community June 26, 2012

Welcome to the Arqade: Rebranding a Successful Site

Question: What do Stack Overflow, Super User, and Server Fault have in common that most of the sites on our network don’t? Answer: A unique brand. It’s no coincidence that our three largest sites happen to have their own brands. Unique domain names are more memorable than the subdomains that cover most of our network, which…
Avatar for Lauren Gundrum
Community and Growth (Former)

Question: What do Stack Overflow, Super User, and Server Fault have in common that most of the sites on our network don’t?

Answer: A unique brand.

It’s no coincidence that our three largest sites happen to have their own brands. Unique domain names are more memorable than the subdomains that cover most of our network, which we believe is part of the reason why those sites are so successful. Gaming.stackexchange.com has been growing on its own for a while now: the community is extremely active and it has some of the best traffic statistics of any of the non-trilogy sites. The site has gotten a lot of special attention in terms of internal promotions, and we believe that it has the potential to become one of the largest gaming sites out there. To take it to the next level, it needs a unique brand.

TLDR: Gaming.SE is now Arqade! If you want the story behind how Arqade came to be, keep on reading.

Naming Gaming

Realizing the need for a brand was easy, coming up with it was another story. Good brand names convey what the site is about (in this case: gaming, Q&A, advice, etc), are memorable, don’t require a lot of explanation, and are easy to visualize and design for. To come up with a clever name, we decided to consult some experts in the field: the Gaming.SE community.

We made a meta post announcing a special chat room dedicated to a week-long brainstorming session. The rules for the chat room were simple: no discussion, only suggestions. Star suggestions you like, and ignore the ones you don’t. The criteria for the domain name were a bit more complicated:

Non-negotiable criteria: the name

  • must be available
  • must be a .com
  • must not be associated with a trademark
  • must not contain hyphens or other similar characters

Nice-to-haves: the name

  • should convey the idea of Q&A, advice, knowledge, or community
  • should suggest gaming, or something related (e.g. levels, playing, quests…)
  • should be memorable, such that a strong visual brand can be created around it
  • The Twitter handle should be available

We got a lot of great suggestions from the chat, and Arqade.com fit best. It’s pronounced “arcade”, which is clearly associated with gaming, and there’s a convenient “QA” in the middle! Many thanks to NiQAlas T for the idea!

Branding and Design

Arqade Site Card
Once we had the name, the next step was to create a design around it. Our community really loved Jin’s 8-bit theme, so we didn’t want to change the design too drastically, but we did want to tweak it to make it feel like you’re in an arcade. Jin did a little design magic and proposed the design to the community last week. While change is always difficult, we think the spaceship is pretty awesome and will make for some interesting swag!

What does this mean for our other sites?

Arqade got a new name because it is growing very rapidly. The community is already very engaged and excited about helping move the site to the next level, and part of that is a name that will distinguish it in the gaming community. Not every site will get its own name, and rebranding is not a “next step” in the graduation process. However, if a site grows to the point where the community is very strong, excited, and we think it can handle a big push, we will definitely consider doing this again.

Don’t be upset if your community keeps the brand it launched with though –  there are a lot of benefits to being associated with the Stack Exchange network! That’s why Arqade, Ask Different, and Seasoned Advice (among others) all redirect to a .stackexchange.com subdomain, even though they have their own brands.  For one, search rank is improved for our entire network.  Additionally, many people recognize Stack Exchange as a brand, and might be more likely to visit some of the smaller sites because of that. For these reasons, we’re reluctant to even consider_ re-branding a site until its community is very well-established. And there are other areas where the effort can be better spent: finding ways to convey the unique value of your community to newcomers in as few words as possible is enough of a challenge without trying to force it into a one- or two-word name + domain.

As with a lot of the things we do, “Arqade.com” is an experiment. We think it will help the already strong Gaming community grow even more, but the actual effects remain to be seen. If you want to stay updated, follow @thearqade or come hang out!

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