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How Have You Customized Your Directory To Make It Stand Out From The Crowd?

Getting away from standard templates and features

8:35 pm on May 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Having worked with directories for years now, I have found the most successful directories are the ones that take the time to make something that is new and cool in some way. For some, that means making a a really catchy template, such as having a funny cartoon character, or cool feeling to the site. For others, it is how they added value for people who submit in some way. Still others did a great job of making their directories interactive, which is my favorite trend in which you don't just submit your link and leave forever. Instead, there are ways to participate on the site.

Have you encountered some cool customizations that really made a directory stand out?
6:16 am on May 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Because it is possible to rank for key phrases through directory submission, there is a demand for directories. In recent experiments, I have submitted to only NEW directories, and quickly ranked for a key phrase. It's hard to knock people for doing something that will bring about a positive result.

Now new directories are by nature going to be the most common configuration, but developed directories are likely to take on a more robust appearance. The same thing can be said for blogger.com blogs, phpBB forums, and google start pages.

There is an attraction by submitters to new directories because often the person who started it is more aggressive about adding links, so the likelihood of being accepted is higher. That is also why see newer directories that are just being announced looking more like a basic configuration.

Are there directories that are customized, and cool looking?

There are THOUSANDS. Hence, this is why I wanted to start a conversation about what people have done to customize their directory.

[edited by: Webwork at 12:02 pm (utc) on May 4, 2010]

12:31 pm on May 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Here's the rub to the dialogue you propose.

First, since we don't allow members to post their directory details, we've cut out a vast number of folks who would post for no better reason than to promote their directory. No loss there. I've read such posts elsewhere. Bleh.

Second, WebmasterWorld has been and continues to be home to the most competitive of web developers. Therefore many are not eager to step up and say "This is what I do to beat/best the competition".

That leaves room for a handful of non-promotional directory folks who are unafraid to disclose details of what may be their competitive advantage. Rare, but you've come to the right place as they're around here too. :P & ;)

FWIW, my version of directory customization trends towards mimimalist architecture. In other words, when it comes to the directory part of any website I'm not a big feature man.

I know that a currently popular version of customization is to allow visitors to add votes/endorsements to the directory listings. I get the value of service provider endorsements or negative disclosures. Unfortunately, as "voting systems" are now implemented I have ZERO confidence in the validity of the votes. Are the voters family? Are the competitors? Have they been incentivized to vote?

Short of requiring a small credit card payment before voting, to validate identity, I find the "value added" of most voting systems - as implemented - to approach ZERO. Therefore I haven't jumped on the bandwagon but continue to grope for a reliable solution in this area.

I know there are other add-ons that can be used to customize a directory but, when I consider them, I have to ask: "What is this site trying to be? A directory or what?" Often it's the "or what" AND, to my eye/experience, all the customization-stuff doesn't really enhance my experience of the directory's utility.

So, dvduval, to your knowledge 1) what customizations have enhanced user experience and, 2) how do you know that to be true?

Are there any reliable "directory industry" surveys of enduser experience?

Now there's an idea. :P
10:00 pm on May 4, 2010 (gmt 0)

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There are always new developments with directories. When you look at "general" directories, those can be a little "icky" sometimes, but there are lots of directories now that are interactive and have active users much like a forum or blog. And really, a directory is such a loose term.

When it comes to voting, probably only a few sites have come close to mastering it. Digg would be one of those, and probably Yelp would not be one of those. :) That's not to say directories shouldn't try to develop this area! In time, there will probably be some methods that are effective in producing more reliable results.

I've seen some great directories that bring about interaction between service providers and consumers. For example, one really awesome directory provides listings for contractors for an entire state (in the US) and all the contractors drive around with a sign on their vehicle, and thereby increase traffic and leads to each other, so it becomes a great benefit to be involved in the directory.

So integration of maps, and interactivity between users and listers in a directory would be a couple of examples of customizations that enhance user experience.

Concerning surveys, that is a good idea. I personally have thousands I could email in the industry. If you like we could arrange to coordinate an effort to get questions here on Webmaster World that we could then put into a survey, and publish the results. I'm sure it would be good for the industry, and help improve quality and growth.

[edited by: Webwork at 10:37 pm (utc) on May 4, 2010]
[edit reason] Sorry, but no particulars please [/edit]

12:27 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)


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Dvduval, I do a bit in the sphere, and you'd likely class my work as icky. My pages are text heavy and have few images ... I offer tightly themed collections of links and not much else.

