First off, thank you for making this site so great! I rode 650 miles around Lake Ontario in 8 days and only spent $100 because I was able to stay with friendly hosts from WarmShowers. I hope that I can host cyclists coming through my area now. I have a few suggestions that I think could make this site better.
Profile images -
Only being able to show one small image doesn't give a good idea of what a person looks like or what their accommodations or surroundings look like. Ideally, I'd love to be able to show 5 pictures, maybe 320 pixels wide or larger. You could show them at 160 pixels wide, and on clicking or mouseover show a winder with the full picture. It would be great to show potential hosts and hostees what I look like, what my building looks like so they can find it, and maybe a few other shots to get a glimpse of who I am. I envision the profile showing these 5 images right at the top, under "Introduction" but before the name and address.
Profile questions -
When trying to decide which hosts to contact when there's several potential ones in within the same area, I often asked those that had written at least a paragraph on their profile. Unfortunately, it seems like many hosts have very little information. I think breaking this part of the profile into a few questions would facilitate including more of the helpful information. The current description on the "About You" box is good, but sometimes people just leave out a lot of this information.
Profile arrangement and member info -
- "Member Information" and "About this member" should be combined. They are both descriptive sections about the member, but the current layout splits these with the map in the middle, which seems out of order.
- With the nearest shop questions, it would be good to remind members to actually say what that shop is too.
- As a netbook user while on tour, I love sites that don't take up more screen space than what's needed. The history section could also be combined within member info, and the list of services could be comma separated instead of individual lines.
- Start the map from the member's home location
- The map width is currently set to 100%, but with the fieldset tag, that makes the map goes outside the border. I think 95% and centering would solve this.
- Only show the nearby users link once. It belongs in the map section and not the member info.
Income and Expense
I really like that CouchSurfing provides their income and expense information each year (see http://www.couchsurfing.org/organization_finances_2008.html). Not that I don't trust organizations like WS or CS, but I rarely give donations unless I feel confident that it's going to good use. This type of reporting reinforces what costs are involved, and why it's important to donate. I would also highly recommend having donations show as WarmShowers.org and not a personal name and address.
Viewing on smaller devices -
iPhones are hot, we all know that. But not everyone has the same gadget, so it's better (in my opinion) to build a "lite" version of the website than an OS specific program. Many cyclists on tour use netbooks or web-enabled cell phones that could benefit from a lite version.
Hopefully these suggestions help! Here's an image of what I envision these updates could look like: http://abg.smugmug.com/photos/785105528_mrSg7-O.jpg
I'm going to donate $20 right now ($5 per host I've stayed with) because this site made my tour possible for myself as a cheap traveler and I hope it can continue to grow and improve.
I like your suggestions and proposed layout. Combining the info that is currently above and below the map is sensible. I think encouraging people to write a bit more about themselves would be great. My husband and I have often requested to stay at places where we know nothing about the person. You really don't know what to expect though that can make it interesting! Conversely, some people have exciting sounding descriptions about themselves and their area but the hype doesn't always match the reality. ;-)
Liz and Derek
I agree with Andy's suggestions, I wanted to write the same things about photos and "about me":)
But there's one more thing that could make communicating and using the site easier. I'd like to get an email when someone comments on my post, or writes a comment after me in someone else's post. Without such emails it's easy to forget you asked a question, so even if someone asked it, you don't read it. And even if you remember about the question, you just have to check it all over again to see if there are any answers. Sending such an automatic email would make it a lot easier and a daily email with forum postings doesn't solve the problem in my opinion.
But anyway, thanks for creating this wonderful community:) Tailwinds to all of you,