Maldives Complete Logo 2.0

Maldives Complete - new logo

The Maldives keeps developing and getting better and so, we hope, does Maldives Complete. The latest refinement injects an extra bit of authentic Maldivian style and flair to the site with the contributions of up-and-coming artist Aima Musthafa (see photo below) who has redesigned its logo and design palette.

I’ve admired Aima’s work since I first discovered her in the “Cool Women” piece. I’m honoured to have been her very first customer and proud owner of her triptych “Raalhu Girl” (“Raalu” means “wave” in Dhivehi). After going abroad for some art and design studies, she has returned to her home shores to ply her creative brush and was recently was showcased in Kandima’s artist collective.

The Maldives Complete brief was to infuse the look with colour and culture of the Maldives it represented. I wanted to add the Dhivehi words for “Maldives Complete – “Furihama Dhivehi Raajje”. So Aima selected a font that would work well in both languages capturing the dynamic fluidity of the Dhivehi characters.

Part of what drives to me to this hobby is the escapism of immersing myself into the Laccadive world even though I am hunkered down five thousand miles away in damp, chilly England. I’ve always crafted the site to be saturated with local imagery so using it would be like a digital visit to this paradise. I have always used a collection of colours that evokes the vibrant tropical and aquatic tapestry of the destination. Aima formalised this palette some colours more carefully aligned in tone and complementarity (see her notes below). She then blended the native colours into a design similarly melding familiar shapes and forms. The result is a striking new emblem for all complete Maldives appreciation.

The new logo has also been an opportunity for a general cosmetic tidy-up to the site as I had to touch so may main pages. I have aligned some of the graphical elements more precisely and used Aima’s colour palette in place across the pages.

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Aima Musko artist

Maldives Complete Logo redesign

Snorkel Spotter v2.0

Snorkel Spotter 2

Santa left Maldives Complete a big present under the code tree this Christmas – a completely re-platformed “Snorkel Spotter”.

An added bonus is that now you can log your Snorkel Spottings with your iPhone or iPad as these are now supported with the Safari browser.

As I mentioned recently, while I started out on an almost ‘completely’ Microsoft platform (due to where I was working at the time), the Microsoft strategy and execution in the Internet arena has been unfortunately pretty dire. Technologies it heralded as the next big thing were often discarded. The latest casualty of their myopia has been Silverlight.

I built the Snorkel Spotter dynamic control on this platform as it was hailed to be the latest thing for web interactivity. Unfortunately, neither I (still subscribed to too many Microsoft kool-aid newsletters) nor Microsoft saw HTML5 coming down the pike.

From the outset, Silverlight was an aggravation for users who increasingly were using non-Internet Explorer (IE) browsers which required a fairly complex installation of a special plug-in to get the Spotter to work. And last year, Google’s Chrome, the most popular browser of all, stopped support for Silverlight all together (even a plug-in wouldn’t work). So, prospective “Spotters” had to find a machine with IE or try to install it themselves (and often companies like resorts look down their computers and don’t let staff install whatever programmes they fancy, especially those downloaded from the Internet).

Enough was enough and I decided to move to the new de facto standard for interactivity – HTML5. Unfortunately, I had a few other projects in the queue (eg. WordPress Migration, Beauty Base launch). And once spec’ed, it took a while to code and implement. Hats off to .Net developer Tapesh M. from Ahmedabad, India who did the actually code migration for me. Microsoft has been woefully remiss in providing any migration tools or even guidance on moving from Silverlight for HTML5 (I spent a month researching it). Anyone faced with this problem should get in touch with Tapesh. He does brilliant work.

The migration has also given me a chance to clean up a few glitches and update some of the data and maps in the Spotter. I hope that the work makes the tool all the more fun and useful for everyone.

Happy Spotting!

Non-Dedicated Resort Islands

Maldives Complete - resort finder dedicated

One of the aspects that distinguishes the Maldives as a destination (and often confuses new visitors not familiar with the lay of the land/sea) are the dedicated resorts islands.  On almost all cases, a “resort” and an “island” are a 1:1 mapping.  “Tourists Only” resort islands if you will. Most are so dedicated that they don’t really allow guests to come from other islands or visit from things like passing cruise ships.

This is not always the case, though.  There are a number of hotels and possibly what one might to refer to as “Resorts” on islands that are not dedicated. One big implication for being on a “shared” island (ie.  shared with local population) is that the resort will be unable to serve alcohol.  With its Muslim culture, alcohol sale is only allowed on dedicated islands.  Barefoot has found a way to accommodate its guests with a special “off shore” license for a boat bar that only its guest can access (in essence, a dedicated “island” of a floating craft).

