You may have noticed changes to the Frequent Miler site recently: Quick Deals are no longer split out from regular posts; Author bios now appear under each post; site menus have been drastically simplified; and everywhere you look you’ll see “Earn Miles Without Flying: Start Here.”
Some of the changes may be disorienting, especially since many changes are still in progress. What’s going on? Here’s the story…
A chaotic mess
Frequent Miler started as a straightforward blog with a focus on earning points, miles and status through credit card spend. But it wasn’t long before I started tacking on extra stuff. Lot’s of stuff.
Over time I added:
- The Frequent Miler Laboratory where people can find and report on mile earning experiments.
- Credit Card Best Offers page where I always list the best credit card offers regardless of whether or not I earn an affiliate commission. I later added other “best” credit card pages such as: Best rewards for everyday spend, Best category bonuses, and Best big spend bonuses.
- A subscription based miles and points tutorial newsletter titled Free Trips & Tricks.
- Deal Alert emails sent out (roughly) monthly, but only to those who signed up for the above Free Trips & Tricks newsletter.
- Quick Deals: A blog within a blog in which deals big and small are reported as soon as we know about them, and with little or no analysis.
- Portal Alerts: Another blog within a blog in which we automatically report changes in best available portal rewards.
- Extreme Stacking: This is a set of pages designed to show step by step how to maximize savings and point earnings from various merchants through credit card category bonuses, gift cards, coupons and promo codes, rewards portals, merchant rewards, and more.
Complete Guides. We also added a number of “complete guide” resource pages such as:
- Complete Guide to Amex Offers
- Guide to transferable points programs
- Complete guide to Plastiq credit card payments
- Complete Guide to Citi Prestige 4th Night Free
- Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards
- Best options for buying merchant gift cards
As we tacked on more and more stuff, the Frequent Miler site became harder and harder to navigate. People I knew who visited my site for the first time often reported that it was overwhelming. They didn’t know where to start. Long term readers, meanwhile, complained that pages of interest were hard to find. Even I found the site navigation frustrating.
I decided that the site needed to be drastically simplified. We had to make it clear to new readers where to start. And, we had to make the most used functions of the site easy to find.
Where to start
New readers are likely to find this site when they discover a post that interests them. That’s why we removed the logo and other clutter that used to appear beneath each of my posts and replaced it all with a simple suggestion: Earn Miles Without Flying: Start Here.
For those who stumble upon the site in other ways, we added a hard to miss banner at the top urging the same: Earn Miles Without Flying: Start Here. And, we kept “Start Here” as the first of the few remaining menu items beneath the Frequent Miler banner. We’ll use Google Analytics to determine whether or not these “start here” links are effective. If not, we’ll axe them.
The Start Here page itself will soon be updated as well. Currently the text of the page focuses mostly on earning miles through credit card applications. I want to broaden the text to include multiple ways to earn miles without flying
Previously, the site menus contained sub-menus which contained sub-sub menus. It was a mess. To simplify things, we moved almost all of that stuff to a single resource page. Now, the top level menu items aren’t really menus at all. They are simply links to the pages that I felt were in highest demand. Currently we have “Start Here”, “Best Credit Card Offers”, “Laboratory”, and “Resources”. That’s it.
Over time we may add one or two additional menu items, but I’d rather keep things as simple as possible. We’ll also evaluate whether we have the right menu items. For example, does the Laboratory page really deserve top billing? I think so, but I’m also willing to consider alternatives.
Another thing previously hidden was a way to ask general questions. If a reader has a question about a particular post, they can always comment within that post. If a reader has a general question, where do they go? We have long offered a Contact Frequent Miler page, where people can ask questions in the comments section, but that’s far from ideal. Instead, we are looking at forum-like plug-ins that will offer better capability. Most likely we will introduce this as a new top-level page titled “Ask FM”.
Integrated Quick Deals
We used to keep Quick Deals posts confined to their own home page. And, on the main Frequent Miler home page, we had a green box that showed the latest Quick Deal titles along with a subscription option. This was confusing. Those new to this site often thought that the subscription box was for the entire site, but it was really just for Quick Deals.
We decided to simplify things by merging Quick Deals into the main home page. At the time of this writing, Quick Deal posts and regular daily posts are indistinguishable on the home page. This effectively makes things simpler, but it is also confusing in a different way: if you’re looking just for daily posts or just for Quick Deals, it’s harder to find what you want.
We have several ideas for how to make the new combined home page more intuitive and we hope to roll out changes soon.
Simpler email subscriptions
Currently, there are 6 different email subscriptions associated with Frequent Miler and that’s ridiculously confusing. We currently use a service called MailChimp for some subscriptions and Feedblitz for others. MailChimp is unable to send out blog posts immediately as they are published, but that is critical for our Quick Deals. And Feedblitz is incapable of handling our Free Trips and Tricks newsletter requirements.
Part of our simplification plan is to switch everything to a single technology. Since Feedblitz can’t handle our newsletter requirements, we’ll sunset the email version of the Free Trips & Tricks newsletter. Instead, the online version of the newsletter will be enhanced to make it easier to read online.
We then expect to have just one primary type of email subscription: Frequent Miler. This will give readers access to daily posts, quick deals, and weekend summaries. If things go according to plan, readers will be able to choose between the following email options:
- Instant: Receive an email for every post (Quick Deals and daily posts) within an hour or less of publication.
- Daily: Daily email subscribers will receive one email per day with the latest daily post on top along with links to all posts (including Quick Deals) published since the previous daily email.
- Weekly: The exact format of this is still being ironed out, but the idea is to receive just one email per week that includes links to all of the week’s posts. Most likely this will be accomplished by simply including the contents of our three regular weekend posts which include one sentence summaries of our daily posts, summaries of posts from around the web, and a list of Quick Deals still alive.
Better Facebook Page
Just like the Frequent Miler site, our Facebook page was a mess. For a variety of reasons, most posts appeared twice, and Quick Deals appeared three times. And Portal Alerts, which are really only relevant to hard-core portal users, cluttered up the page every day.
Now, we’ve refreshed the Frequent Miler Facebook page logo, we’ve eliminated Portal Alerts, and we’ve ensured that posts appear only once. Please check it out. I think you’ll find it much more appealing than before. If so, please “Like” the page!
If you have feedback about our plans (good or bad), or different ideas of your own, please comment below. I can’t promise that any suggestions will be followed, but I can promise that I’ll read and consider all of them.