Justin Cooke

September 9, 2014

Notice anything different?

Gone are the cartoons and the shoddy blue backgrounds. Away with the BRIGHT orange and wacky fonts.

We’ve been disappointed with our design for a long time, and it was great to finally tear it all down to build back up from scratch.

This was long overdue, but we’ve finally wrapped up the rebrand and redesign, and wanted to showcase some of the changes for you. We’re getting down to business, and doing it without getting too “corporate-y”.

Why Change the Brand/Design?

When Joe gets on the phone with people new to our brand, about half of them are hesitant at first. Even the ones who aren’t make it obvious that our site doesn’t just lack aesthetic appeal, but also functionality and ease of use.

Our design approach used to consist of going on 99designs, getting A LOT of different versions to choose from, and picking the best one from that group. I mean, that sounds fair, right? If there are plenty of options, then there’s got to be at least one gem.

Unfortunately, it’s become apparent that old, tired approach was causing us a lot of headaches and costing us (potentially) a lot of business.

It’s impossible to determine beforehand whether our redesign will bring in a positive ROI, but we’re willing to make the assumption that having a brand that’s more in line with our future vision will have a positive impact on our business.

That’s why we hired a pro, Jon Myers. Jon has been in the business for 20 years, worked with top Fortune 500 companies, and has a great eye for design + User Experience (UX.)

We also hired a local development team in Davao City, Philippines who have been working hard on revamping our marketplace and implementing Jon’s designs.

We’ve had a few setbacks and delays so Jon recommended we bring Dan Cowell to do some heavy lifting and to help implement the finer details. Although we were hesitant about bringing more cooks in the kitchen, we realized that it’d be a good idea since they live near each other and can collaborate side-by-side.

Why did we go through so much trouble?

We wanted our new design to kick so much ass that even those who haven’t heard of us would be comfortable looking at a six-figure site for sale.

In fact, most of the changes we’ve implemented here were inspired by you.

“Your site doesn’t look credible. Can I trust you?”

Our old design wasn’t aesthetically appealing. Not only that, it didn’t convey much credibility. First-time buyers and sellers (who were planning on doing business with us in the five to six-figures) had a hard time believing we were trustworthy.

We wanted our new design to showcase our expertise and authority.

No more cartoons. No more exclamation points in places they didn’t belong.

Homepage-Comparison Crop

Some of the highlighted changes:

  • Minimalistic design with clear calls-to-action
  • All listing fees, deposits, and purchases securely routed through UltraCart
  • Clear focus on buying and selling websites

“Is that all the business you’ve ever done?”

This has to be Joe’s “favorite” question on the phone.

“That’s… really all the websites you’ve ever sold? Ever?”

The way we presented our old marketplace, available listings on top and sold listings on the bottom, was very confusing to a lot of you.

We thought it served as social proof that websites on our site sell quickly. Unfortunately, many people interpreted the visible listings as being all the sites we’ve ever had on our marketplace in the history of, well, ever.

Our approach had the exact opposite effect we were hoping for.

The new design still shows sold sites, but in a way that makes it obvious we’ve done plenty of business.

Marketplace Comparison Crop

A few of the critical changes:

  • Both tile and column option to review listings
  • Automatically generated business statistics
  • Helpful website buying resources

“How do I sell my website with you?”

Sellers struggled to figure out how to sell their websites with us. This is the MOST important thing we want sellers to do, so that was a BIG problem.

Our old design was too blog-focused, and the overall layout didn’t make it easy for a visitor looking to sell a site.

We asked Jon to find a way to highlight the fact that we’re actively looking for sellers/listings on the site.

A few minutes later he’d added changes to the site that significantly improved the visibility of the Sell Your Site page without interrupting the aesthetics or overall design concept.

Sweet!

Sell Your Site Areas

We’ve also significantly changed the content to better explain what it is we actually do.

Note: Repeat sellers can still list with us at $97 – just scroll to the bottom of the Sell Your Site page and click the link for repeat sellers.

“The site is awfully slow!”

We had a speed optimization pro take a look at our site to figure out why it was so sluggish and he concluded it was a combination of our hosting (WPEngine) and our code.

