I’ve been running the web directory ShopInBerkeley.com for about eight years. My goal has always been to provide high quality, free and low cost web pages to Berkeley businesses. For the past year or two I’ve been evaluating the need for ShopInBerkeley.com, and have come to the conclusion that the value of the web site is less than the work I put into it (I’ve always made a bit of money from the site, but not nearly enough to live off of).
So, here’s a short (incomplete) list of reasons why I’m closing:
- It’s too hard to convice businesses that ShopInBerkeley wasn’t a scam. Many small business owners aren’t that “web saavy” and are confronted with many solicitations from web designers to create a web site and/or put them on a “free” directory. I come along with a free product that isn’t a scam, and they don’t believe it.
- It takes too much time to keep the site updated. While I received many updates from business owners and visitors to the site, many of the pages were just getting so old that the hours listed could not be counted on to be accurate. The nature of the site was that it depended on business owners to contact me with updates, and not enough did that.
- I’ve got too many things going on in my life; time to thin down. Teaching (my day job) can take up one’s entire life. I teach part-time in order to have some time left for me, but ShopInBerkeley was just requiring too much time to keep updated (see #2).
- There are many good alternatives out there. While none of them are quite the same as my site (see shopinberkeley.com/index.php/about/), having another directory out there also creates another site for small business owners to need to keep updated when their hours or other business details change.
- Business districts are too parochial and neighborhood-centric to see the value of a city-wide site. Berkeley loves its neighborhoods, and most seem to have their own neighborhood business web site. But what do you do if you’re looking for shoes in the Elmwood and can’t find a store that carries the kind you want? If you’re on the www.elmwoodshop.com web site, you’re out of luck. A well-designed city-wide web directory could return results in your desired neighborhood at the top, then more distant neighborhoods below (Yelp does a good job at this, I never quite got it implemented).
So, the next few months will include time to make redirects for the 800+ pages on ShopInBerkeley. These are important so links from other web pages don’t go dead (e.g. there’s a game producer out there whose web site links to Mr. Mopps page on ShopInBerkeley — they don’t have their own web site).
It’s been a great eight years, and I’m sad about letting ShopInBerkeley go, but I think it’s the right time.