On Friday we quietly rolled out the first of a series of changes that will transform the look and user experience of our website and emails over the next 4 months.
You might have seen this coming. I’ve been tweeting about the work involved in the rebrand for some time and our blog received the make-over treatment about four weeks ago (alongside the introduction of a companion Tumblr blog). The redesign includes a cleaner looking website that will support more advanced features designed to help you find the perfect deals and offers.
The first thing to receive some simplification love was our logo. The original version was a play on the dictionary definition format, but it’s caused us problems since people struggle to know how our name should be written. We’ve seen Buy-o-metric, Buy.o.metric, Buy O metric to name a few. We are Buyometric, and now that’s exactly what our logo says.
The site has benefitted from an overall de-clutter and brings us back in line with our philosophy at launch – that our technology should provide the wow factor over fancy graphics. We are an engine designed to save people money by matching them with the deals and offers they will be most interested in. Our technology is sophisticated and intelligent. We want our brand to communicate this message.
Aside the aesthetics, the coming months will see a series of upgrades that will completely change the way that customers will use our website. While the bulk of the changes are being release through-out September, two new features are been introduced today in beta format.
You can now search for deals using the search bar at the top of every page. Once we see some search activity we will learn more about how the search should work and what results you are expecting to see, and so this first version is very much a beta release. The search results will still be sensitive to your location and other factors that we know about you to help personalise the experience.
The are some amazing online offers to be found for short breaks and holidays. Today we have launched a new Travel section that will facilitate the uncovering of these travel deals. We will be increasing the number of travel deals available in this section over the coming months as we learn what types of offers are most popular.
We have improved the login experience after much feedback from users, and have also improved the existing facilities for changing usernames and passwords. Both were proving a little buggy and the user experience wasn’t great.
The next wave of improvements will hit the site in about 3 weeks time when will build on this redesign. We hope you approve of the changes so far and would love to hear your feedback.
The Buyometric office is lucky enough to be located within easy access to the London 2012 Olympic Park. A few of us have made the most of this fact, attending a whole range of sports including diving, hockey, weight lifting and athletics. And we’re not done yet – Paralympic tickets are already in the bag. We’re proud to be able to say that we were there, and we are proud of London for putting on an amazing games.
Many people have commented on the amazing flower meadows throughout the park.
The Orbit, made up of recycled washing machines, dominates the park.
We have an interesting challenge here at Buyometric. The number of emails we send out on a daily basis is increasing rapidly, but the timeframe we have to deliver them is remaining constant. Imagine increasing the quantity of breakfast cereal that you pour into your bowl by 5% each morning. One of these days, you’re going to end up in a mess.
Our goal is to deliver an individually tailored email to every one of our users by 10am at the very latest. The email contains some deals that are only available for one day, so the earlier you receive the deals the longer you have to ponder a purchase before time runs out – or the deal sells out. Our classification and email creation processes is completed at around 8am, which gives us a 2 hour window to deliver the emails.
That’s no problem when your sending 10 emails, or 100, or 1,000 or 10,000. But what happens when you are sending hundreds of thousands of emails?
We’ve been finding out. Recently our 10am deadline has been slipping. Some days our mail server would crash altogether, and on others it would grind to a halt after chewing through all the available memory. Sometimes emails can’t be delivered and our server needs to keep trying. On these days, the extra load of repeated delivery attempts would cause something of a nuclear reaction and kill our sending processes dead.
The problem peaked about two weeks ago, where the last emails to be delivered were being received at around 2pm. This was totally unacceptable for us – something had to be done.
The fine folks at Catn, who provide and maintain our infrastructure, worked with us to come up with a solution. First we tried switching to a memory based mail server, but that didn’t cut it, so we ended up moving the server to a machine with a faster disc and much higher memory allocation. We’ve also started compressing our emails prior to dispatch to reduce the overall file size and eliminate any unnecessary overhead.
