New Blog Features

About a month ago I gave the blog a major makeover.

I’ve always felt that the content of the blog was more important than the design, so hadn’t been too concerned about making updates over the years. Ultimately, there wasn’t anything wrong with the old design, rather it was just outdated.

The main opportunities, however, were on the “back end” and were starting to become a major limitation. There wasn’t really a way to keep my old design and have new technology, so I really appreciate you guys taking a leap of faith with me. Just to give you an idea of some of the things that are now possible that weren’t before:

  • I can now upload and insert multiple images at a time, which is saving hours every week
  • Images are larger (700 pixels wide), and I can set some pictures to be larger when you click on them, which should be helpful for menus and such
  • More menu items can be added across the top of the page, including sub-menus, which I wasn’t able to have before
  • The Ask Lucky page actually loads in less time than it takes Dominos to deliver
  • There is more I can do with the sidebar, and actually making this real estate useful

With a new site comes a lot of new “bells and whistles”, and I know that it has taken me some time to get used to, so I am sure it has taken you guys some time as well. There have been tons of tweaks and adjustments made as we all get used to the new formatting, and I really appreciate all the feedback. Keep it coming!

In terms of the “front end” there are several functionality improvements that have been added, so I thought it might be helpful to go through some of the new features, as I think they will be quite helpful.

Start Here

At the top of the site there is a new link in the menu to “Start Here.” This seems like an obvious place to start the tour. ;)

new-features-start-here

One of the main challenges I have with the blog is there is so much content, and it’s hard to find. I have written over 7,000 posts over the years, so half the time I can’t even find stuff that I’ve written.

The other challenge is that much of what I write about is more “advanced” in terms of miles and points, and I honestly don’t want that to change, but I understand that can be intimidating for people who are new to the site or the hobby.

So this whole new section was created to help beginners to the points and miles game, but also to have a go-to place for those looking for specific resources.

Beginners Guide

I have attempted a 10-page series to serve as a “Beginners Guide”.

This section tackles everything from credit card strategy to an overview of loyalty programs. Creating a guide like this is something that I have been wanting to to for a while, because I think it is important to have a place for those that are new to points and miles, but it was surprisingly difficult to set up.

new-features-drop-down

Breaking things down to the beginner level in this game is tricky, because there is so much we take for granted. Everytime I speak at a FTU, for example, I always get the question of “Wait, so how exactly do I transfer miles from [whatever Star Alliance program] to ANA?” Everytime.

So obviously there’s a need for more entry-level content, but I don’t want to inundate the main page of the blog with more general posts.

This is a section that I would love some feedback on, and if you have extra thoughts or ideas the comments are open on each of those pages. Ultimately I’m not trying to create a comprehensive guide to the miles game here – just something I can point my dentist to that’s easily digestible.

Loyalty Programs And Links

It can be very frustrating to try to find the links to loyalty programs (since there are so many) and something that is even more challenging is finding phone numbers or award charts for those programs. I was googling the hours for the Korean Air call center about once a week, so making it easy to find a comprehensive list of of these for both airlines and hotels was important for me to have in this new site.

(All of the airline loyalty programs are listed, but I am still working on hotels)

Shopping & Dining Portals

This isn’t earth-shattering, but I feel like anything that makes it easier to earn miles and points is a win for everyone. I now have a page with shopping and dining portal sites listed, so everything is in one place.

Value Of Miles & Points

I get questions everyday about the relative value of x or y currency, so I’m excited to finally have this as a “sticky.” I will keep this updated as I change my valuations, so hopefully that’s helpful.

Tips & Tutorials

I tend to get a lot of questions about similar topics and I wanted to compile an assortment of some of the posts I think are resourceful. Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely NOT a comprehensive list, but I wanted to provide some posts that I think could potentially be helpful. If you have ideas of other posts that should be included, or a better way to organize this I’d love to hear it!

Anyways, I hope that these new resource sections will be helpful to y’all, because I know that they have already come in handy for me!

Best Credit Cards

There aren’t any major changes here, but wanted to mention it since I couldn’t have drop down menus on the old site.

I now have my top picks for the best miles and points offers, which I’ll update at least monthly, and then separate tabs with more comprehensive listings for airline, hotel, or flexible points currencies. I know I’m sometimes searching for a particular card or currency, so hopefully not having to search everything on a single page will be a bit easier.

Trip Reports

This has been an ongoing area of the site that I have been struggling to improve. I’ve flown over four million miles, and have stayed in who knows how many hotels, so there is just a lot of content to content with.

I have grand aspirations of more visual/sortable ways to handle the trip reports, but it was just getting to complicated to try and change everything at once. I am still trying to figure out the best way to organize each section, but in the meantime have adjusted the functionality to make it a little more useful than just a long list of links.

So instead of breaking out the trip reports by year (like they were previously), I’ve tried to group everything in ways that might be more helpful. Each trip report section is broken out in a different way, but the functionality is the same.

For the airline trip reports there is a list of all of the airlines at the top. If you click on one of the airlines it will then pull you down to that group of trip reports on the page. I also added a few more “identifiers” to the post titles to help, too, as I often get questions about the differences between two different aircraft types, etc..

new-features-trip-reports

Lounges and hotels are both broken down by city. I’m not sure if this is the best method, but if nothing else it’s more organized.