The most interesting thing to do on most of my pages is click through to one of the listings, or maybe click an ad.

I don't know what users think about it, but I occasionally get thank you notes from businesses I have listed.

Rather than adding bells and whistles to the user experience, I'd be far more interested in tools to make life easier when it's time to go on broken link patrol.
3:32 am on May 5, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Buckworks, it sounds like you do a good job of covering your niche, and add a lot of the links yourself. That wouldn't be be "icky" to me. "Icky" is when directory owners accept just about any link, and don't bother having a solid policy for titles and descriptions. It's just a common pitfall for new directory owners, and sometimes you have to live and learn.

With regard to tools, one we have working now is a malware checker that goes through locates any sites flagged by google as malware. I would love to do a parked page checker, but I have haven't figured that one out yet, but plan to delve into that as soon as we have some free dev time.

And it is a good point that we need bells and whistles for the directory administrator, not just the users.

Oh, and Buckworks, I remember you from 2001. We both joined this site about the same time, and I remember we worked together briefly. Good to "see" you again. :)
5:27 am on May 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I know a general topic directory that has turned each category entry page into a mini blog with multiple articles hanging off that page. They keep creating long, well-researched articles and this helps to get green Google pixels to inner pages.
5:19 am on May 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I think that the key to making a directory stand out would be to totally rework the structure. Not just a slight change, but entirely new.

The ODP revolutionized the directory world. So much, in fact, that not only did everyone after them follow their lead, but even Yahoo changed their ontology to be closer to ODP's.

That structure was fine for 10 years ago, but so much has changed. Just a small example, the Computers category was grand for its time, but computers are no longer the only way to get the get the internet. And now that cell phones contain computers, what needs to be done?

Just my 5 cents worth...
5:51 am on May 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Maybe I'm missing something in the OP's query. Directories are lists. Most are opt in, ie. a beg to be included and are nothing more than "yellow pages". Or the "directory creators" are trolls inserting entries in a "yellow pages" to arm twist others. I use that term to make sure folks understand that search engines are white pages (inclusive of all) and directories are yellow pages, that other book, mostly pay to be included, which is a subset of the white pages. I am not impressed with "directories" and generally do not waste time on them. Heck, most of the time I don't even google... I bing... and I do that because bing is more about service and results.

Long and short, I see "directories" as link farms. Pretty sure I'm not in the minority in that regard... FWIW, YMMV, IMHO.
7:38 am on May 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Well, Yahoo was around before the ODP. In fact, the ODP tried to trade on the goodwill associated with the Yahoo brand by calling themselves, NewHoo.

In any case, what was notable about the ODP was the volunteer editor style of building the directory. Zeal was another volunteer based directory, it came out around the same time as the ODP.

While they were both more or less volunteer based, Zeal had more of a community feel to it, while ODP, in my opinion felt more closed. The innovation by Zeal was to make you feel as if you joined a wide open community. Joining the ODP felt like being accepted to a religious order.

I think between the two, ZEAL succeeded over others in creating a community. In my opinion that was an important innovation. There was something sunny about Zeal.
1:28 pm on May 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The "NewHoo" days lasted less than a month. FAR less, if I recall. I always thought it funny that Yahoo got upset about the supposed trademark violation -- which I would have fought if it were up to me -- but had no problem at all changing its own structure to match ODP's. But maybe I'm biased. :)

"Sunny" is a good way to describe Zeal.

That directory came about during a pretty heated political fight in ODP, and as a result, many ODP editors, craving the easy editing and apolitical atmosphere which had slipped away at ODP, ended up there.

The big draw, in the case of my husband and me, was the fact that Zeal would pay a small amount of money for each edit to the charity of your choice.

The Lupus foundation got quite a bit of money from me during that time.

When they sold out to LookSmart, it was a sad day, but there were still other directories which were all-volunteer, and which many ODP editors participated in.

ODP was the best search world "experiment," due in large part to Skrenta's genius and ability to think outside the box, and to the creativity and resolution of hundreds of core editors.

But, IMHO, the day of the volunteer directory are over. There are enough directories which pay to support those who are hardcore editors quite well, thank you very much. :)

But as I said, I believe that the ODP model, which dominates the internet now, is over. Those are the directories which can be compared to link farms. But you have several "up and comers" which are totally different from that model, and those are the ones which have been, are, and will be successful in the long run. In my opinion, of course.
6:21 pm on June 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Laisha, you spoke of "up and comers" that are totally different, but didn't mention any specifics, yet that is the question posed by the thread. I would love to hear what those directories are doing that is different.