When it comes to the interactive space, usability and design have to work together harder than ever to create a good consumer experience. That’s why, when The Downtown Raleigh Alliance approached us with the task of reskinning their website, looking good wasn’t the only thing we could consider. Even though it was the premier source of information about all things Raleigh, the DRA still ranked poorly in most common search results and suffered from a fairly high bounce rate. Our task was to come up with a design that was both visually compelling and functional, that grabbed visitors and encouraged them to stay, and return.
In tackling design, we first determined what made the DRA, and consequentially Raleigh, distinctive and appealing. What we discovered was that people really treasured exploration most about downtown Raleigh, and people take pride in, and are loyal to, their discoveries, from bars to galleries to museums.
From this research, we crafted a positioning statement emphasizing the unexpected treasures of downtown Raleigh. We highlighted the explorative aspect of the city with tightly cropped, engaging photography on the homepage. These images, meant to pique the curiosity of the user, feature intriguing treasures unique to Raleigh - cool lamps, quirky artwork or interesting storefronts. The sort of thing that makes the visitor think "That's cool - where is it?" Once clicked, the location revealed itself and a new treasure was discovered.
To improve upon the SEO and functionality of the site, new copy and highly-searched keywords relevant to downtown Raleigh were incorporated into various page headers. We also revamped the navigation, making it more intuitive and inviting. Beyond these improvements, we created an interactive events calendar and placed it on the homepage, where it was most likely to be seen and used.
Each of these tactics worked with the design to create a user experience that is enjoyable, informative and engaging. And, as if the launch of another beautifully designed and executed site wasn’t rewarding enough, the Raleigh/Durham chapter of the AAF awarded it with a gold Addy at the 2010 Addy Awards.