Meet the Staff! An Interview with Micki Seibel

Though relatively new to HubPages, Head of Product Micki Seibel has been making big and splendid changes to our site. When chatting in the Forums, Micki is usually fielding questions about design changes and tests, but there is much more to this HubPages staff member (and impressive food Hubber) than new Hub designs! Check out Micki’s answers to Hubber questions to learn more about her background, motivation, and philosophy.

Do you ever feel bad when after a hard job you do not receive the recognition and praise that you deserve from Hubbers? -ngureco

No. In most cases, hearing no feedback is a sign of a job well done because the Hubbers that don’t like something will always say so!

On a more serious note, I do read comments and posts from Hubbers to look for indications that you are happy and to get feedback. For me, I know I’ve done a good job when the data says so…even if the Hubbers don’t. However, if you want to praise me for a job well done, I’ll gladly accept it. 😉

What motivates you to do the things you do for HubPages?

My professional mission in life is to use technology to improve the lives of millions of people. It’s why I came to Silicon Valley in 1996. It’s why I worked for Netscape on the web browser back in the day (bringing the Internet to the masses). It’s why I ran Product Management at eBay in its early days (democratizing the exchange of goods), and why I’ve done the start-up companies that I have. HubPages is a continuation of that mission: using the internet to enable writers to find an audience, and enabling readers to find and engage with what you write (democratizing the exchange of knowledge).

Ryan H. used to bring in his dog. Do you have any office dogs now? -wordscribe43

I can’t thank you enough for asking this question and giving me the chance to show you Kisha-pups. 🙂 Although Norah and Ari sometimes bring their dogs to work, our most regular office dog is Kisha. She’s my 11 year old Belgian Sheepdog/Chow mix. She and I walk to the office (30 minutes one way) 3 or 4 days a week to keep her fit. I adopted her from the Humane Society when she was 5 months old. In fact, here’s a picture of Kisha under my desk at HubPages HQ.

What are your goals for site in the future (one year, five years, etc.)? – Marcy Goodfleisch

Excellent question. The goal at HubPages is to provide a platform for you to write and find an audience. That’s always been our goal and it’s not going to change. What changes from 1 year to 5 years (or even from 5 years ago when we started) is *how* to fulfill that.

The key themes for the next year (and you probably already see these happening on the site):

  • Traffic growth. Search engine optimization is always an ongoing part of that, but also looking at other methods such as social media and mobile optimization.
  • Redesign of the site. This is to better communicate our brand (especially to readers) and to update our site design
  • Content Growth. How to keep you engaged in writing, working on features to make the site easier, and looking at ways to give you inspiration to write content where we are lacking in it.

Are you strictly a 9-5 outfit? Or do you have workaholics that work into the night, holidays and weekends? – Arlene V. Poma

Actually, we are neither. Let me explain.

We don’t have set hours that everyone works. Our company culture is very supportive of letting employees create their own work schedules, and we are allowed to work from home when we need. We’re definitely not a culture of late night workaholics. A lot of people have families, and everyone seems to have interesting extracurricular activities and interests.

It works well for us because…and I really do mean this honestly when I say it…we have a great team that is very good at what they do, passionate about it, and that makes them effective. I’ve worked at several high profile Internet companies over the years, and I definitely think that the team here at HubPages is one of the best with which I’ve ever worked. Everything gets done that needs to get done…and quickly. At the same time, I can still cook dinner, play tennis, and travel: my passions.

Do you read Hubs for enjoyment? – rebekahELLE

Every day. I don’t always get to comment on what I read, but I at least leave a Hub Feedback on good ones. I follow the Food & Cooking, Tennis, Travel & Places, and Dogs Topics, specifically.

