Over the past two weeks we released a couple of important features for LockerPulse. As I touched upon when I returned from my trip, we’ve got a few interesting opportunities in the works so I’m spending as much time as I can building out the software.
The first thing we tackled was a custom wallpaper feature. Users can now upload a background image of their choice, or choose from our various background images. This is one of those things that doesn’t appear to be that important, but when you’re using the site multiple times per day it adds a nice touch to have a nice high resolution background image of your favorite team or player.
Much more importantly, was the release of our search engine towards the end of last week. I can’t tell you how often I overhear something related to sports when I’m out or as I’m walking past the TV or in a Tweet. I’m always curious and want to know more. I previously resorted to using Twitter or Google News, but since launching LockerPulse I found myself searching our database because we had more/better information than those two did.
Anyone can now search our stories by hovering over the “search” icon on the left side of any page, or by going to LockerPulse.com/search. We have almost 600k stories indexed and growing fast. It took some work to refine it, and there are some limitations (like only returning 20 results) but for a first release I’m very happy with the results. Most queries are super fast. The older or more rare the topic, the longer it takes. We added a sidebar that shows Twitter results to supplement the main results. It really behaves like a “real-time” sports news search engine.
That in and of itself is pretty cool, but the main reason why this is important for us long term is that the search functionality is what will drive our fantasy sports offerings. The ability to track individual players is arguably more important to sports fans these days. Right now, if you perform a search for a player (say, because you need an injury update to know if they’ll be playing or not), it works really really good. We’ll be pumping in more fantasy news to the mix and then adding a “My Players” feature to the premium version. From a business standpoint, this will definitely help us sell premium accounts – the product is no longer strictly for leisure, it’s something that can help you win (prizes/money/bragging rights) in your fantasy league.
The third feature is one of my favorites: ajax crawlability using the new standard proposed by Google. Twitter is probably the example you’re most familiar of that does this. Let’s say you visit the LockerPulse home page and click on the Dallas Cowboys. The news will load all slick without a page refresh, but prior to having this feature in place if someone bookmarked the link or copied it somewhere, they would just see http://www.lockerpulse.com. Now, the URL looks like http://www.lockerpulse.com/#!NFL/Cowboys/. That link will redirect both users and search engines to http://www.lockerpulse.com/NFL/Cowboys/, our static version of the page.
This is even more useful (almost necessary) for the search engine. If I link you to a search for “Brett Favre” the link will look like this http://www.lockerpulse.com/search?q=Brett+Favre. But if you then decide to search for “Adrian Peterson” the search engine will load the results without a refresh and just tack #!search?q=Adrian Peterson on to the end of the URL. If someone then bookmarks that new link http://www.lockerpulse.com/search?q=Brett+Favre#!search?q=Adrian%20Peterson and then visits later they’ll be redirected to http://www.lockerpulse.com/search?q=Adrian%20Peterson and get the results for “Adrian Peterson” as intended, and not results for “Brett Favre”. Google Instant works in much the same way.
The reasoning behind why this is semi-difficult to do and why it’s so important is explained in full in this great article on SEOmoz.
The next few weeks I’m hoping to get a lot more done, but that will all be dependent upon how crazy DI gets. Looking up at the calendar we’re not too far away from Black Friday and Cyber Monday!