For our new site we had planned to go to WebSynthesis but we’re having second thoughts after seeing how slow their support team was to respond to CRITICAL requests. Although we’re still figuring out the hosting, we at least have our other optimization in place like MaxCDN, proper caching, etc.

After all, there’s no point in looking good if no one can see it in the first place.

While this is still a work in progress, we’re much happier with our speed and will continue to make improvements until the site is lightning fast.

“Your listings don’t have enough information.”

Although we ask serious buyers to pay a deposit before we reveal all the finer details about a website, we still want it to be as frictionless as possible for potential buyers.

Our old setup didn’t show the right info, had a lot of archaic metrics that we no longer measured, and weren’t important to our buyers.

We used to be heavily AdSense focused and so things like CPC and numbers of competitors on Google were what we wanted. We sell many sites with different monetization methods so it no longer made sense to show data that doesn’t apply.

Now all listings, featured or not, show things like “Opportunities / Risks”, “Work / Skills Required,” and more revealing information that makes it clear if a website is the right fit for the buyer.

EF-Listing-Comparisons Crop

Some major changes here include:

  • Individual pages for all website listings
  • Much more fleshed out data for each listing
  • Audio/video interviews with the seller (select listings)
  • Related websites for sale (based on niche, price, and monetization)

So – What Else Is New?

How It Works – A simplified look at the process both buyers and sellers go through to do business with us.

About Us – Paints a clearer picture of who we are and what we do (with a fun timeline documenting our journey).

Resources Page – A revamped look at our best content and resources for website buyers and sellers.

Dedicated Podcast Page – Allows us to highlight some of the more important episodes.

Seller Profiles – Every seller now has a profile that shows previous listings and total sold. Check out any of our marketplace listings to navigate to a seller profile.

We Really Hope You Dig the Changes

Overall, we’re really happy with the new brand and the direction of our company. There will be some kinks to work out in the coming weeks and months, but we’re stoked about the work Jon Myers, Illumedia, Dan Cowell, and the rest of our team has put into getting this launched.

We’re happy to hang out in the comments and answer any questions about the redesign or design in general that you may have. We’ve got Jon Myers to join us as well, and he’d love to talk design and UX with anyone interested.

In fact, we’ll be featuring a write-up from Jon on the changes in a guest post later this week.

We have also discussed holding a Google Hangout to discuss the redesign in further depth and even do a few design reviews of your sites. If you’re interested, please leave a comment below and we’ll get that organized.

What questions do you have and how can we improve? What do you like better (or worse) about the new design?


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Discussion
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  1. Glen says:

    New site is looking great, guys!

    Just noticed one small bug on this page: http://empireflippers.com/marketplace/

    Dan’s name and his site URL seem to be getting cut off (using Safari on Mac).

    Loving the new logo and the individual listings look great :)

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Glen!

      Really happy with how it turned out, overall. There’s some functionality and tools/features we couldn’t include (yet) but just glad to have it up now, heh. Can tweak and update as we go along.

      Thanks for the heads-up on the marketplace. We’ll be fixing/tweaking all week, I’m sure, so any other bugs/errors pointed out would be helpful! :-)

      You still in Thailand, man? Heading to CM in a week.

  2. James Clark says:

    Congrats on the new site – It looks freaking AMAZING!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, James!

      Our team put a ton of work into this, so it’s great to hear you’re digging it! Jon’s design was awesome and I think we’ve got a great foundation to work with now.

  3. I’m in the middle of re-doing my homepage right now and you guys just made me cry a little. Amazing job and looks fantastic. You’ve got your finger on the way modern design seems to be going.

    Clean lines, flat buttons, and damn right sexy…the site looks good too!

    Love the castles.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Dominic!

      Jon has a great eye for design and helped us out tremendously. He actually came down to Davao for a week to work with us in-person, and we went to visit him for a bit in HCM while we were there about a month ago.

      Glad we’ve removed the sandcastles with “real” castles, hehe.

  4. Rahat says:

    Looking good, you should have a look traffic planet hosting, their support is awesome and my sites are running seriously fast with them.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Rahat,

      Traffic Planet, eh? Will have to take a look!

      We’re running this on WPEngine right now and doesn’t seem to slow and the scores are decent. Let’s hope that continues!

