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Results of the update to CommunityOfSweden.com

Although we still have some important improvements to do from the back log since the christmas update I still want to share with you some numbers.

Increase the start page conversion rate of visitors to members

• Conversion rate: +68%

Increase the activity between members

• Page views: +36%
• Pages / visit: +47%
• Time / visit: +45%

I’m quite happy to see such a great result. This shows that the new start page does its job of converting members and the new activities feed strengthens relationships and promotes activity amongst members :)

(I used Google Analytics to get this data and compared week 2 in december with week 2 in february.)

CommunityOfSweden.com down for 24 hours – launching new site!

EDIT: check the comments below for the latest info of how the re-launch is going!

If you just came from http://communityofsweden.com you will have notice that the site is down for maintanance. This will go on for 24 hours while our technicians are launching the new version of the site. Please be patient and check back tomorrow. The clock will keep counting down to the new release.

Updates

There are many big and small things that have been improved, changed and added to the new version of CommunityOfSweden.com. I will only mention three of them briefly here:

  1. News feed
    The Home page is now your center for information. Your news feed will keep you updated on what your friends have been doing, comments to your content, activity in the groups you’re a member in, and much more.
  2. Photos
    The whole photo upload process has been streamlined and changed quite a bit. We have abandoned the concept of “geo tags”(cities) and replaced it with actual coordinates. You’ll be able to say at what place the photo was taken. We then know that place’s coordinates and which city it is in. If you create a new place in this process you’ll later be encouraged to show on a map where that place is.
  3. Facebook connect
    Finally I’m glad to say that we’ve integrated our site with Facebook.
    New members can now log in with Facebook instead of creating a CoS account.
    Returning members can/should log in normally but can then from their settings connect to Facebook.
    Facebook connected members can then “like” CoS content and Share stuff they want to show to their Facebook friends.

Ok that’s it for now. I’m sure you’ll notice a lot more stuff that has changed and I hope you’ll like it :)

Please be patient with any design glitches or technical bugs that might occur during the first days after launch. Use our support community to report any bugs or problems you find as well as praise and ideas for improvement.

Thanks! See you in the new version of CommunityOfSweden.com! :)

December update – new features and changes!

You spoke and we listened!

Our developers are currently hard at work on a big update for CommunityOfSweden.com.
The update involves upgrading the entire community platform to a new modern version but it also involves some major feature and design changes that I hope you’ll enjoy.

As I mentioned earlier, the CoS starpage currently has some flaws.
It is not

  1. Converting new visitors into members
  2. Encourage activity amongst existing members
To improve this we’re launching a new startpage for guests and for members.

Some key features in the december update:

  • simple and clean start page for guests. Focus on inspiration to join (video) and some value propositions and quotes from the guest’s fellow countrymen.
  • registration and sign in by using Facebook Connect!
  • Feed of activities from your friends!
  • Show photos and stories on a map!
  • Real map coordinates on photos and stories! (no more geo / city tags)
  • Improved tag input system when creating your content
  • Easier to find new friends with shared interests
  • Recommendation of photos and stories that we think you will like
  • A new system to indicate a member’s level of activity and popularity. This will replace the current points system.
  • and more….
See the prototype wireframe below for a sneak peak into what’s coming on the new logged in member start page ;)

Crowdsourcing logo design

VisitSweden crowdsources logo design at 99designs for our Adademy of Sweden concept. 900 USD prize! http://bit.ly/9KzjVa

Coming updates for CommunityOfSweden.com

In 2009 we’ve added a widget and groups to CommunityOfSweden.com.
The widget aims to spread community content to other websites, blogs and social networks. The groups provides a new area to interact with other members around a certain topic and shared interests.

Now that we’re planning for 2010 we have a LOT of updates we want to do. Learn about some of them below. I’d love to hear what you think about these updates and if you think something is missing; write about it in the comment section below. Thanks!

Groups

We want to add stories to the groups as well as some more features for paying sponsors such as; group specific widget, messages to the group members and some statistics of group activity. Members should also get notifications when there’s activity in the group.

Tags

Currently there’s no way to edit the tags of any content on CommunityOfSweden.com. This is frustrating when members want to change something and it also prevents us from reaching the full potential of all the great content in the site. The Widget for example finds its relevant content by matching the descriptive tags so… no good tags = no good widget content.

We will implement an open approach to tagging. Everybody will be able to add tags to anybody’s content! This way I hope we’ll get a collaborative effect when we will update and improve not only our own content but also others. Of course the original creator’s tags can’t be removed and he/she will get a notification when tags are added.

Privacy and spam prevention

We currently have a slight problem with spam in CommunityOfSweden.com. Some members register and then start sending guestbook messages to as many othe rmembers as possible. These messages usually sound something like “I came across your profile and…” bla bla and they often have some flirting involved. Some members don’t realize that this is spam and that the message is sent to everyone, instead they think this is actual flirting and that the whole community has become a dating service. This of course reflects very poorly on the community and the spam itself is frustrating so something has to be done.

