Archive for the ‘My Sites’ Category

A Lighter Carsurvey.org

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

The 2 pixel thick black borders are now only 1 pixel thick. Hopefully this will make Carsurvey.org rather easier on the eye, as the old thicker borders tended to distract from the actual page content.

I may experiment with lightening the borders further (grey rather than black) if this change is well received. No plans for curved corners or gradients though, just in case anyone thinks Carsurvey.org is arriving late to the Web 2.0 style party.

CarFilter.co.uk is no more

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Almost two years ago I launched a little experimental site called CarFilter.co.uk, which was a Google Custom Search Engine for UK car reviews.

It never really got any traction, so I’ve taken the decision to close it down.

Carsurvey.org Recommended Reviews

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

In an attempt to make finding high quality reviews easier, I’ve added a new navigation feature to most of the reviews on Carsurvey.org.

Where there’s at least three reviews for a particular car model, the old “All XXX YYY reviews” link is supplemented by two Recommended Reviews at the foot of the main review text. These reviews are chosen based on the following:

  • Long reviews are favoured over short reviews. This is based on the review word counts
  • Reviews must have summary text available
  • If there are lots of reviews from the same geographic region, those will be favoured over other regions. Read a UK and Ireland review, and more UK and Ireland reviews will probably be recommended.
  • How close the year of manufacture is to the current review; closer is better
  • If there are lots of reviews for the current year, the old “All XXX YYY reviews” link is replaced by a year specific link. For example, “All Ford Focus reviews” may become “All 2001 Ford Focus reviews”.

Also, there’s a predictable order in the recommended reviews, so it can be used as a next/previous system for reading recommended reviews.

As usual, this has also been rolled out to the motorcycle and mobile phone sites, and any feedback would be much appreciated.

Flag icons for Carsurvey.org reviews

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Following a request from a regular visitor, I’ve just released an update to Carsurvey.org (and related sites), which displays flag icons in various lists of reviews.

The flags are pretty small, but that’s so they’re not overly distracting on a text-centric site. Related to this, the happy and sad faces have been deemphasized, to allow the consistent placement of the icons.

The Reviews by Regions feature is still available for visitors who want to only see reviews from a specific region.

Thanks to Mark James for the excellent free flag icon set that I’ve used.

Improved list of Airlines

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

I’ve recently been busy with lots on unglamorous infrastructure work (if you’ve ever heard of Unicode, you’ll feel my pain), but in a spare hour I found the time to make a small improvement to the Airline Flight Reviews site.

Previously the front page used to show the 100 or so airlines with the most reviews.

Now the page shows the airlines (around 75) with the most reviews of flights from the last few years.

So many of the once popular airlines (GO for example) that no longer exist have been banished from the front page, and some newer airlines (such as Silverjet) have taken their place.

Hopefully this will make it easier to find recent reviews for popular airlines.

Carsurvey.org featured on Google’s AdSense Blog

Friday, February 8th, 2008

For anyone who’s interested, the Google AdSense Blog has recently added an article featuring Carsurvey.org. There’s a bit of site history in there, as well as various suggestions for optimising the performance of Google AdSense placements.

Carsurvey.org Search 3.0

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

After spending far more time than I originally intended, I’ve just released improved search functionality to Carsurvey.org.

New features include:

  • Phrase searching (via double or single quotes)
  • Engine sizes can now be found, and the system understands that 1.6 and 1.6L (and similar variations) are searches for the same thing
  • For reviews: results in key fields, such as manufacturer, model, and engine are now weighted above results in the faults and general comments text. This gives more relevant results for most searches
  • Review results are weighted towards the longer reviews

Engine details now displayed in lists of reviews on Carsurvey.org

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Carsurvey.org now displays the engine details in the lists of reviews on the site. Sounds like a trivial change (and it was in terms of the coding required), but in a classic case of why you should eat your own dog food, I was struggling to find reviews of a 1.6 Vauxhall Zafira on my own website (someone I know bought one recently).

It’s rare that you get to view a site that you work on every day, through the eyes of a normal user, so not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, I’ve made some changes to the layout of the pages that list the reviews by model.

I much prefer the new layout (I tested quite a few alternatives), and hopefully regular visitors will like it too.

Model Statistics Pages

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

I’ve just release an update to Carsurvey.org, which displays average review scores for different model, region and year combinations. See the Ford Focus Statistics for an example, and note the warning about not reading too much into these statistics.

A few people have asked me for a similar feature over the years, and if it gets a lot of use, I’ll spend more time on improving it.

To clarify things for those who are interested, the averages displayed are arithmetic means. Whilst writing this feature, I experimented with more statistical language, and other statistical measures, but came to the conclusion that it was best to keep things simple.

The statistics pages are also being used to test a new URL structure.

Compare:

http://www.carsurvey.org/by-region/uk+and+ireland/ford/focus/statistics/

to an old style

http://www.carsurvey.org/countrymodelyear
_UK+and+Ireland_Ford_Focus_2004.html

Forced lower case, slashes instead of underscores, much easier to guess URLs, and all content from a particular region in its own subdirectory.

In case I forget, these changes also apply to the motorcycle and mobile phone sites.

Airline site update

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

The airline site has just received a set of minor updates:

  • Tweaks to the page width and layout, to make things work better on 800×600 displays
  • New page footer with  explicit copyright, advertising and privacy policy links

A full rewrite of the Airline site (probably under its own domain) is on my todo list, but I don’t have any timescales for that right now.