A few new properties have emerged in “hotel” category on a “non-dedicated island” that seemed reasonable to add to the Maldives Complete database.  They are big enough and high enough quality to offer a reasonable alternative to some of the resorts. I have spent time in many of them, visited a few more, and in general have a good appreciation of the considerations for a good hotel from my regular worldwide travel.

I am continuing with my decision to not cover guest houses.  There are so many of them, there is little information on the Internet about them (which I depend on for research), and I personally have never stayed in one so I don’t feel I can offer editorial insights about the experience or what to look for.

Maldives Complete Blog 2.0

Maldives Complete WordPress


Hello world…again.

The time has come to retreat from my Microsoft roots and get onto some proper Internet technology to take the Maldives Complete website forward. Much as I appreciated Microsoft’s enthusiasm for all things web in the latter part of my career there, they never quite “got” the Internet. IBM dominated the era of big computing…but never got the PC world despite some brief successes. Microsoft dominated the era of personal computing…but never got the connected world of web and devices despite some brief successes. As a result, most of their technology is in this area is lagging woefully and just becoming a burden to developers like me.

One of their cul-de-sacs was their “Community Server” product. I kind of had to base my blog on this tool since at the time I set the blog up, it was one of the products in my portfolio at Microsoft. But I should have read the writing on the wall when I had to fight the UK board to keep them from shutting down an internal community “social media” forum that they though was a “time waster” (I made the case that it was actually useful from a productivity point of view to get questions answered quickly, that it helped to bring an increasingly disparate and fractured staff closer together, and that it allowed employees to get used this thing called “social” media which was going to be big some day). Soon after, Microsoft ditched the CS product to Telligent who has now sold it off to Zimbra. It’s really focused more on niche enterprise intranets now.

It’s a big step to migrate an entire platform. I have over 6 years and 1000+ posts that had to move. I’ve chosen the now de facto standard for blogging – WordPress. A big shout out to Dimitris P. who did the work extremely professionally, promptly and at a reasonable price (he is your go-to guy for any other blogs that want to move from Community Server to WordPress). I will be tweaking the look-and-feel, a few glitches (eg. the Chinese characters of my Belinda Young interview didn’t come across properly the first time) over the next few weeks. But hopefully, the new platform will be more robust and allow me to present more great posts with richer functionality and more current styling.

Dive Sites Complete

Dive Sites Complete

Announcing the Dive Sites database and *Complete* interactive guide.

When I first started Maldives Complete, it seemed like the only information available on the Maldives was for divers and honeymooners. As a result, I veered away from those topics and focused on less catered for subjects like families as well as unusual activities and offerings. I am obsessed with snorkelling and this has brought be closer to the diving domain. Increasingly, however, I am receiving more and more diving enquiries and am finding it hard and harder to find comprehensive diving information in structured, interactive resources.

The primary source for dive site information has been the hard-copy books which are extremely well done. But they add a fair bit of weight to the baggage and aren’t the easiest to navigate. As with the proliferating resorts, one of the biggest problems is being spoiled for choice. There are 100+ active resorts, but there are 10 times that number of dive sites (at least).

The main sources of research have been the following in particular (and the featured dive charts are kindly used with permission and the source is linked to in the profiles)…

And after several months of research and coding (with big help from my ace assistants Emma Barnes and Grace Bolton), I have now scratched surface with a credible v.1 database with over 500 dive sites. Specifically, the new section includes…

  • Number of Atolls covered – 18
  • Number of Dive Sites – 552
  • Number of Dive Charts – 243

Here is the number of dive sites included by Atoll…

  • Baa 31
  • Dhaalu 5
  • Faafu 53
  • Gaafu Alifu – Dhaalu 34
  • Haa Alifu 33
  • Laamu 14
  • Lhaviyani 22
  • Meemu 54
  • Noonu 31
  • North Ari 55
  • North Male 89
  • Raa 3
  • Seenu 16
  • South Ari 44
  • South Male 45
  • Thaa 1
  • Vaavu 22

The exercise has also surfaced some other interested statistical tidbits about the Maldives dive sites (at least the sample set I have at hand)…

  • Resort with Most Dive Sites Nearest: Filitheyo – 53. This stat is primarily down to the (a) great information from Werner Lau who operates out of Filitheyo, and (b) the fact that Filitheyo is the only resort in the entire Faafu atoll so it pretty much has the atoll to itself.
  • Most Common Dive Site Name : “Kuda Giri” – 6. You will see that sometimes I parenthetically appended the atoll name to the dive site name. This was done to make the site name unique since multiple dive sites used the same name.
  • Most Common First name: “Bodu” – 13.
  • Common Type (eg. “Thila”, “Kandu”, “Corner”): “Thila” – 112.
  • Longest Name: “Kanandhou Kaleyge Galha” – 23 letters.

