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CitySearch offers new look, expert recommendations

June 28, 2012|By Michelle Maltais
  • CitySearch focuses on giving users recommendations from experts in the area.
CitySearch focuses on giving users recommendations from experts in the… (CitySearch )

CitySearch has gotten more than just a nip and a tuck for its 16th birthday. The site has been redesigned from top to bottom, inside and out.

It is all about being more easily visually digestible, with prominent photographs and compact expert tips highlighting what's the best in your city, not lengthy everyman reviews.

"The success of the review has, in essence, become its failure,” said Kara Nortman, senior vice president, consumer businesses at CityGrid Media. "The sheer volume of opinions being expressed by customers on review sites is deafening."

Its new approach to recommendations focuses on serving up easily digestible tips from expert scouts who know the city being searched. In fact, CitySearch's remodeled homepage features "new and notable" businesses, written by expert captain, with heavy emphasis on restaurants and designed with the mobile lifestyle in mind.

In the top right corner above the fold, the homepage also highlights the trending businesses in each category.

To cut through some of the online clutter and chaos, Nortman said, CitySearch has enlisted the input of a crew of captains and a team of more than 100 scouts across 10 major markets including Los Angeles, San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Chicago; Austin, Texas; Houston; Atlanta; Philadelphia; and New York City

In L.A., Adrianna Adarme will be lending her voice to the site. She has a cookbook debuting next spring and runs the popular blog acozykitchen.com, which CitySearch said gets more than 600,000 unique page views a month. 

Most of their scouts write about food, except for Portland's -- he just runs the city. Mayor Sam Adams will be moonlighting as a resident expert for CitySearch.

On the right side of the homepage, CitySearch introduces these personalities making the recommendations. And at the bottom, it has introduced its mascot -- Sid, as in Sid E. Serch -- who shows up against the backdrop of the city being searched.

In addition to tighter expert recommendations, you can see straight off that the site is also focusing on visual appeal. The photographs are prominent and accessible as are the ratings. With its rating on the photo, you can get an at-a-glance read on the place and click in for more detail. 

Once you click into the page, you get a clean, easy-to-read map that you can expand for more detail and directions without leaving the site. Google Maps has replaced Mapquest. On the left side of the page is CitySearch's new visual scorecard that rank businesses on various criteria on a scale from 0 to 100.

That said, the page can look rather spare if there aren't many offerings from scouts or tips from users.  

If you select all in a particular category from the homepage, you get thumbnails and a slide-up preview of details on the place, which you can click into.

While the focus on CitySearch, unlike Yelp, is on tight expert recommendations, users still can offer input and even their photos. They can rate businesses by recommending it or voting it down.

CityGrid Media's Nortman told The Times that mobile is a huge focus for the CitySearch site. The redesign was done with tablets and web at the forefront.

"User-experience is the product," she said.

To that end, the mobile app that we saw in what they told us was an exclusive preview is all about providing a good and uncomplicated user experience, from the uncluttered interface to the simple and elegant maps.

You could click on pin to open mini profile page. And to avoid the clutter that can come with more businesses than you can show on a small screen, CitySearch has bundled them together, indicating there's more than one business with a number on the pin. You can click in for more detail.

In fact, "our experts are generating their recommendations from the mobile app -- using it as content management system," Nortman told The Times. They are writing their tips and taking their photos within the app, and, as she pointed out, that means they have to physically be at the place they are reviewing.

More on the mobile version once it's available. CitySearch said that its newly redesigned mobile app will launch soon. The new site is available now. 

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