  5. Bob says:

    FYI: header images are so big in Chrome that it looks like that is all there is on a page: http://screencast.com/t/PEUsv0itR3n

  6. Tim says:

    Congrats on the new site. It looks tons better!

    Any chance you could share the name of your speed optimization guy?

  7. Tim says:

    Also IMO you need a subscribe button for your comments.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hmmm – interesting.

      We wanted to get away from Disqus because it was a MONSTER in terms of resources and making our site slower. I really liked the functionality they had though when it comes to comments. We’ll have to bake some of that into the native WP comments, I think.

      Not coming soon, but definitely something we’re going to look at.

  8. Herve DIDIER says:

    With the Mont St Michel background, congrats for the upgrade guys!

  9. Looks great guys! Jon definitely did an awesome job with this site, and it’s been awesome watching the progression of the brand!

    Gotta love fast load times as well. How have you liked MaxCDN so far? I’ve been using Cloudflare with good results, but am always open to improvements.

    Cheers

  10. Josh Escusa says:

    Liking the new look. It took me a little time for my eyes to gravitate to the left corner and find out that I could view the marketplace in a list view. The other view just doesn’t feel like it navigates as well, in my opinion. Maybe there’s a way to make the list view more obvious?

    Anyway, I’ll likely be looking to list a bunch of sites with you guys starting early 2015.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Josh!

      Yeah – we’re a bit unsure about the marketplace view. We love the card view, but the listing/table view just seems more efficient. Battle between aesthetics and usefulness, hehe.

      Happy to help you sell your sites!

      • Kevin says:

        Hey Justin, I love the clean look — nice job. I do agree with Josh that it’s more difficult to view the marketplace listings in full. It took nearly 5 clicks to view all that were available for sale. I saw the list view option towards the left but it isn’t that apparent and I’m afraid most people won’t see it. As a seller like Josh, we hope to maximize our listings :) All in all, it’s a great new look, you guys did well.

  11. jared says:

    Love the new design, great work and definitely more inline with the quality of your brand. My only feedback is similar to Kevin and Joshs. I like the list view a lot better, and I wish the default number of listings was 20 rather than 10

  12. Gaurav says:

    Hi Justin & Joe,
    Congratulations…the site looks mobile-ready i.e. future-ready for business, eh! (TBH, had grown used to the old site which wasn’t bad at all). Just some things I noticed:

    * Some of the sites discussed for partnering so far (on skype calls) show ‘No’ in the ‘Investment’ option. Intentional perhaps?
    * Listing 400040 – Please check the Profit figures on the Marketplace page
    * Maybe buyer profiles could have a short explanation on mouse hover or linked to the article explaining buyer profiles or to a legend at the bottom of the page.

    Related sites is a great touch!

    All the best. Looking forward to the investor/partner program public launch.
    regards,
    Gaurav

    • Great feedback, Guarav!

      * Some of the sites discussed for partnering so far (on skype calls) show ‘No’ in the ‘Investment’ option. Intentional perhaps?

      I’ve fixed this for the ones we’re still thinking of partnering on.

      * Listing 40040 – Please check the Profit figures on the Marketplace page

      Fixed! We found it was an issue for a few different listings. Should be corrected moving forward now.

      * Maybe buyer profiles could have a short explanation on mouse hover or linked to the article explaining buyer profiles or to a legend at the bottom of the page.

      Good idea. Will see what Jon + our devs come up with!

  13. Jakub says:

    Well done, really nice looking website (even though I liked the cartoons :) )

    I’m glad you ditched Disqus

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Jakub.

      Yeah, we’re happy to have ditched Disqus too. I really liked the social aspect, but their system was really bogging down our site, wouldn’t load at times, etc…not worth it for us. :-(

  14. Chris Field says:

    Great blog post. I love the redesign. Very modern, clean and clear with the call to action. Have a random question about site speed. You mentioned WP Engine as an issue. That is who I am with currently. What do they do that affects site speed? Who did you end up hosting with for the new site?
    Thanks
    Chris

  15. Nick Loper says:

    Looking sharp! I’ll be honest it took me a minute to figure out what the new cover art was in my podcast app, but it’s definitely a much cleaner and more professional look that better reflects the direction you guys are going.

    Cheers,

    Nick

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Nick!

