In 1995, shortly after I started working for SCHOOL BUS FLEET, we launched a Website for the pupil transportation community at www.schoolbusfleet.com.
It was, as you might expect, rather primitive compared to today’s sites, which every day seem to introduce a new and more annoying array of bells and whistles. I recall that our site had four large, rectangular navigation links flanked by a huge box with the words “Your ad could be here.” Sadly, I don’t think we ever filled that space with a banner ad before redesigning the site a few years later.
I also recall that we were initially getting 40 to 50 visits per day. Happy to get them, too. You have to remember that the Internet was relatively new in the mid-1990s. The few people who were adventurous enough to have a modem were downloading information at a rate of 9,600 bits per second (bps) compared with today’s DSL rate of 1.5 million bps. Patience was definitely a virtue back then.
We’ve come a long way. . .
Nine years later, we’ve redesigned the site three or four times and seen it grow in popularity each year. These days we draw approximately 90,000 visits per month with an average of more than 10 minutes per visit. Visitors come from all over the world. In a recent month, our site was accessed by school bus enthusiasts in Hong Kong, Estonia, Hungary and Brazil. The vast majority, of course, come from the United States and Canada.
But, just like you, we’re not satisfied with the status quo. To that end, we’ve redesigned and bolstered the content and features of our site, still located at www.schoolbusfleet.com. These upgrades are meant to make the site more user-friendly, yes, but also more informative.
For example, we have added several years of magazine content to the Archives. That’s equivalent to hundreds of feature articles, news stories and editorials. For those of you who have the last 10 years of SCHOOL BUS FLEET on your bookshelf (and you know who you are), this will not add to your store of knowledge. But it will make it easier to find that article about alternative fuels that you vaguely remember appearing about six years ago. Rather than rifle through dozens of back issues, you can simply use a keyword search in the Archives. How’s that for a time-saving feature?
Another section that we’ve added to the Website is Industry Insider. Like the Breaking News section, it will provide timely information about the industry. In this case, however, it will focus on pupil transportation’s supplier community. When we hear about a significant development at, say, a bus manufacturer or engine supplier, we’ll pass it along to you through the Industry Insider. Staying in tune with the commercial end of the industry can help you make informed decisions when it comes time to procure new buses or even to replace the tires on your existing fleet.
Now for the sales pitch
Of course, these changes required a significant investment on our end. Continued upgrades will cost still more. To finance these improvements, we have begun to ask for a nominal registration fee for use of two areas: Archives and Research (SBF surveys and other statistics). The registration will also include access to back issues of SBF Plus, an eight-page newsletter that was jammed with short, easy-to-digest articles for school transportation professionals. Those of you who remember SBF Plus can attest to the value of the information, which, through our redesigned Website, is still available.
But don’t take my word for the improvements to our Website. Bring your skepticism to www.schoolbusfleet.com and find out if it’s justified. While you’re at it, send along any suggestions for new content or interactive features. Like I said, we’re not satisfied with the status quo. Your suggestions are not only welcome, but encouraged.