Again, any feedback you have on this section is welcome. This is all still a work in progress :)

Sidebar

One of the other things I’m really excited about is having more interesting tools in the sidebar.

Some things are staying the same, of course, like the ability to subscribe to the newsletter, or see the comments people have left recently. Also, even though the home page will now show the most recent dozen posts (a huge improvement over the old site that could only show five), there’s also a sidebar widget that will show the last ten posts.

new-features-recent-posts

Category List

This really isn’t a big change to the site, but I have received a lot of questions.. The old design had a long list of categories on the right side column. This was great for my “time on page” metrics, but not particularly nice looking, and took up a lot of space.

I also wanted to be able to feature more resources and new elements in the sidebar, so I decided instead of a list of categories that I would have a dropdown. With over 50 categories (and counting), I think that this was a good switch.

So, you can still find all of the same categories as before, but it just looks a little different ;)

new-features-categories

Is there anything else that would be useful in the sidebar?

Mobile

Hopefully this is working a bit better now, though I know the banner ad is still blowing off the side of the page. Apparently we don’t have the ability to have responsive ads yet, so I don’t have a great solution to that yet.

But I wanted to let you know that I’m aware, and am working on a solution.

Overall

This is definitely still a work in progress, but I am happy to finally have a site that is aesthetically improved, and is also capable of handling some of the more technological aspects.

Thank you for being patient through this whole process and for the feedback along the way. It means a lot that you guys stick around and read everyday!

Comments

  1. AC says

    As a web product manager, I do like the redesign and the direction that it is going. At least I can see comment section much easier without scroll down the whole content. Keep up the good work Ben :)

  2. Tom says

    Two things that are really needed:
    1) Number the comments in the comment section. People check back multiple times on popular topics and it is nice to be able to know that you left off around comment #40 and can pick back up easily.
    2) Create a way to search Ask Lucky and number the items. You’ve probably answered tons of questions multiple times and if we could search rather than asking again, this would be helpful to us and to you. With the old format, you could search the whole page using the browser. Now that it is on multiple pages, this browser search doesn’t work. Maybe if you could have a link to load the entire body of ask lucky in a single page for those who want it, that would work.

  3. Nick says

    1. I agree with you that the main opportunities are ALWAYS on the “back end.”

    2. Did you get rid of your blogroll?

    3. Any way you could *also* organize your trip reports your old fashioned way, chronologically, in addition to by airline?

  4. Bgriff says

    Reviewing the handy links to your mile and point valuations, I notice you’ve fallen into a logical trap again … your UR point valuation is currently lower than your valuation of their partner SQ.

    This is what you get for trying to provide a useful service to the community. :)

  5. lucky says

    @ Bgriff — Heh whoops, those were my old valuations. Hadn’t updated them recently. Fixed now!

  6. Peter says

    Ben, as a longtime reader, thank you for the ongoing great upgrades that continues to make your blog my #1 destination for info about miles and points!

  7. Ang says

    Thanks for re-organizing your trip reports! It is much much much easier to find everything!

  8. James says

    Appreciate all the work that went into this. Things are easier to find now!

    I actually miss the blogroll, though realize it was taking up too much space on your old site. I don’t know if you have any control over the BoardingArea bar at the top, but maybe if that could include a drop-down with links to other BA blogs, that would be nice. (The “Explore Categories” tab requires too many clicks, and is more useful for first-time visitors/surfers.)

  9. Todd says

    I love that we can search the whole blog, but I’d really like to be able to only search “Ask Lucky”. I know I can search with my browser, but that’s doesn’t allow boolean searches (and, or, not, etc.).

  10. Andy says

    Would be great to reply to a comment as a subcomment. It would eliminate the @ sign. MileValue has that feature, and it works well IMO.

  11. NB says

    Lucky, re: beginner’s guide— great job, but why wouldn’t you list Emirates as an “Other Key Airline” on the how alliances work page?

  12. Charlotte says

    This is a tremendous undertaking! I’m so appreciative of all the thought you put into the blog. You’ve got some great organizational roll-outs. I also would like to see the ability to reply directing to a comment, for both recent posts and the Ask Lucky page. I love how connected you are to your audience and always find myself coming back for more (when only a few hours have passed)!

  13. Neil35 says

    Thanks for all the hard work you put into “Start Here.”
    Do you plan to include EVA Air in the Loyalty Programs And Links section?

  14. SparkyinCA says

    You rock, Ben…Love your new website! It is a major overhaul and I’m getting used to it. I like it, bottom line…

    Keep up the great work and I hope our traveling paths cross sometime in the future.

    You’re a great guy and great writer with a great heart…I’ve learned so much from you!

  15. Baqa says

    FWIW there isn’t anything wrong with the mobile view on my Windows Phone (no banner ads blowing off the side of the page as you describe), so maybe it is platform specific?

    However, one thing that would be nice is having the total # of comments immediately before the comment section like it was on the old site. Right now it is at the top of the article and given the…in-depth…reporting you usually provide that is a long way to scroll back up on a mobile device to see how much time it will take to read the comments.

  16. V says

    While I like that you brought back the feature to jump to comments, it would be great to be able to do so without reloading the page!

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