I’m considering solving this problem by at the same time addressing another concern: privacy.
By giving members the possibility to restrict access to their guestbooks and to the comments on their content to all users or to friends only, we give them options for privacy. If a member restricts access to friends only then the spammers won’t be able to write there either.

I’ll also add “CAPTCHA” to guestbook and comment fields to further discourage spammers.

Included in this update will also be notification settings. Members will be able to choose which notifications they want to recieve by email and which ones they want to turn off.

Widget

I want to add “regions” to the widget. Today we can only choose between all of Sweden or a specific city/geo tag. I want us to be able to select a region like Lapland or the Stockholm archipellago etc. We’ve gotten several requests for this.

Also I want to create versions of the widgets for Facebook, Myspace and other bit social networks.

Coordinates

This is a big and exciting update! I want to put coordinates on all photos and stories in CommunityOfSweden.com. That means we’ll be able to visualize our content on real maps! Wouldn’t that be great? It will make the content more useful too. This might mean the end of geotags in favor of real coordinates. Like with the descriptive tags we’ll probably make the coordinate update process available to everybody so that we can update content with coordinates quickly and not rely on every single member to update only their own content.

Stories

I want to further enhance the great travel stories in CommunityOfSweden.com. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see the whole trip visualized on a map for example? It could be points of interest on a map of Stockholm or even suggested roads and stops on a road trip along the west coast.

Reviews

This will be a very big update where we can write reviews of hotels, restaurants, cafés, museums etc and rate other’s reviews and comment on them. I hope this will be a valuable and inspirational tool when planning trips and activities. This will also be a relevant area to include some online booking options.

Video

Also a very big update. Photos is all fun and good but why stop there? Video is more and more common and often a lot of fun to watch. I’d like to see a partnership with youtube here so that we can all upload videos to our profiles and expand the photo section of the site into a bigger media section containing both photos and videos.

Start page

Today everybody sees the same start page regardless if you’re logged in as a member or just if you’re a guest visitor. This is not optimal.
As guests we have certain needs and expectations and the design and content should reflect this. What is this site? Why should I join? How do I join? Where’s the best content?
As logged in members we have completely different needs and expectations. What’s happened lately? What are my friends doing?
So i want to create new start pages to accomodate these different user needs.

Again: I’d love to hear what you think about these updates and if you think something is missing; write about it in the comment section below. Thanks!

VisitSweden’s award winning website is taking another leap forward

A new project at VisitSweden is now starting to get up to speed and I want to let you know what’s happening.

http://www.visitsweden.com, the best website in Sweden 2008 and also nominated for a Webby award 2009, will soon be even better.

We’re quite pleased with how the website has been recieved since it’s updated features and design launched in August 2008 but there’s still more to come.
The purpose of this next phase is to improve on how visitsweden.com communicates with the tourism industry and existing and potential partners. An exploratory first phase is completed and our web and design agencies are now working on how to proceed.

Stay tuned here in the development blog for future updates.

NEWS: Get your Swedish widget and invite friends!

Two great new features on CommunityOfSweden.com launched today and they are immideately avaialble for anyone to use:

  • The CommunityOfSweden.com Widget that allows you to show community content on your own website.
  • The possibility for you to invite your friends to CommunityOfSweden.com

Let’s take a quick look at the two feature here below.

Widget

A widget is a snippet of html code that you can copy and paste into your own site. This will then show CommunityOfSweden.com content on your blog or website according to the template you choose.

You can customize the widget any way your want or you can choose to use one of the ready-to-go themes.
(and if you’re a member you can limit the widget to only show your personal content if you wish)

Perhaps you have a blog and you want to show some nice photos of Sweden or you’re responsible for an interesting attraction in Sweden and you don’t have an online community of your own – well now you can show CommunityOfSweden.com content on your site and help inspire people from all over the world to travel to Sweden.

Click here to check out the CommunityOfSweden.com Widget.

Invite friends

Members of CommunityOfSweden.com can now invite their friends to join the site and also do a search amongst their contacts to see who are already members and then send a friend request to them.

It works like this:
The member enters their username and password to any of the supported web mail providers (hotmail, yahoo, gmail etc) and we’ll do a search of your contacts emails and the community member’s emails and see if there are any matches. If there are matches we’ll encourage you to send friend requests to them and if there are not you can send invite emails to them.
Don’t worry, your privacy is important to us. We will not store your username and password. We will not send any unwanted emails to your contacts.

The more the merrier we say and hope you’ll agree :) We all want to be with our friends right? If you have friends who are interested in Sweden then why not use this service to send them invites? Enjoy!

Click here to check out the invite friends feature.

VisitSweden’s new website live!

On tuesday the 26th of August at 09:00 the new website for VisitSweden went live!
http://www.visitsweden.com

new visitsweden

It’s been almost a year of hard work and we’re very happy with the result. It’s been a few days now since it went live and the response so far has been amazing!

