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EvenVision | A Northern California Creative Web Agency

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Feature image from AEDC's website

Arcata Economic Development Corporation

Crafting a Website for a Community

Arcata Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) is a great local corporation that provides loans and grants to local and regional businesses. From 1984 to June 30th 2015, they've supplied over $67 million dollars in loans to local businesses and community endeavors. In that time they've worked alongside some pretty amazing local businesses like Holly Yashi, Dick Taylor Chocolates, Open Door Health Clinic and the Carson Block. To say the least when Susan Seaman -- their Program Director -- reached out we were thrilled with the opportunity to work with them. Their primary concern was that their old site, which was built in 2010, had become nigh impossible to maintain and failed to provide any real value to the local community. Their web presence was lacking professionally and we at EvenVision were tasked with the overhaul. 

Image of AEDC's Logo

The Problem

AEDC's old site failed to effectively serve the community because, although it contained a lot of valuable information, it was cluttered, difficult to navigate and often fell out of date as the staff struggled with updating it. The new site needed to not only clean up the presentation of the information, but also be simple for the staff at AEDC to maintain. 

Key Additions
  • Embed-able entities for rich galleries and slideshows. 
  • Integrated map to display regions and loan quantities.
  • Easy to use content management system.
  • Rich Gallery of Success Stories with profiles of local & regional businesses that received capital from AEDC. 
  • Responsive theme for user access and mobile friendliness. 
The Results

We were able to craft a professional website that features relevant content for visitors to be informed and take action, allowing the site to more effectively serve the community. Furthermore, website is easy for the staff at AEDC to make quick updates and keep on top of the times.

A Client Focused CMS


AEDC's old site was built on a stock version of the Drupal development framework, but it had become unruly and problematic when trying to make even the simplest changes to their content owing to the poor UI on the backend. There were so many issues the site ultimately became a sore point for the organization as the staff turned their focus towards higher value work. When we were brought in to help, we knew that we could go in and fix the old site but it would be akin to patching holes in a sponge. We proposed switching over to our CMS, and the results speak for themselves. The site no longer fights AEDC's staff, but helps them distribute important financial advice and information to the local community and entire region. 

At EvenVision, we pride ourselves on the amount of work we've put into developing a Content Management System that features a clean & friendly UI for the backend. We've spent countless hours refining the system so that while it's built on top of the same Drupal framework that the old AEDC site was, our clients often comment "wow, this is great... it's clean... and straight forward, I can actually do something with this..." when they see how our CMS functions compared to stock Drupal that most developers leave their clients with. Our CMS has been refined by cutting away the fat, leaving just the essential elements required for a client to quickly achieve their goals. 

Our clients often comment  "wow, this is great... it's clean... straight forward, I can actually do something with this..."

 

Providing Valuable Information


AEDC's old site was struggling to provide information to visitors for three primary reasons:

  1. The site was difficult for the staff to use and maintain (resolved in part with a new website CMS).
  2. The site's esthetic was dated and struggling. 
  3. Parts of the website had not been properly maintained with obtrusive error messages appearing throughout the site. 

Loud error messages on a site will sow seeds of doubt with visitors about the trustworthiness of the organization. Even more than the error messages, the site's homepage struggled to present a cohesive message with clear information in a way that is accessible, beautiful and functional. 

We resolved these issues by:

  1. Establishing a Core Message
  2. Focusing and Refining the Site's Value
  3. Removing the Need for Entering Content Multiple Times
  4. Updating the technology to resolve errors messages and warnings

 

1 - Establishing a Core Message


AEDC's old site struggled to provide a clear message to visitors which was caused by a lack of focus on the homepage. Sitting down with Susan we focused on establishing the primary goal of the homepage and the core information that needed to be distributed throughout the site. We learned that visitors arriving at the site should be able to accomplish the following quickly and with ease:

Acquire information:

  • Learn about what AEDC does
  • Learn about AEDC's past success 
  • Learn about AEDC's communities values

  • See AEDC's geographic scope

Take Action:

  • Apply for loans
  • Contact AEDC

Get Involved:

  • See upcoming community events 

They needed their website homepage to be a hub of useful community opportunities for visitors to grasp hold of.

It's important to note that this wasn't instantaneous, we used a process to develop a homepage that really sung the right tune. Throughout the project with AEDC, we created numerous iterations before we finally nailed the right image and right components for AEDC, but the time and effort required was well worth it. Great things aren't built overnight, and at EvenVision we know and embrace this because we desire to create great things that help people. 

"Great things aren't built overnight, and at EvenVision we know and embrace this because we desire to create great things that help people."

 

2 - Focusing and Refining the Site's Value:

What we did to clean up and focus the homepage and whole website into a hub of useful and accessible community information.