      Yeah, the new artwork probably threw a couple people for a loop – hoping we don’t lose too many subscribers because of that, heh.

      We really like the new look/feel we have going on here. I think we’ll be able to take this new/improved brand to the next level.

  16. Kent says:

    Justin and Joe, it’s awesome to see the new layout. It’s so clean and professional. I have been looking forward for this roll-out.

    I agree that a table view of all listing with “sorting” feature is all I am interested.

    I’m building out some niche sites and hope to sell those with you guys later.

    Keep rocking!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey, Kent!

      Ack – it’s not very clear but our marketplace DOES have the sortable, table view. It’s on the left-hand side. Click the button and you’ll see a table with sortable columns. Sold sites are automatically pushed to the bottom so it will sort the column by currently available first.

      Hope that helps!

      Justin

  17. Terry Lin says:

    Namaste Guys!

    Glad to finally see this live, been getting the sneak peek for the past few MONTHS!

  18. David Hawk says:

    My honest opinion it looks to me just like another template you can get off of themeforest just with your content in it. I appreciated your old design because it looked different and had character to it. Also I know your bread and butter is your marketplace now, but seems to be that’s all your new website is for. I use to come to the site for the podcasts and posts your pretty much just a better flippa marketplace now. Should of just created a seperate website. To me a marketplace and learning should be seperate. I do find the website faster though. Just my opinion wasnt trying to be harsh about all the hard work that im sure went into it.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey David,

      Sorry to hear you’re disappointed with the change. To make it a bit easier, you can always just visit our blog or podcast pages to get to our content:

      http://empireflippers.com/blog/

      http://empireflippers.com/podcasts/

      To be clear, most of these changes were made based on what are users want and where we’re looking to go. For example, the emails I send out mentioning new websites for sale get much more attention than my emails about recent case studies, how-to’s, etc.

      From a content/blogger perspective, that actually hurts my feelings a bit! I wish my content crushed our new listings. From a businessman’s perspective, though…that’s a pretty good thing. :-)

  19. Mads Singers says:

    Outstanding new look guys – Particularly love the sales page, excellent style ;)

  20. Miranda says:

    The new design looks terrific, very legit – great work! Just wanted to mention though that there are a couple of (rather glaring) glitches in Internet Explorer:

    http://i.imgur.com/GU7l0cV.png
    http://i.imgur.com/jVP2j2c.png

    That’s the Marketplace and single post page respectively.

  21. Winston Wright says:

    Nice pictures and well optimized for mobile, but for desktop users it isn’t clear that there is anything below the pictures (make them half the height). For mobile it is natural to scroll down but for desktop we like to start reading information first (not scenery) before we scroll to read more . The content font size is also a bit too big for desktop.
    I agree with David Hawk that you should keep the old ‘learning/blog’ site as a separate site (that’s why I come here) and then use the new brand for the website marketplace.
    Just my couple of thoughts.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Winston,

      Yeah – quite a few that read the content find the (although nice looking) image a bit distracting as you have to scroll down. It was an aesthetic thing, but I get that might be irritating after a while.

      It’s similar for the marketplace, actually – if you’ve been to the site a ton why can’t you just see the available listings straight away, right?

      You can always bypass the marketplace by just going straight to the blog or podcast:

      http://empireflippers.com/blog/

      http://empireflippers.com/podcasts/

      or just follow along via Feedly and avoid having to visit our site altogether, of course.

  22. […] week, Justin and Joe debuted the redesign of EmpireFlippers.com. So far (fingers crossed) the response has been […]

  23. […] a sum of $33,772.26 as net income/pure profit as of July 2014 alone. And again, the team just rolled out a new design in September 2014 with a very nice […]

  24. […] everything’s been peachy though. We had several false starts and the website redesign took much longer to roll out than anticipated. Still, we’re pretty happy with the results […]

  25. Rien says:

    Loving the new design!

    It’s a huge step up from the old one and defenitly looks more professional and in line with the direction your business is going. I personally prefer a grid view above a list view so it doesn’t really disturb me. It is a bit of a hassle to have to click on the arrow 3 times before being able to view the rest of the offers though, but that is just nagging.

    Good luck with getting those new sellers to Empire Flippers, great concept! Might by something through your site one day.

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