Tool/service to track when a website has undergone a major redesign
April 19, 2016 6:17 AM   Subscribe

Let's say I have a list of 20-25 websites and I want to be notified if they undergo any major website changes. Without checking these websites myself every week, what other way could I be informed if they undergo major changes? I don't want to know about minor site updates, but like if they completely redo their website (so this would be a pretty infrequent event for any individual website), I want to be informed pro-actively rather than stumbling across the website by chance.
posted by like_neon to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
There are a lot of services that can do change detection for websites. I think the trick is going to be effectively describing (in computer-friendly terms) what "completely redo their website" means. I think you'll have to pick an element (or more than one) on the screen as a canary in the coal mine, and be notified when it changes or disappears.
posted by instamatic at 6:34 AM on April 19, 2016

You might be able to use Wraith, alongside some cron-based automation, to do this -- it outputs an error if the diff is above a threshold you set, so you need something to listen for the error and ping you somehow.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 6:36 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

There may be places where they run a script to download the frontpage, and if it's size changes by more than X%, it will flag it as a change.
posted by nickggully at 6:37 AM on April 19, 2016 is one tool that might be more what you're looking for, as it tracks visual changes rather than text changes. A short overview of change detection techniques is available on Wikipedia.
posted by instamatic at 6:39 AM on April 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

How do you define "completely redo" vs "minor change"?

cron + wget + ??? (depends upon your definition of change)
posted by pompomtom at 6:40 AM on April 19, 2016

Before it was bought by VisualPing, there was PageMonitor. It still exists as a Chrome plugin and I like it better than VisualPing. You have to have Chrome open for it to alert you to things, but it's free. VisualPing offers a certain number of tracks that they'll email you about for free--after that number you pay to get the emails. They also have a completely free option where you leave Chrome open to get the alerts, but the option is kind of buried.
posted by purple_bird at 8:55 AM on April 19, 2016

If you're open to using javascript you can have a headless browser screenshot the sites and run it through a diff tool such as ImageMagick's compare function. Depends on what kind of changes you are checking for. Do you want to do a deep scrape of all pages and then compare on a timeline or just the homepages? Yahoo's Kobold or BBC's Wraith are options. If you have a budget go with the paid services.
posted by andendau at 6:54 PM on April 22, 2016

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