CitySquares.com Version 2.0 Coming in 11 Days

I had an appointment that got rescheduled today so I thought I’d use this time to talk about the upgrade to CitySquares.com. The best song just came on my headphones too, and it’s putting me into just the right frame of mind to type this up. The song is Underworld‘s Rez/Cowgirl Live @ Glastonbury 1999. I’d just gets me going. I’d go to extreme lengths to go back in time and be at that show.

Alright, so that being said! Here goes it…

In summary, CitySquares.com version 2.0 will include more content, more communities, a much improved user interface including some very nice new colors and styles, a greatly improved user experience, better searching, more metadata, more intuitiveness, better mapping, more robust business profiles, user profiles with a bit of “social” sprinkled in, flickr photos and API stuff, super SEO from https://seoly.in/, and generally speaking lots of little bells and whistles to make the user experience more intuitive and engaging.

With this upgrade CitySquares.com will be about diving deeper into our communities and neighborhoods and extracting as much metadata as we can and presenting it online to you. The first and most basic iteration of this strategy goes live on the 15th but ultimately the metadata is going to be provided and organized by you, the hardy, tax paying people of America. How? That will be revealed later next year. Businesses will be able to provide metadata, along with people young and old, dogs, pigeons, even lawyers. More meta more meta more meta! That’s my mantra! GIMME MORE META!

The user experience is going to be dramatically improved in the usual ways that you’d expect, like a new user interface, new color palette, and navigation.

In terms of user experience and navigation, I’ll try to explain it as simply as I can without a visual aid. First, Ian Wight at Urban Mapping announced our deal and that’s a big part of what we’ll be bringing to the users (reminder to self: call them “people”). So people will be able to navigate their way around the site by zooming in and out of communities. What that means is that you’ll be able to start your experience at a Regional level (metro-Boston) and drill down to a City (Somerville) and drill down to a community (Davis Square), and all along the way the content (i.e., business listings) is being filtered according to what layer you’re at in the geographic funnel. You’ll be able to move around at that layer across the categories, which are available at all levels of the funnel. You’ll be able to go even deeper and locate, say, bars within 10 blocks of a particular restaurant. Or shoe stores within 10 blocks of your home, or 5 miles from your office. Those locations, by the way, can be part of your user (people!) profile (i.e., Home, Work, Other). One more thing – if you can’t find the right business within the parameters you set, you’ll be able to look in the next closest neighborhood(s). So if you don’t find a liquor store (I must really want a drink right now) within 10 blocks of x address, we’ll show you the next closest neighborhoods in order of any proximity you set for yourself. All this is presented very intuitively (at least we think so). Oh, one more thing – Bob showed this to me today – when you type into the location box “downt” it will automatically show you locations in our site that begin with “downt” – like, downtown Boston. This will be done for all nodes in our network. Once you’ve created an account for yourself, you’re Home, Work, or Other location will be your home page. That might be a neighborhood, a city, or a region, it’s up to you.

Is this rocket science? No, but it’s pretty effen cool! And hey we’re not a technology company and we don’t need rocket science. It’s just cool and it’s sets the stage for so much more. You can make your own assumptions and draw your own conclusions about what comes next, but there’s a lot of opportunity once this groundwork is layed down. Most of this is made possible by Urban Mapping.

Each Region, City, Community will also have it’s own home page. That home page will be auto-generated, pulling in metadata from itself, pulling in flickr photos tagged appropriately, and displaying content based on its geographic filters.

All mapping on the site will be done with Microsoft Virtual Earth.

Because we’re building this on Drupal, our options for search and indexing are pretty open (learn some tricks for better indexation at http://seobergen.no/). Drupal’s native search engine is quite good and there are many modules that we can use to enhance it, and build upon it. A major part of our upgrade is a metadata system. That might not be that apparent at first, but it will become increasingly necessary and critical not long after. Managing so much content can only be done in one way – tagging and metadata.

When we launch the new site we’re launching not just the same ol’ ‘hoods and businesses, but we’re launching virtually all communities within route 128. This is a big step for us. We’re going from the twenty-something neighborhoods we have today, to countless neighborhoods in metro Boston. That also includes about 45,000 businesses (provided by Localeze).

All these businesses will be given free profiles, as always. Businesses that choose to enhance their profiles can do so, and those Deluxe Profiles will include a lot more than we’re providing now. That’ll be fun. Customers will also have the chance to sign up for Constant Contact newsletters, which will be a lot of fun to sell. Constant Contact has made it very easy for us. That takes us down a very interesting road, one with great potential for pushing content (newest businesses? changes to businesses? special offers from businesses?) via email based on geographical and/or categorical parameters.

User’s will have profiles too, much like any other site out there today. So People Pages will be full of all the info you’d imagine and more specifically as it would pertain their consumer tastes. Think favorite businesses, latest reviews (“Experiences”), their friends and neighbors, pictures, etc etc.

I haven’t spoken much about SEO yet, but that’s a huge part of what we’re doing in this new release. Everything from page titles, headings, code syntax (i.e., <strong> vs <bold>), URL structure, and more, has been taken into consideration and implemented very diligently. Many thabks to my friends at KoMarketing Associates for their help with this.

We’re also using OpenAds for our display ad system, and we’ve created a number of ad zones within the various Drupal templates. The power of Urban Mapping and OpenAds will allow for a richer geographic advertising experience than any IP targeting crap out there today.

[brief silence]

Well, I just had Bob read this over and apparently I’m spot-on and, as he put it, “you didn’t promise the world.” Who does he take me for anyway?

So that pretty much covers it. Looking over this post it looks like we’re doing quite a bit, and rest assured, we are.