Where are HubPages’ growth opportunities? -GinnyLee

These are very related to the question earlier about our 1 year and 5 year goals. There are three inter-related opportunities:

  • Traffic Growth. This is continued work on search engine optimization as well as better integration with social media.
  • Brand and engaging readers. Updating our brand and site design to better engage readers. If they start to remember who we are, they will pick us in search and that help traffic growth. This is why you are seeing the design of the site change: the header, the new slideshow player, the new Hub design testing. Coming later this year are the User Profile and Topics pages.
  • Content Growth. Engaging writers such as yourselves to create more, great content–especially in areas where we are lacking in it. This helps more readers find us, choose HubPages in search, share the content with their networks, and remember to come back to HubPages–all of which supports traffic growth.
  • And traffic growth = audience for your content.

What sports does each one of you like to watch and play? -prettydarkhorse

Tennis. I’ve been an athlete my whole life, but tennis is my primary passion. I’ve been playing since I was 12, played a bit in college, and now play competitive USTA league tennis. I’ve written a couple of Tennis Hubs. I’ve even attended each of the 4 Grand Slams of Tennis (some of them, like the Australian Open, more than once).

Did I mention tennis?

Does HP have any Friday traditions? Things like casual day, big box of donuts next to the coffee machine, group lunch at TGIF, etc. -paradigmsearch

We have several traditions. They aren’t specific to Fridays, though. We always have team lunch on Thursdays. That’s been great because it’s the one day that everyone who works for HubPages is sure to be in the office! We have fresh coffee from Peet’s made every morning. Sometimes we do Wednesday dinners.

Casual day? Ha! That’s every day.

I notice employees on the forums late at night sometimes. Are you “on the clock” for these late hours, or what? -wordscribe43

I’ll let others answer for themselves. For me, I’m on the forums late at night working sometimes for several different reasons:

  • Sometimes it’s because I’m working on something that needs fast turnaround and there’s a lot of feedback coming from Hubbers (for example, the Hub redesigns in Fashion and Technology).
  • Sometimes it’s because I left work early to play tennis. Ok, truth be told, it’s often it’s because I split up my work day and head out early to play tennis then work again after dinner.

A New Profile Design

We have been keeping you updated on various tests with new Hub designs, but Hubs aren’t the only parts of HubPages that are getting new looks. In addition to refining Hub designs, Micki Seibel has been working for several weeks on creating a new and improved Profile Page.

The product of her work is something significantly more professional, functional, polished, and refined! Check it out:

Curious about the changes? We’ll walk you through the Profile Page’s updates and new features.

More Author Prominence
One of our primary objectives with the new design is to give Hubbers and their personal brands more prominence. This is why we moved Hubbers’ names and profile images to the top left of the page in a bold header that extends across the entire width of the Profile.

Additional Identity
You’ll notice that below Maddie Ruud’s real name is listed below HubPages username (and special status). We know that not all of you are able to choose your real name as your username on HubPages, so we’re giving you the option to share your real name on your profile page, just as you can on Twitter.
If you prefer to write under a pen name or just use your witty online handle, you are free to leave this section of your profile blank. That said, showing your real name can add professional polish to your online profile and demonstrates that there is a real, passionate writer behind your wonderful Hubs.

Social Media Connections
To transform Profile Pages into functional online portfolios, we are adding the ability to list links to a personal website and external social media accounts at the top of the page. This will make it easier for your readers and followers to find you on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, as well as your own personal website.
Maintaining an active presence across multiple platforms plays an important role in online success, so we encourage Hubbers to connect your HubPages profile with as many sites as they please!

A Streamlined Bio
The bio is one of the most important aspects of one’s Profile, so we’re leaving it front and center. That said, we also want these pages to adequately showcase Hubbers’ wonderful work, so to save real estate we are truncating Hubber bios after a certain number of words. These bios will not be cut off; visitors can continue to read them in an overlay should they please.

Are you concerned about the lack of bio space? Don’t be! When Hubbers have long bios, they typically fill them with two things:

  1. Links to external sites: These are now featured in their own dedicated section at the top of the page, so they need not be reiterated here.
  2. Links to Hubs one wants to feature: Under the My Content section of your Profile, which will display by default in what is now the blank section of the image we’ve shared, you will be able to select several Hubs to feature in a carousel.

