Citysearch has received its first major update/facelift since it added video in May of 2007. The new beta site went live last night (was too tired to write about it then) and I’ve just played with it for about 15 minutes.
I did however have a chance to speak with Citysearch CEO Jay Herratti last week about the redesign and new features. There’s also a new mobile site (or an update) that’s launching in parallel, which makes it possible to write reviews on the go and will be optimized for different handsets and mobile platforms. The current mobile site is powered by Earthcomber and I’m not sure if that remains true “going forward.”
Here’s the current Citysearch site:
Here’s the new beta site:
It’s a better looking, less cluttered site — although there’s still a great deal of information there. A major change is that the content has been organized into neighborhoods (based on the Maponics neighborhood database). One can now see improved listings by neighborhood accordingly.
Another significant change is that users can sign in to Citysearch using the Facebook Connect system. That saves them from having to register at Citysearch but it also benefits Citysearch in the following ways:
- Reviews and activity on Citysearch are displayed on Facebook to my network
- My friends on Facebook who are also registered on Citysearch will show up in the “My” area of the site. Effectively this system (assuming crossover participation) allows me to “filter” reviews by my Facebook network on Citysearch
- This potentially provides additional “distribution” for Citysearch merchants and Citysearch exposure to the Facebook user base
The “write a review” process has been simplified as well:
This is partly about mobile. More and more local “online” reviews are going to come from mobile devices. And the above form allows me to simply indicate a star rating if I like. I can also add a few comments; but it’s a streamlined process vs. what existed before.
Users can also rate and comment on reviews now. While that adds some clutter and complexity, it will also likely mean that legitimate reviews are boosted and fake, unreasonable or dubious reviews are demoted. It also gives owners and interested third parties the ability to discuss particular reviews.
Another very interesting choice is the way Citysearch is seeking to present the “three voices” of the site (owners, editors and users). They’ve chosen a three column format that appears on the profile page of every business:
This gives users helpful content and gives owners the ability to present their perspective on the first page, taking away the temptation to write fake or stealth reviews for their own shops/stores/restaurants/services.
Citysearch also offers a revamped video player and experience; and it has a more “social networky” feel in general:
Overall these are very positive and potentially significant changes — including the new emphasis on mobile — for Citysearch, which remains the leader in the local A&E segment. However Yelp has been gaining over the past two years though, according to Compete, it hasn’t yet reached Citysearch traffic levels: