About.com has never been the coolest website on the internet. With a grayish background and an ugly logo, it was the place you landed when you searched for help with something, but you rarely went there on your own.
This is the product that Neil Vogel took over one year ago, when he was made CEO of About.com. Not much has changed on the outside, save for a few subtle design tweaks and the addition of social buttons (that’s right — there were no social buttons on About.com a year ago). But in a couple of months, the work that About‘s team has done for the past year will go public.
In the last year, the company has nearly doubled its staff, from 100 employees to 176, and has added about 20 percent more experts delivering content. We sat down with Vogel to discuss the challenges of rebranding and redesigning a site that still gets a tremendous amount of traffic (Vogel says that About.com is the 12th most trafficked site on the internet).
The last year has been spent updating the backend technology so that it’s capable of handling the front-end plans for the site, which will include a much more interactive element, according to Vogel. There has also been a huge focus on responsive web, as nearly 40 percent of About’s traffic comes from mobile devices and tablets.
But perhaps the most important challenge lies in the brand itself.
“We are an information resource and a database, but nobody wants to use a database or an information resource,” said Vogel. “People want to go to a beautiful place where they feel they can trust the advice they’re given. So our mission is to focus on helping people, as much as we can, and keep it as simple as that.”