yourfirstvisit.net Has its Fifth Birthday!



By Dave Shute

NOW AT AN AWKWARD AGE…

Happy Birthday yourfirstvisit.netYesterday this site completed its fifth full year of operation.

(This birthday post would have gone up yesterday, but I had more important news to relay.)

Even after five years, you continue to come to the site to get help, to ask questions, to suggest improvements or corrections, to wander and browse and react, and you continue to tell your friends about it, to post about it on message boards, to pin it on pinterest, to recommend it in your books, to link to it from your own websites, and to help out with the comments.

Thanks to all of you, the site is continuing to grow and as a result helping even more people.

The site will have its 3.5 millionth visitor all-time visitor since opening in a couple of weeks, 2 million of you have stopped by for a spell over the last 12 months, and the forecast for the next 12 months is almost 4 million of you coming by!

I’m grateful for and humbled by your readership, your help, and your kind words…thanks!!

WHAT’S COMING IN THE NEXT TWELVE MONTHS

cropped-summer-trainIn the time between now and the 6th birthday I expect two major developments:

  • Revising the itineraries in response to MyMagic+ and Fastpass+–which, for reasons explained here, I’m not seeing as going into large scale operation much before October 1
  • Revising the look and feel of the site, for both technical and reader experience reasons.

This site is built on WordPress, and the “theme” the site runs on—NeoClassical by Chris Pearson—is what shapes its look and feel.

I love the typographical clarity of NeoClassical, but it has not been supported for years.  As a result, every time there’s a WordPress upgrade, there’s a risk the site might break, and I can’t take advantage of the newer features released WordPress since NeoClassical was last updated more than 6 years ago.  So a new theme is on the to-do list!

Developing a new theme will also give me a chance to fix some major reader issues:

  • Stuff is hard to find, and
  • The overall look and feel of the site is too cluttered

You won’t find everything here—based on the comments I get (about 4,000 questions asked, and 4,000 answers given, in the last 12 months) the site is thin on stuff for kids younger than 8, on itineraries focused on just a park (all my itineraries are fully integrated for multi-park long stays) and on best and worst days.

But even so, there’s still a lot here—almost 1500 individual entries, with more coming out at a rate of 3-5 new posts a week!

I have lotsa stuff on how to find things around here—the best option is the search box at the top right of every page. (Try the search box.  It’s delicious!  Don’t believe me? Search for “Wishes”!)

But I think an “accordion menu” on the left side would be a big help—like the one on the left side of MouseSavers.com.  This would allow the navigation section you now see on the left side of this site to expand to be much more detailed and specific than it is right now if needed, while defaulting to something much shorter and less scary.

If I went that way, it’d also make it easier to kill the entire right sidebar, moving the important parts to the left side, in space freed both by the accordion menu, and also by killing the “More Puffery” section.

I’ll also likely re-do the home page so it has its own, new layout.

The current home page intentionally is like the table of contents to an instruction manual which has had its cover pulled off.  For the intended users of this site—first time visitors who may never return—that’s OK.  But over time the site has developed three different types of readers:

  1. The intended audience: first timers
  2. Returning visitors who are using the more detailed material on the site to shape certain key decisions like when to go and where to stay…
  3. Disney fans who like to see what’s new here, and to just generally browse the site

So I’m thinking I may just make the home page three columns, with one column exactly addressing each of these three types of readers….

In addition I’ll continue all the routines that for better or worse the site has fallen into—I’ll revise the 2014 material (the 2014 crowd calendar, price seasons, and week rankings) in the summer, once final prices and final public school breaks are released; the 2014 version of the week picker will come out shortly after that, and in the fall, I’ll publish the first drafts of the core 2015 material.

Having completed the Great Moderate Re-Visit over the last 12 months, and stayed in and reviewed the brand-new Art of Animation Family Suites and Little Mermaid standard rooms, I’ll finish re-visiting and re-reviewing the other Values in the next 12 months; stay in the newly refurbed rooms that are emerging at the Polynesian; and check out the new DVC offering at the Grand Floridian when it opens.

Then there’s the rest of the Fantasyland Expansion that will emerge over the next 12 months…and likely other fun new stuff to check out that we don’t know about yet!

Moreover, I’ll likely need to revise the Harry Potter material for the opening of part two of Harry Potter at Universal Studios—currently rumored for June 2014.

So there’s plenty to look forward to in yourfirstvisit.net’s sixth year!