Right now the profiles are quite basic. They include…

  • Dive chart (where available)
  • Atoll
  • Nearest resort
  • Alternative name(s)
  • Features (eg. cave, wreck, creatures)

All of the material is far from perfect.

  • Polish – Not all of the graphics are perfectly aligned/sized/etc. Some people look down their noses at Maldives Complete’s rough hewn design. It stands in stark contrast to the slick (and all too often useless) websites of many resorts. I’ve resisted exhortations to “polish” the site with a glossy look and feel. I have neither the money nor the graphics ability to do so really. Furthermore, I have bit of aesthetic preference for the simpler layout and style. I prefer to think of it as “artisinal”. J
  • Precision – I toiled for a long time at the outset about the degree of granularity to have in the interactive map. Zoom in and you can’t get a sense of everything at an easy glance. Zoom out and you can’t get precision or a sense of the surrounding area. I think I got the balance right in the end, but if anything I ended up sacrificing precise placement of dive flags for ease of at-a-glance navigation. You can drill into very close-up looks at the dive areas and their topology using the British Admiralty map DeepZoom feature of the site.
  • Completeness – Help me! My aspiration is *complete* and I am aware that I have rippled the surface of dive sites and information about them. If you would like me to add a dive site or materials about one already included, please contact me.

I may extend the profiles to more information if (a) there is demand from website visitors, and (b) there is help from local resources to supply the information.

Which brings me to the final points. I have a number of principles that guided the development of Maldives Complete, and those have led me to not just adding dive site information, but *how* I added it…

UNIQUE – First principle of Maldives Complete is to only add data and functionality you can’t get elsewhere. I follow Seth Godin’s marketing precept, ‘Don’t be the best one, be the only one.’ If someone else has the information or material, then best just to point to that rather than add a “me too” capability (and the profiles point directly the top dive resources on the web to help people find more detail about those dive sites at the web sites that focus in on them).

The interface for the material is a uniquely interactive map of every atoll. The other dive maps (eg. MondoMaldive,, Werner Lau) don’t cover ALL the atolls. They cover about a half dozen atolls. Maldives COMPLETE has 18 of the 22 main atolls (and I will be doing research to get dive site locations for the other 4 over the next few months).

Also, the existing dive site maps use a numbering key which means that you have to reference the name at the bottom which is all a bit cumbersome.

I’ve also based the catalogue on the British Admiralty Maps which provide comprehensive topological information and a range of depth measurements. All of the other maps are a simplified atoll layout just showing the islands. The maps also have the added advantage of being consistent with the longstanding Maldives Complete feature of the “Deep Zoom” map which allows people to examine certain areas with great clarity and detail.

UTILITY – For everything I add to the website I ask, “Is it useful?” As a result, I didn’t add a number of pieces to the Dive Site information that I could have. For example, I have passed on…

  • Pictures – Some dive site guides have pictures taken from the sites. But frankly, they are all close-ups of various fish and features that could be anywhere.
  • Depths – Frankly, the vast majority of the Maldives dive sites are all between 5-10 meters going down to around 20 meters. It didn’t seem worth the effort to catalogue the minor variations and few exceptions. Star rating
  • Ratings – These vary but include overall quality of dive, sometimes a special rating for snorkeling, or sometimes a difficulty rating.
  • Visibility
  • Descriptions
  • Accessibility

USER-SUPPORTED – The best part about Maldives Complete is the extensive support I get from fans around the world you appreciate it and help plug gaps in data and information. A good chunk of my “Best of the Maldives” features are nominated by readers and most of the few percent of pictures I am missed are supplied by guest. I am hoping that dive centres, marine biologists and supportive guests will help me build the catalogue especially with the addition of dive charts.

(I guess one could say that it’s all about yoU !)

Migration Migraines

website renovations

Resorts aren’t the only ones with refurb disruptions.

You might have noticed a few website difficulties in the past week. After half a decade with hoster Aquest Solutions, they have decided to close their doors. When the announcement came through to me the end of last month, my heart sunk. Aquest have been instrumental in building MaldiveComplete over the past decade. Their technical support has been excellent and they patiently helped when I too often got in over my head with some of my technical ambitions.

