not as useful for a photographer showing off their own portfolio. Understanding this, we took the time to add options to turn off member posting across each app. And we will continue to make this an option across our platform. What’s interesting is, that photographer who may not want others posting photos may still want members on their site. For example, they may want to have a photographer forum where people can discuss photography, and they may want to open their blog up for member submissions. They may also want to email their membership with updates. Or not. Each site owner has their own threshold of what they want their members to do and not do, and we fully understand that. It appears there is one thing we are missing which is giving the option of having a mailing list without sending people through a signup process to complete a profile.

Again, many businesses are using the profiles as a tool to get information on their members. Because you have the ability to setup your own custom profile questions, sites are using this as a way to store data on their users. (You can also download your membership with all their data in CSV format to import into excel, MS access, etc.). Still, some feel that a mailing list is enough, so we’re looking into that now to make the profile completion step more of an optional piece. Creating an option to “turn off” membership completely is also under discussion. The only problem is that sites who choose such an option would be unable to use certain features like the forums, password protection (by member), etc. So it is tricky and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I’d also like to encourage those of you who thus far haven’t tried out utilizing our community tools to consider doing so to test the impact it has on your site.

As for updates, there are a few new things we have added and a few in the works, aside from the continuing stability improvements. For those of you with webstores, we recently added a search function (for stores with more than 10 products) to make it easier for your shoppers to browse. We are fairly close to an update to calendars that adds the ability to add a location for events, with a link to a map, rss feeds so people can keep track of upcoming and newly posted events, and also the ability for members to add events (yes, you can turn it off). We’re also getting close to completing a new member dashboard which will let you login with a WebsID (email/password combo) and have access to all of your sites from one central place. Lastly, we’re working on an automated email system that will send site updates to your members in digests (sort of like Yahoo groups), again this will be an option that you can opt into.

So that’s our most recent thoughts. I want to thank all of you for your use of our platform and contributions and suggestions so far. Its also been great to see your participation in our new suggestions and feedback system. I look forward to your comments.

Best Regards,

Haroon

PS – for those who don’t know or may have forgotten, I keep up my own community site to discuss all things Webs. Feel free to join me there at http://haroon.webs.com.

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