The result are looking good. We’re back within our target window, with email currently being fully dispatched shortly after 9am. That enables us to roughly double in size before we need to look at a further upgrade. At this rate we’d better book that in right around Christmas time…
Little did we know that Dan, the latest addition to our development team, was secretly taking photos of our last glamorous photoshoot. Our amazing photographer has finally been unmasked…
Last Sunday I ran the London Marathon, and it will go down as one of the greatest experiences of my life. You might be reading this as a veteran marathon runner and find yourself nodding in agreement, but if you’re someone that has never considered it before, I would urge you to give it a go.
At the beginning of the month we started a campaign to raise funds for The Prostate Cancer Charity and Breast Cancer Care. Together they are the most common forms of cancer in the UK and will have touched many of our lives. Within the last few years I lost my Grandfather to prostate cancer, so it’s a cause particularly close to my heart.
To help the charities with their work in prevention and education we decided to make a donation for every transaction processed through Buyometric during April. I also signed up to run the London Marathon for the charities to personally contribute what funds I could raise from my cash strapped relatives and friends.
The training was very hard. I’m not a natural runner – nor naturally athletic in any respect – and am far better off with a computer than any kind of gym equipment. That said, running in the dark through snow and sheet ice can’t be anyone’s idea of fun. In the past few months I’ve tripped over fallen branches, cut my legs on barbed wire, and misplaced many a step straight in to deep mud. And it’s not just physically demanding – my family have suffered from the lack of my presence over the weekends when I’d be out for 3 or 4 hours running then too exhausted to be of any use. On a positive note, the carb loading was truly welcome.
Then the big day arrived. The night before I accidentally melted my charity running vest while attempting to iron my name to the front, so an emergency kit change kept me up late into the night. It was a very early start up to Greenwich Park where the toilet queues were only beaten in length by the number of instructions to remember. How much water to drink, when to take energy gels, and how to pace myself all went out the window when I crossed the start line because all I could concentrate on where the crowds. Tens of thousands of people cheering, shouting my name, willing me on. It was awesome.
They were there the whole time. It’s a strange feeling when your body is screaming you to stop, while your mind is grasping for any reason to continue. It’s those times when you need the crowd.
I reached the finish line in a time of 4 hours 23 minutes, a time that I’m delighted with. It means I beat both Gordon Ramsay and Will Young who both finished along side me. The sense of achievement was temporarily replaced by nausea and I was forced to sit under a tree in St James’ Park for half an hour feeling terrible. A pizza seemed to cure it.
The sense of elation to have completed the London Marathon is hard to describe. The tragic death of Claire Squires at mile 25 is a reminder that this is an extraordinarily demanding feat. Despite the pain and gruelling training, I am already having withdrawal symptoms and am trying to work out how I could improve my time if I were to do it again. Perhaps not next year – I owe my family a break – but I think I’ll probably be back some day soon.
You can ready more about my personal story at justgiving.com/pauljohnfisher, however for now i’d just like to say a very big thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign and sent me direct messages of support – I read each and every one and can assure you they helped me get through to the end!
The new law has been widely derided by anyone who knows anything about web technology. The EU were trying to protect privacy, particularly from cross domain tracking which allows an organisation to collect large quantities of data on people and use that data for commercial purposes. However the vast majority of cookies are used in very simple ways – for example a cookie (which is basically a text file) might just contain your username and password to help you log in to a website, or it might contain some preferences that you have set so that your favourite website is shown using the particular layout that you like.
A good example is our auto-login cookies log_u and log_p. Like many websites, we give people the option to “remember me” when logging in. When you do this, we set a cookie on your computer that contains your email address (log_u) and encrypted password (log_p). When you revisit our website we check for this cookie and use the data to log you in. Only our software can decode your password, so it is safe from preying eyes!
Over the coming weeks we will be thinking about how we can make the setting of cookies more explicit throughout our site, in a way that doesn’t inhibit the user experience. It’s quite a challenge.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting men in the UK. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting women in the UK. Together, 87,000 people are diagnosed with prostate or breast cancer every year. That number is hard to comprehend, but each and every one of those people is somebody’s son or daughter. Many are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and grandparents.