I started MaldivesComplete while at Microsoft and one of my motivations in the undertaking was to get my hands dirty with technology again. I started my career on the technical and development side, but in recent years moved more to sales and marketing. I missed working on the inards of computer systems to get them to do wacky and clever things and the new web technologies were too fascinating to not have a play with. I got a chance to work hands-on with a range of new things in the Microsoft stable such as Visual Studio, Silverlight, Community Server,, DeepZoom, Bing maps, and Expression.

Unfortunately, Microsoft technology hasn’t risen to the same prominence on the Internet as it has on the desktop. And platform choices I made (eg. Silverlight, Community Server, DeepZoom) have not taken off making it a bit challenging to support at this point.

Fortunately, DotNetPark has comes to our rescue. They offer comprehensive applications hosting services with all of the technology platforms and expertise I needed. When I first found out about the impending migration, I did a fair amount of research first, and they were by far the most comprehensive and prompt in their assistance. Thanks to their professionalism and help, the whole site has more or less moved over just this week. You might have encountered a few error messages and even possible bounced email, but they should have been minimal.

Normal service is not yet fully resumed. We are still troubleshooting a bug which is keeping pictures from rendering in new posts (which I discovered on my first post on the new platform). Also, the Snorkel Spotter is not yet working properly). Hopefully, these will be sorted out very quickly.

As a result of all of the work invested in March on the migration, new posts and profile updates have been limited. Hopefully, once these final niggles will be sorted out this week normal service can resume.

Thank you for your patience.

Complete Update

Best Of list hover tooltip

The number one objective for Maldives Complete has always been “completeness”, but the number two has always been ease of use. Providing the easiest route to the information people need has been the design point which is why I have shunned advertisements, sponsorship and other non-essential dross that clutters so many resort and travel pages. In recent days, I’ve finally finished off the bulk of enhancements that have been on my wish list since my summer tour.

My Maldives tours not only inspire ‘Best Of’ pieces and help complete the profiles with data and pictures, but they also percolate ideas for new features and enhancements to the site. I meet with lots of site fans and industry folks and they provide lots of great ideas of how I might be able to improve it further. Of course, digesting all of the research as well as doing my day job means that these ideas don’t get done over night, but over the past few months, I have implemented a good number of changes that germinated about of Tour 4…

  • Best Of – 2 new pages with added drop down menu…
    • Activity – eg. Sport, Kids, Culture
    • Infrastructure – eg. Lodging, Pool, Decoration
    • Service – eg. Dining, Drink, Greeting
    • Ambience – eg. Nationality, Spa, Ocean
    • Commercial – eg. Pricing, Shopping, Online
  • ·Room Type – A flurry of research to update and complete more of the field
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Still people struggle to find the site and so I am spending a bit more time making the site search engine friendly (if you are a fan of the site, the one thing you can do to help – and others – is to provide a link to the site from any websites you have…thanks).
    • Better descriptions
    • Better titles
    • Better metatags
  • Profile – I’ve added a couple more pieces to each profile
  • Best Ofs – changed list to “Tooltip” popup to accommodate some of the extra long lists
  • Activities
    • Surfing
    • Marine Biologist
    • Hotelier Group
    • Walkway Rating – ie.  Soft, Hard, Paved

Room Types Launched

Room Type Profile

 How to get more ‘Complete’ when you are 98% complete?

The Maldives Complete set of Profiles are currently 97.4% complete among active resorts. A ‘complete Profile’ is having all of the information and photos in the standard profile. Even when inactive resorts are included, the completion percentage is 93.5%. At that level, it becomes a rare occurrence to find information that we don’t have yet. We don’t want to fill Maldives Complete with useless stuff. There’s too much of that on Maldives websites already. But I think that there is one set of information that is becoming increasing important for prospective visitors and yet extremely hard to come by and compare…Room Types.

When I started coming to the Maldives and even to a degree when I started the site a few years ago, the Resort defined the rooms. Most of the rooms in a given resort were pretty much uniform. There was occasionally a ‘Presidential Suite’ for big spenders and VIPs, as well as the ever increasing number of Water Villas. But aside from those variations, if you chose a resort, you pretty well knew what the room would be like.

Not any more. Not just are the resorts becoming more diverse, but the rooms within each resort are also getting more diverse. So much so that a good number of islands have two distinct classes…one catering to 4-star and one at a 5-star level. Beyond that basic breakdown in standard, all sorts of other variations are being introduced…different sizes, layouts, features (eg. glass floors), pool/Jacuzzi option, etc.