Because we now offer these more attractive linking alternatives and encourage Hubbers to keep the bio strictly bio-focused, we are additionally disabling links in this section of the page.

Similar Hubbers
To help you both discover and be discovered on HubPages, we are showcasing similar Hubbers on each Hubber’s Profile. This feature will help fans of your work find more Hubbers like you and this will also promote your own Profile on others’ pages.

More Functional Use of Space
There is so much interesting information about Hubbers that it would be impossible to display it all at once on one page. We’re addressing this problem by offering a dynamic center of the page that displays your content by default, but can also display Hubtivity, Hubbers you follow and who follow you, Fan Mail, and recent images you have posted.

My Content
This is the section of your Profile where your Hubs and Videos will be featured. At the top, you have the option to display a specially curated collection of your best work.

Currently, Hubtivity (which displays status updates, comments, Hubs published, Questions asked and answered, etc.) is displayed on your Profile below your Hubs. Almost nobody gets that far along in your profile to actually view it (there are too many interesting Hubs to look at along the way!), so we’re giving this stream of activity its own section.

Hubbers do much more on HubPages than simply publish Hubs. We’re a supportive community of writers who enjoy, comment on, and discover each other’s work. The Hubbers we follow do much to reveal our involvement with the HubPages community, and can also help our own followers discover new writers, so we’re making the Hubbers you follow easier to see.

On HubPages, followers are earned, and you should be proud of the Hubbers who have decided to get regular updates on your work! With this section of your profile, you can display them proudly.

Fan Mail
On LinkedIn, professionals display endorsements from present and past colleagues. Kind words from earnest Hubbers are well worth displaying, so we’re giving Fan Mail a dedicated section (instead of a truncated summary that leads to a separate page listing followers and Fan Mail). It is also to this section that we are moving the “Contact [Username]” option through which Hubbers can email you directly.

Recent Images
Good images are a big deal on HubPages, and play a huge role in a Hub’s success. We’ll be featuring images that you have recently published in Hubs in this new section of your Profile to give your cool photos, illustrations, charts, and graphs the attention they deserve. These images will include a link to their location on HubPages, as well as your source, URL, and caption, so you don’t have to worry about copyright issues if you use Creative Commons images.

All in all, we have done our best to make your profile page work for you as a Hubber, writer, and creative individual. We hope you like it!



Testing a New Hub Design on Technology Hubs

A couple weeks back, we rolled out a new Hub design on Fashion and Beauty Hubs and have been monitoring its performance while making small tweaks. Before we settle on a new site-wide Hub design, we have decided to test out another new Hub design that adopts a radically different approach.

The new Hub design that we are rolling out as a test on Hubs within the Technology Topic is a clear departure from the Fashion and Beauty design. In this case, we have stripped away all but the most essential features on the page, leaving the look as streamlined as possible. This is done in an effort to reduce the time it takes for the page to load, eliminate distractions, and allow the content of the Hub itself to truly shine.

While we have removed all unnecessary components from this experimental design, we have also made some attempts to make the page more attractive. Notice the new background, which has been given a tech-related treatment. Should this new look be adopted site-wide, each Topic on HubPages would have its own distinctive but subtle background image.

As we experiment with this new design, we will slowly add back elements to the page to see what mixture of features leads to optimal performance. Because there are fewer ads in this initial test, you may see a slight drop in the ad revenue you earn from your Technology Hubs. Then again, you may see an increase in earnings as fewer distractions may lead to higher clickthrough rates. Keep in mind that this is a test, and that in the end, we will settle on whatever design leads to the best user experience- both for readers and Hubbers.

Big thanks to MickiS for championing this test, props to Fawntia for quickly executing the change, and a hearty hat tip to Amy Liu, who created the new Hub’s design!