I use GAIM instant messenger since I use ICQ, MSN and GoogleTalk and GAIM integrates these three IM networks nicely.
Recently I searched for GAIM in Google using the keyword “gaim”. Usually, the GAIM website comes up as the first result, but not this time. Something had changed, the first result did not contain theword “GAIM” anywhere in the title. So, my eyes moved below, making their way to find a GAIM link. After checking a few more results, it became clear to me that I would have to search more. I used “gaim download” now , but large software download website was the first result. I wanted to visit the original GAIM website.
I tried searching for “gaim” only again. I checked the first result thoroughly this time. Andjust as well that I did – the title was “News – Pidgin”, but then in the description Google displayed the following text: “AOL naturally complained, and Mark Spencer changed the name to ‘Gaim’. … Adium uses libgaim, the backend to gaim and gaim-text behind a slick OS X native …“. The four mentions of “gaim” caught my eyes. I clicked the link and finally was transferred to the official GAIM website, same logo with new name Pidgin.
Although, no message describes why GAIM has been renamed to Pidgin on the homepage (except the long text deep down titled “Important and Long Delayed News”), the logo and the unchanged look of the website reassured me that the website is that of GAIM. Now to the SEO and usability aspects of changing product names.
From a SEO point of view, GAIM developers mastered the basics and used proper redirection via 301 Moved Permanently status from the old gaim.sourceforge.net website to the new www.pidgin.im. Google and other search engines (and their robots) picked up the redirection soon and changed the webpages in their indexes.
From a usability point of view, however, the GAIM (now Pidgin) developers made a mistake – they did not keep the original name “GAIM” anywhere in the title, nor had they informed visitors of the name change via some large text placed near the logo on all pages.
Be sure to use common sense when chaning names or using redirection from an old to a new domain – don’t forget to inform your returning visitors (and returning customers) about the name changes. Explain, why you moved the website from one domain to the other. Use large bold text displayed in a highly visible position (above the fold and close to the logo) informing about the change. Think as your visitors do and allow them to digest the change.
What is Pidgin? “A pidgin is a simplified language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups who do not share a common language, in situations such as trade. Pidgins usually have no native speakers, but are learned as second languages, and they usually have low prestige with respect to other languages.” (Wikipedia)