You see the interest and the corresponding confusion on travel forums like TripAdvisor. More and more of the posts are less enquiring about an ideal ‘resort’ and more about an ideal ‘room’. With all of the diversity, a special room in one resort might be the perfect ‘room’ that someone is looking for even though most of the other rooms are not anywhere close.

To help with this new level of complexity, I have added ‘Room Type Finder’ and ‘Room Type Profile’ pages to Maldives Complete. They behave almost identically to the existing ‘Finder’ and ‘Profile’ features.

Many resorts have about a half dozen types of rooms. I’ve already written about Kurumba diversity topping 9 room types (and that doesn’t even include any water villas). But that was a few years ago and now about a dozen resorts offer that many types (or more). On average, about a 100+ resorts (I only include ‘Acrtive’ resorts) with 4-5 room types on average means about 500 or so Profiles. Again, the spirit of the Profile section is to provide a few of the key pieces of information and photos in a consistent manner for easy comparison. With about 10 pieces of core profile information per Room Type, that’s a potential 5,000 piece of information. Even at this early stage of research, we already have over 900+ photos. Nonetheless, of the core profile information, we currently only have 34% Maldives-Complete-ness.

The current pages are still pretty much in ‘Beta’ form. This means that I am sure there will be lots of gaps, mistakes, missing stuff, requested enhancements and even bugs. But best to get the current version out there so it can be whatever use it can be, and people can start to feed back to me with corrections and requests.

I have an number of enhancements already in the works. Information about the restrictions of children in the rooms which is a very key consideration for families interested in water villas where the rules can vary quite a bit about children allowed. Also, I am only about halfway through gathering the room ‘rack rates’ data so people can filter on pricing.

Special thanks to my research assistants Grace and Emma.

Snorkel Spotter v1.0

Snorkel Spotter

How about an entirely new form of social media designed just for the Maldives?

Introducing ‘Snorkel Spotter’.

Snorkel Spotter is something I have dreamt of for a long time. It was inspired by my experience at Maldives resorts where snorkelling is so popular and the most common question around the bar at night is ‘what did you see today?’ The question is not just marine curiosity and nor merely making conversation, but it is helpful reconnaissance into where one might decide to snorkel on your next outing.

I often suggested that resorts put up white boards at reception with a map of the island where guests could make a public note of what they had seen that day. Since no one took me up on it, I decided to create a virtual whiteboard. Sort of ‘Foursquare for Fish’ as one digerati put it.

If you want to add some sightings, you simply drag and drop the sea creature you saw from the menu at the left to the place around the island where you spotted it (use ‘Starfish’ for ‘all others’ of anything spotted you want to mention that is not included in the standard menu). A small pop-up will show allowing you to make a comment or add (optional) contact information.

If you want to see some spottings, then select Kurumba or W Retreat where I logged some of the sightings my wife and I made during out visit last summer. Also, a beta tester ‘Aurore’ logged a couple of sightings for Sheraton Full Moon and W Retreat as well.

It’s just version 1.0 so it might not be perfect. I have a number of planned enhancements and suspect that once people start using it, other improvements will become evident. Feel free to contact me with any suggestions or problems.

Happy Snorkeling!

Social Sunshine

Facebook and Twitter icons

The web is getting more and more social. My Maldives Complete blog was one of the first dedicated Blogs to Maldives Resorts and now there are a fair number. I’ve already looked at resort website Forums and the grandmaster of all Maldives Forums on TripAdvisor. Now the giants on the block now are Facebook and Twitter.

To keep up with the times and how people get research their resorts, I too have created a Maldives Complete Facebook page and a Twitter feed. The Maldives Complete page is probably the best way to keep track of my contributions to resort’s Facebook pages though mostly I post to the resort when I have written about them in a ‘Best of the Maldives’ piece. I also have started Tweeting, but after and initial flurry I’ve tapered off as Twitter activity on Maldives resorts seems a bit immature and quiet at the moment.

I’ve now also added a field in the profile for both the resort’s Facebook Pages (or in some cases ‘Groups’) and Twitter accounts.

In the process of researching the information for all the resorts Facebook and Twitter information I did a review of all of their presences. The analysis was done at the end of January after which Facebook changed dramatically the ‘Groups’ feature. As a result, a number of the resorts’ ‘Groups’ have been discontinued or else reset from scratch (showing low numbers of members).

In gathering up the various links, I uncovered some curious statistics…

  • Resorts without Facebook pages – 19
  • Average number of Likes/Members – 963
  • Average number of Photos – 216
  • Average number of Comments/Posts (not by resort) – 29 (over one month period)

This week is Social Media week with some special recognitions to the resorts who have best embraced this new connection to Friends and Followers.