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10 comments

1 Jennifer { 04.02.13 at 11:05 am }

Just wanted to congratulate you on five years of GREAT work! Although, sometimes, seeing the photos of the rooms you review and their fridges full of beer, I wonder just how HARD that work really is… ;-) I jest! I know it takes a LOT of effort to build and maintain a site like this, and it’s made all the difference in the world in my family’s Disney vacations. Thank you SO MUCH for all you do!!!

2 Dave { 04.02.13 at 12:56 pm }

:) Jennifer and thanks…there’s a reason–beyond the obvious one!–for the beers.

There’s sites out there with reviews of every WDW resort whose authors have stayed in a only couple for only a few nights. ..they get their photos from others… So my beer photos are a bit of a subliminal message that I really have stayed in every single resort, for multiple nights, and most typically more than once, and also in every major room sub-type within them…the alternative is to show rooms with our gear strewn about, but we are such slobs I’d never dream of doing that…so I make the family stand outside til I’ve got the core shots in…plus it’s just silly to show the beer and I like silly!

3 Tom { 04.05.13 at 2:58 pm }

Congrats Dave!

Great stuff here! May I suggest something for your site? How about a “reader’s” experience section? Let’s say Bob and his family just followed your guide to Dining without a Dining Plan, for instance, and they would love to share their experience in less than 1,000 words so that others may know how it feels like. Perhaps even a reader’s review of the month or what about a topic of the month (or week) such as “What to do in Hollywood Studios if you don’t get a FastPass for Toy Story mania, tell us your suggestion” or “Best places to eat without a Dining Plan in the Orlando area for families”. i don´t know. i would enhance feedback from the community. Hope it helps!

4 Dave { 04.06.13 at 9:08 am }

Tom these are great ideas! Thanks!

5 Steve From MilitaryDisneyTips.com - YourFirstVisit.net Military Moderator { 04.06.13 at 5:22 pm }

Congratulations my friend!

Another fantastic year for YFV.net. I really appreciate the huge amount of work that I know goes into content creation for this site. Great job.

I’m looking forward to all the great things you mentioned that are coming during the next year. I love the new home page idea.

I look forward to even more great collaboration as we move forward.

Steve

6 Dave { 04.06.13 at 6:11 pm }

Thanks, my friend!!

7 Mark { 04.07.13 at 2:33 am }

Hi Dave,

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful information. I came across your site between our second and third trips to Disney World. I found we had a more relaxed, pleasurable, and confident trip because of using the information you provide. I find your discussions of “next best” options to be very valuable information.

One thing I would like to see you do is provide some information on quick service dining locations of note. On our last trip, we made sure that we tried both “Flame Tree Barbeque” and “Boulangerie et Patisserie” as a result of your itinerary and your “Guilty Pleasures” article. Both were outstanding. It would be nice to have a page that points out the quick service dining options that are particularly notable.

8 Dave { 04.07.13 at 7:32 am }

Thanks Mark, I’m so glad the site is helping you! And I love your suggestion about featuring some counter service locations!

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9 Sarah { 04.13.13 at 7:53 pm }

Dave:

Thanks for your tips prior to our visit with our ten year old triplets earlier this month. Your advice was very helpful. While we only did one day and spent it at Magic Kingdom, it was a very memorable trip. Our kids have never been really into Disney movies etc. but loved the day at Magic Kingdom. Given this and the significant cost of Disney, we never considered more than one day.

Since our kids are older, we were able to do every ride and see every attraction of interest. Despite going during Spring Break, the crowds were NOT overwhelming and we never waited long for anything. We stayed off property and arrived at the park around 8 and there was no line to buy tickets. There was some rain during the day which probably kept the crowds down but didn’t impact our experience.

The day before going to the Magic Kingdom, we took our kids (who are big sports fans ) to the ESPN Club for lunch at Boardwalk. The parking was free and it was really a pleasant afternoon. We stayed at the Nickelodeon Resort which in no Ritz, but a fun place for kids that provides free transportation to the Disney Parks. My husband has stayed at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian for conferences and for us, it just wasn’t worth the extra money to stay there.

While I know you advocate longer stays, I would just say that for those who have older kids, you can have a great experience going only for a single day. I think it really depends what your family enjoys. I’m really glad we took our kids and have no regrets it wasn’t a longer stay–we had a beach vacation for the rest of the week which was quite enjoyable as well.

Our kids were quite impressed with Disney’s marketing–they were counting the number of gift shops! They had received gift cards for their birthday and it was fun for them to figure out how to use them.

Thanks again for the advice you gave us–it was right on the money and greatly appreciated.

Sarah

10 Dave { 04.14.13 at 9:38 am }

Sarah, that’s great, I’m so glad I could help. And thanks for your point about even a day being a good day!

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