Trusted Housesitters
Application Prototype
extended
- case study
TrustedHousesitters.com is a web application which serves two purposes: it helps in finding house sitting opportunities for responsible, caring and trusted house sitters, and it helps in finding an ideal house / pet sitter to look after your treasures while away. It was founded in 2010 by Andy Peck, who was house sitting himself. His own experience was an inspiration for creating this website. After two years it gained more than 10,000 active users, both house sitters and home owners from every continent. Finally, the time has come to rewrite the whole application from scratch and add a couple of new great features.
Platform: Web Client: London, UK Completion date: Mar 2013

The scope of work

Planning
Planning

Our task was to rewrite the site from scratch as the current architecture had reached its limits. We've planned the surgeryon a life organism which consisted of migrating data from old databases and making the switch procedure with minimal downtime and disruption to hundreds of active users.

Research
Research

In order to create a new, bespoke SEO strategy and to add search-by-map functionality we did a comprehensive analysis and comparison of available solutions in the areas of search algorithms, spatial computations, open source and commercial libraries and backend tools.

Development
Development

The original code was a mess. It was written in a crazy way in PHP mixed with HTML, inline CSS and Javascript. The codebase was huge with many code duplications, no tests. Any change was a killer. It was quite a challenge and we picked up the gauntlet. We've developed a brand new codebase on Django. It's clean, well tested, maintainable and easy to extend. We set it up on Rackspace, where we configured a scalable staging and production environment.

Support
Support

After launch we've been providing support to Trusted Housesitters team for over a year. We took care of the maintenance of the system, responded to customer tickets, and introduced multiple improvements. We did our best to act quickly and minimise any potential risks.

Key challenges

Site and database migration

The old application gathered more than 10,000 active users, which - because of the nature of the site - belongs to a very demanding audience group. That's why it was vital to perform the migration with as little disruption as possible not to affect people's trust to THS services. We've made a switch very early in the morning and successfully migrated the old data (including fragile payment related information) in less than 4 hours which was quite a success considering the complexity of the task.

Payments integration

We've done a comprehensive integration with new payment gateway which included: multiple subscription plans (various pricing, currencies and user privileges), support for premium codes, recurring payments, and management of existing subscriptions.

Map search

Our bespoke solution, fully integrated with Google Maps API, added a lot of value to the site. Searching by location became the main purpose of the search. We made a comprehensive research in location databases and AJAX technologies prior to the development.

Localisation

One of the aspects of business development strategy had to do with the localisation of the site. We've developed a management system for country- and city-level landing pages, a GeoIP- based currency selection mechanism and a custom autoresponder system with individual countries' news feeds. All that effort had some great impact on increasing site's conversion.

Mailchimp integration

We've set up Mailchimp & Mandrill from ground up and synced the user database with these tools. There are email campaigns sent to custom user segments in real time whenever new home listing is added, as well as daily digest emails, a wide range of autoresponders and regular newsletters. We enabled analytics and conversion tracking too and the results are just awesome.

SEO strategy

We've cooperated with SEO consultancy firm to come up with the most appropriate and effective strategy for THS which we have then implemented. The recommendations included: reworking meta tags and URLs, making AJAX search indexable, creating landing pages and more. Trustedhousesitters' current ranking and its really long tail could not be achieved without this whole effort.

Results

We've rewritten the whole application, added lots of new features and significantly decreased the codebase at the same time.

Chart with work results
  • Traffic and revenues have doubled in just over a year
  • £77,000 investement from Seedrs for 5% of the equity
  • Great media reviews e.g. in TVNZ and BBC
  • 4700% ROI on email campaigns
  • Significant decrease of codebase - 53% less lines of code
  • Over 400 automated tests covering 80% of all code
  • Team grown from 3 to 14 people involved
  • Till 2015 helped save members over $150 million
  • Members in over 130 countries

Seen in

THS features THS features THS features

Testimonials

StartupWorks are an extremely knowledgeable agency with fantastic developers and strong integrity. They understand and interpreted our needs and site well, produced complex work with excellent value for money and have outstanding technical knowledge. We'd recommend them.
- Andy Peck, Founder
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