Since my last post
After I wrote my post mortem for the Theme Directory launch, the last three weeks were spent fixing bugs and adding in enhancements that were not deemed launch blockers.
On the admin side a custom post status for suspended themes was added, as well as a custom view for themes that have new version pending. Also, there is now a simpler way to approve new versions and set them live from wp-admin. On the front-end the JS and CSS files that power most of the Directory were merged, removing the direct THX dependency that we had (it broke parts of the directory during beta). Development on the Directory will not stop of course, but it will be part of ongoing maintenance and feature development.
At the beginning of the project there were no formulated stat goals. Personally, my goal was not to drop in stats too badly, in a way that would suggest a major flaw in the Directory’s new structure. I’m happy to say that with the exception of the Commercial Themes page, that is the case—we even saw a lot of nice improvements!
Let’s start with the negative. The Commercial Themes page saw a drop of ~40% in visitors between the old Directory and the new. That number was at 60% right after launch, but it recovered and continues to recover with some adjustments we made to the link placement on the site. We concluded that the image-heavy (instead of text-heavy) design is likely causing people to use the directory and not click on sub-links as frequently as they did with the previous design, and we’re satisfied with the preliminary result of our mitigation.
Since we were about to complete change the markup and technical makeup of the Directory, my biggest concern going into this project was to lose page-rank and experience a drop in overall visitors. Thankfully this is not the case, visitor numbers remain constant, as are the search engine referral numbers. Another KPI that remained constant were theme downloads, which also indicates that there were no bugs on the Themes API and download handler side on WordPress.org. Given the level of optimization of the old Directory, I consider those numbers a success! It’s hard to improve a #1 page rank, but with added semantic markup and more structured data around themes it should definitely be solidified.
The most overwhelming result has been the huge jump in user engagement though. Users stay longer on the site, look at a lot more pages, and are way less likely to leave without any interaction. Comparing the week before the relaunch with this past week, session duration is up 9%. The amount of pages a user looks at is up 34%. And the overall bounce rate went down from ~30% to under 10%. Even on the homepage, where the bounce rate was at around 45%, we can see that drop by 2/3.
Overall this is a nice step in the right direction. I’m looking forward to further improved numbers down the road, and easier to achieve improvements after the move to WordPress.