I’d especially like to mention:

  • Popular and relevant user generated content from the CommunityOfSweden.com is shown on the new visitsweden.com
  • An extensive implementation of Google Maps to show special points of interest in Sweden and to navigate the site.
  • Bigger, better and more beautiful photos!

Our own Margareta Björnberg, senior webmaster, has been the project manager of the entire project.

Design by Starsky.
Development by Cloud Nine.

Winners of the Swedish Travel Stories Competition!

Win SJ train travel in Sweden worth SEK 5,000!
Sweden has 25 provinces and they all have something amazing to offer. By entering a travel story in english from your favourite province you have a chance to win some great prizes!

That sums up the competition in a nutshell. Now it’s time to present the winners!

Cedric Pieterse has won the 1st prize! He’s recently moved to his girlfriend in Uppsala from South Africa. He wrote a story about bicycling in and around Uppsala. Read the entire story here.

The visitors on the competition site voted and the VisitSweden jury chose a winner.

Here’s the jury’s comments:

“The winner has written an inspirational description of a relaxed and enviromentally friendly way to discover one’s surroundings, rich with facts and with personal insight into the richness of the city and nature environment.”

We also asked Cedric a few questions.

Where will you go with the SEK 5,000 in SJ travel checks you’ve won?

Well, Sweden is a big place, and I have not seen much of the country, so I will look at the maps and make a choice. I am going to Kiruna soon, so maybe South will be a good place to start…

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to Sweden.


I am from South Africa, and I had an engineering company that I sold so that I could travel. I had been travelling for four years, and had a lot of travel partners from Europe that joined me on my trip in Africa. I drove an old Land Rover, so there was always space for people. One day a very nice Swedish girl came on board, and well here I am!

Why did you choose to write about bicycling and Uppsala?


I have always enjoyed cylcing, and did a lot of it in South Africa, so when I got to Sweden, I decided to buy myself a bicycle to explore the area a bit. I do not own a car yet so cycling is the natural choice. One really get in touch with yor surroundings on a bicycle, the sounds, smells, and the hills! Uppsala, well this is where we stay, and my girlfriend is working, so I had a lot of free time to explore the area. I am currently busy with SFI, a Swedish language course for beginners, so I do not cycle so much. I do cycle to class every day, come rain or snow. It is the ice that makes things rather interesting. Read my story “The ministry of funny walks” in the communityofsweden.com website.

You’re also a member of Sweden’s official online community CommunityOfSweden.com How do you like it?


I think it is brilliant! It is a fantastic way to get to know the culture, and the place a bit better. It is also a nice place to meet other people online, that shares the same interests. There are some nice photos as well, and this is an excellent tool to market Sweden as a travel destination.

What about Sweden do you think is most peculiar?


The language is pretty much out there as a peculiarity, also the way people stop for you at pedestrian crossings. I am not used to that. In Africa, no-one will stop for you. Every time I get to a pedestrian crossing here, I feel sooooo guilty for making a car stop. I tend to wait in the background untill there is no traffic before I cross over!

Cedric won train travel from SJ worth SEK 5,000. The other winners for their respective provinces won the photo book “Swedish!”. Here are the other winners:

Bohuslän
√Öke Svensson

Gästrikland
Stellan Eriksson

Halland
Siw Christensen

Jämtland
Markku Pispa

Lappland
Jeff Perro

Norrbotten
Thomas Lahtinen

Skåne
Karin Hoffman

Småland
Rickard Nordin

Södermanland
Eva Westin

Uppland
David Jaffray

Värmland
Entered by “V√§rmland”

Västergötland
Kerstin Thorell

√Öngermanland
Annica Sjölander

Öland
Annika Wilks

The books are in the mail!
We would like to thank you all for your participation and of course SJ for their great 1st prize.
Thank you! :)

New features in CommunityOfSweden.com

I want to mention three updates on CommunityOfSweden.com.
You’ll already be aware of these updates if you are an active member.

Search

In january, two months after the launch, we finally added Search. You can now search amongst stories, members, forum posts and photos. The search automatically searches through all these types by default but you can also limit your search to just photos, for example, if you know that’s what you are interested in.
Discuss Search here in the forum.

screenshot search

Share

We recently added the feature “Share” which makes it possible for you to send the web adress(URL) of the current page you’re on to one or more email addresses to your friends.
The share button can be found on member pages, photos, stories and forum posts.
Discuss Share here in the forum.

screenshot share

Newsletter

We’re now conducting an online survey on CommunityOfSweden.com. It asks 10 questions about how the perfect community newsletter should be. If you want a CommunityOfSweden.com newsletter and you want to make yourself heard then here is your chance. Go to any My Page on CommunityOfSweden.com and the survey should start.
Discuss the Newsletter here in the forum.

Thanks!
See you around in CommunityOfSweden.com

Tommy Sollén, Community Manager