New year, new Travelfish

We hope you all had a happy silly season and managed to fit in a stack of travel. Just wanted to let you know that here at Travelfish.org HQ (our front veranda) we’ve redesigned and relaunched our site anew as of January 20… And we have been busy fixing things ever since! We’d like to spell out all the new features of the freshened up site and invite you to comment or suggest even more improvements you’d like to see in the future.

**First things first: Navigation**
No longer will Travelfish readers have to have degrees in Southeast Asian geography in order to find places they’re looking for on the site. On the old site, everything was arranged in a country->region->province->location hierarchy. That seemed sensible to us at the time, but not to just about anybody else because it meant, for instance, that to be able to find Nha Trang in Vietnam you had to know it was in Vietnam, on the south central coast and in Khanh Hoa province (it was the last jump that always threw people). Now all you need to know is it’s in Vietnam, and by mousing over the menus on the left, you’ll see everywhere on the site in Vietnam is no more than a click away.

The navbars on the left may be a little slow to load in Internet Explorer: You have to wait for the whole page to load before they’ll work. So be patient, or better still, change your browser to Firefox!

*Navigation part two*
We’ve added a new level of navigation at the top that gives you quick hops to our destination planning section and to the Shop for our swanky Travelfish Guides. The destination planning section will be expanding quite a bit shortly.

*New layout*
You noticed huh? Yes, it’s much bigger text. Maybe I’m getting old, but I reckon this is a lot easier on the eyes. It’s in two columns, so for lengthy sections there will be some scrolling, but for the shorter pages, none at all. The new site has been designed with newer laptops and computers in mind, so people with older screens — especially 800*600 and below — will have problems with the new site. This remains one of the issues we’re working on.

*New content*
We’ve added a “beginners section” that can be accessed via the country page for each country. It includes basic stuff like visa and border crossing information and other very basic trip planning issues.

*New content part two*
Not new content so much as new sections. We’ve added “Orientation” on a destination basis. Here you’ll find vital information such as bank hours, internet cafe addresses and what not. It isn’t there for all places, rather just ones that need it. For small places, it may remain in the old introduction as before.

*New content part three*
We’ll be adding two main sections for most destinations in coming weeks: “Onwards destinations” to suggest where you should go next and “Our recommendations”, some shots from the hip on particular places.

*New content part four*
Yes, it just keeps coming. We’ll be bringing the work of some very talented bloggers into the site. They’re just tasters really as their work will still primarily be on their own sites, but we’re hoping to point you in the right direction of some real writing talent. That said, if you reckon you fall into that category (the talented blogger one) contact Samantha at sambrown @ travelfish.org.

*New content part five*
OK, no more after this, but we’ve redone the islands page so it now covers islands in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. It’s a veritable one-stop-shop for island and beach lovers!

*New ratings*
Our overall ratings now better take into account user ratings for accommodation. This should lead to better shifting opinions as places go up- and downhill.

*New photos*
Travelfish is a travel website so let’s paint a pretty picture! You’ll see more and more pix coming onto the site in the coming weeks as we upload our collection to Flickr. And if you want your photos to appear on Travelfish, it’s far easier than travelling overland from Luang Prabang to Hanoi. All you need do is upload them into our Flickr pool. You can join the Travelfish group here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/travelfish/

*New eFish*
First the bad news. All your old eFish are gone. The good news is you can generate them again. We’re very sorry about that, but we needed to nuke the old ones as a part of the upgrade.

*New Member Centre*
The Member Centre has a bunch of new features including:
You can edit your accommodation reviews
You can track all your reservation enquiries made through Travelfish
You can rate how quickly a place got back in touch with you
You can track your forum posts
You can manage your eFish
You can access your Travelfish Guides
You can manage your scrapbook (which you are going to be able to print soon)

*Revamped forum*
You’ll see the forum should be a bit easier to use, and for regular posters, we’re now using BB code which means you can post links, bold, italics etc. This becomes available only after you’ve passed a certain posting threshold (in order to keep spammers a bit under control).

*Guesthouse reviews*
We’ve revamped the reviewing process, which should make it a little easier to post reviews. The reviews are also displayed in a different manner — still a bit of a work in progress here.

*Travelfish search*
Big news here. You’ll notice here and there across the site a “Search for accommodation” feature which will allow you to search for accommodation in a particular destination (on a country basis). What is very cool about this though is that now you’re not only searching the places listed on Travelfish, but also those listed with some of our reservation partners — at the moment HostelWorld, Agoda, WHL and Sawasdee. What this means is that you’re searching a pool of over 5,000 properties — and as many of the places listed on Travelfish are listed nowhere else online, you’re getting a pretty comprehensive little searching tool. You can sort by name, Travelfish rating or cost — by default it only searches places that can be booked online, but you can change that setting to search the whole kit and caboodle.

*Travelfish gets social*
We’re also getting more active on the social side of the internet. If you’re into the social web, you can find us both on Facebook and Twitter.
Travelfish group on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2390743505
Travelfish on Twitter: http://twitter.com/travelfish