Most of us have a personal connection to one of these two cancers. For my part, I lost my Grandfather to prostate cancer in 2010. As with many cases, early diagnosis could have made all the difference, which is why campaigns that raise awareness of the symptoms of disease are so vital. Throughout April Buyometric will be supporting the Prostate Cancer Charity and Breast Cancer Care, who between them are aiming to raise £1 million to support their work in cancer education and support. Every time you purchase a deal through Buyometric during April we will make a donation to the charities on your behalf*.
Our fundraising efforts will culminate on the 22 April when I will be running the London Marathon for TeamPB – the join running team for the two charities. It will be my first (and last!) marathon and so I want to make it count.
You can support our campaign simply by continuing to use Buyometric as you always do. You can also tell your friends and family about us or – if you are able to – donate directly to my London Marathon challenge at justgiving.com/pauljohnfisher
I will be posting updates on my training to the blog over the coming weeks as well as a follow-up after the big event at the end of the month.
Fingers crossed I make it across the finish line!
*Between 1st April and 30th April 2012, Buyometric will donate 10 pence for every sale made over the value of £2 to Paul Fisher’s Team PB marathon fundraising target. Team PB is a fundraising partnership between Breast Cancer Care and The Prostate Cancer Charity. Donations will be equally divided between the Prostate Cancer Charity and Breast Cancer Care.
Breast Cancer Care is a charity registered in England and Wales (1017658) and in Scotland (SCO38104). Registered in England company number 2447182. The Prostate Cancer Charity is a charity registered in England and Wales (1005541) and in Scotland (SCO39332). Registered in England company number 2653887
Hands up, we had a problem. Every once in a while we’d get a message from a user who couldn’t read our emails. “Red text on a black background is a terrible combination!” the emails would say. We were baffled – our emails are white – are you really talking about our emails?
But last week the complaints increased. And then there were screenshots. Oh dear.
I followed up with as many customers as possible. It turns out that a few combinations of Windows and Internet Explorer were resulting in the incorrect rendering of our HTML email in webmail clients. Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail all equally affected.
The problem sounds like something that’s easy to fix. A bgcolor= here, inline CSS background-color there. But not so – it was a very stubborn bug. In the end we ditched our old email template completely and set about creating a new one. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time now so that we can create rules to adapt the email layout depending on the device being used. For example, on an iPhone our deal titles were too small to be read easily and there was too much information cluttering up smaller screens.
We based the new deal email on the HTML Email Boilerplate by Sean Powell. Even with this solid start it wasn’t easy getting it looking consistent across all devices and email clients. Yahoo Mail renders the email as if it’s being viewed on a mobile device – even on a desk top, and Hotmail/Live wont show background images, which we use to make sure the email width can be scaled for mobile screens. Our thanks go to the diligent folks at Campaign Monitor for their work on css support for email which proved invaluable in this task.
It’s a work in progress, but the first version of the new templates was rolled out to all users today. Fingers crossed, no more black background.
On Monday we rolled out a new partnership which brings daily deals to the UK student population. The site, VouchMANIA.com, has been developed in conjunction with the 2Study Foundation, a charity that provides university students in England and Wales with ‘means tested’ hardship awards that range from £500 to £3,000.
Initially the site will be marketed to 250,000 university students from a group of supporting universities over the next few weeks through a new student social networking site money2study.com. Eighty per cent of net profits generated from the site will be donated to the 2Study Foundation.
We’re delighted to be working with the VouchMANIA.com team and the 2Study Foundation by providing access to our deals aggregation platform. Students have not been heavily targeted by daily deal websites until now but we expect to see strong uptake, particularly because all purchases will help fellow students in need.
View the full press release here
Yesterday I joined Kate Garraway on stage at the Daily Deal Summit Europe to discuss customer engagement strategies and personalisation in daily deals. The event was attended by most of the key players across Europe and it was a great pleasure to meet both partners and competitors to compare notes and share stories.
Our thanks go to the organising team for putting on the event – we are very much looking forward to DDSummitEurope 2013!