When it comes to social sites on the Internet, Dogster and Catster have to be doing something right — they’ve been profitable for the past three years. But that doesn’t mean they should just sit back and not tweak the sites at all to offer a better user experience, and they know it. That’s why both sites have undergone a complete refresh. In what CEO Ted Rheingold is calling basically a “full reboot,” the logo, layout, taglines, and even the services have all been revamped.
For those unaware of the obvious, Dogster is a social network for dog owners, while Catster is a social network for cat owners. But Rheingold started realizing that people weren’t just coming for the social aspects of the sites, they were coming for information and services. So this revamp puts an emphasis in those areas. It’s a mixture of community created content and professional content.
“Community services are great for adding tons of content, but not for organizing it,” Rheingold says. And with so many people coming to the site from search engines, they often get confused when they get there. So the two sites are now much more curated. Those running the sites look for the best information provided from the community and mix it with the best professional information they have to put up. Rheingold feels this mixture is the best way to do it because, “people don’t like trusting what they read on the internet from other people — often, they like experts. But experts usually have an angle though so people don’t always trust them either.” In fact, he thinks this mixture will be the future of all community content sites.
On top of the refresh, Dogster and Catster have a few new partnerships they’ve entered into. The first is a long-term strategic partnership with Petfinder.com. You can now search for and bookmark adoptable dogs and cats via the adoption areas on Dogster and Catster. And those that decide to adopt will be pointed to Dogster and Catster as a way to keep getting information about their new pets.
Another relationship involves Yext, which allows Dogster and Catster members to find the best vets in their area. Rheingold notes that Yext does such a good job with services like this that it just made much more sense to partner with them rather than try to do their own thing.
Finally, Dogster and Catster are some of the first partners to use Hunch’s new decision-making widgets. “The goal here is to present the lowest barrier to engagement for a persone with questions while still offering someone customized help,” Rheingold says, noting that even users without profiles can get access to great information this way.
Another new thing Dogster and Catster are trying is engagement emails. Rheingold realizes that a lot of people visit sites but then don’t go back for whatever reason, so this is a way to keep them involved with information they may care about. For example, if Dogster/Catster knows you got a puppy or kitten six months ago, they might now send you an email to give you some information that you should know for animals that age. Rheingold notes that they have a million registered users but advertisers don’t care so much about that — they just care about engagement. And this is a way to keep people engaged.
Rheingold also notes that Dogster and Catster are seeing about 4 percent of all of their traffic coming from the iPhone now. That’s much more than he ever expected, and that was another reason why they wanted to redesign the site. Everything is much better suited for a smaller screen now, he notes. Mule Design were the ones who worked on the redesign.