  1. Clean up and develop clear sections for key information that would isolate the information into quickly digestible chunks
  2. Present a clear Call to Action: "We finance opportunity 'apply here.'"
  3. Couple the Call to Action with a Feature Image that presents not only an engaging image but tells the right message and helps facilitate action.
  4. Develop an dynamic display for core information featuring "business lending, in the community, success stories" that utilized Ajax techniques to maximize interaction and help remove clutter around the content. 
  5. Present the interactive Geographic Scope to quickly provide visitors with valuable information in an engaging method. 
  6. Provide a dedicated section for Upcoming Events that automatically displays the upcoming events and removes past events to encourage engagement.  
  7. Utilize high quality Fonts to present information with distraction.
  8. Focusing the main navigation menu from 9 pathways to 4. 

Now when you visit the site, you're presented with a much more engaging content that is clear and focused into straightforward sections for optimum clarity. This not only helped clean up their professional image but refocused their site to being a useful tool for the community. 

 

3 - Removing the Need for Entering Content Multiple Times


The Problem: Often a website's content develops inconsistencies because the same information is entered on their site multiple times in different areas. When we reviewed AEDC's website needs and desires we knew that we needed to remove the need for all this management overhead, otherwise we risked creating a website that perpetuated their current issues of being cumbersome and unruly to edit and having their professional image fall behind. 

Our Solution: Automatically pull controlled content from their original location and display it, or a select details, on any other page required. This means that their homepage does not become a headache to maintain and becomes a means of distributing relevant information that funnels people to the right locations. 

For Example: The dynamic display of core information features a section on Success Stories, but instead of the staff having to enter the success stories on the pathway page, the success story profile and the homepage (or a total of 3 different times in 3 different places), they are able to enter the content once under the profile. From here, key details and summaries can be automatically pulled to the homepage, and the success stories pathway page. See graphics below:

 Example 1: Enter content in each place it needs to appear.Showing how one pieces of content can be entered multiple times

Notice that to create one single success story and have it appear in all of the different locations, would require three different entries. This can breed mistakes and discrepancies in the information. Not to mention being time consuming for a staff member to enter. 

 

 Example 2: Enter content once & let the website do the rest.

Graphic showing our automated content pull system for AEDC success stories

By automatically pulling information from the Success story, it can be entered once on the profile page, and then have it's key information and summaries of the details simply appear in the various other places that it needs to appear. This removes the issues with entering the content manually in different locations on the site, and saves time and energy for the staff maintaining and updating the site. 


Susan Seaman 

"I'm not a web designer. A comprehensive website requires smart visual design, navigation that makes sense and a platform that allows easy updating. Building a new site was a daunting project that intimidated me, but was much easier than I anticipated with help from EvenVision..."

Read the Rest


Explore Arcata Economic Development Corporations new website for yourself


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A Little of Our Process
AEDC website drafts demonstrating our story-boarding technique

Storyboard Style Drafts

When we sit down to design a website we create drafts that present key elements of the site we will build. These drafts help facilitate a clients understanding of the website and user experience much like how a storyboard does. 

AEDC draft 1 featuring the top of the homepage

Draft 1 - Homepage (Top)

On our first draft we were able to establish a much cleaner and professional image with clear Call to Action. The top part of the homepage would undergo numerous small changes to refine and tweak it even further. All of the websites core functionality existed at this point

AEDC draft number 2 which focuses on the homepage footer

Draft 2 - Homepage (Footer)

We tackled the footer with special care given to the "call" and specifically to the content that was linked dynamically within the footer. Often this section is overlooked, but it is incredibly valuable real estate on a website and should be utilized. 

Draft #3 of AEDC's website homepage which features the dynamic display

Draft 3 - Homepage (Dynamic Display)

During these revisions we focused on what specifically was going to be shown in the dynamic display. This particular section underwent a good amount of care from not only the client but our staff to maximize it's effectiveness. 

Draft #4 of AEDC's website homepage that features the event's display

Draft 4 - Homepage (Event's Display)

At this point the client asked us to include a display for events on the homepage which could link people to either more information hosted on AEDC's site or on another site entirely. 

Picture of draft #5 of AEDC's homepage, focused on the geographic scope

Draft 5 - Homepage (Geographic Scope)

Lastly we pulled the Geographic Scope from the Dynamic Display block to provide it more prominence on the homepage. 

Before and After screenshot of AEDC's website homepage

Before & After

The difference between the two is seen in the cleanliness, clarity, professionalism and interactive elements.

Some Features of the New Site
GIF demonstrating how the interative map work showing AEDC community and regional involvement over the years

Interactive Map


AEDC needed a clear way to display to people their impact within different communities in their region. They dreamt of a map that could display their Geographic Scope and we were able to execute it beautifully for them. The map itself is simple to use with automated interactive pin-drops placed when a user adds a location. Brief descriptions and images only go to provide even more information about their involvement in that area. 

Screenshot of AEDC's Success Stories Pathway page

Success Stories Pathway


AEDC needed a clean way to display summaries of their Success Stories to help people to explore them. We created a clean overview pathway page that provides quick summaries, images and information about each success story leaving it up the visitors to pick one and dive into the full story.  

Screen Shot of success story profiles for AEDC and the accompanying features

Success Story Profile


AEDC wanted to be able to display their success stories in a much more engaging and beautiful fashion. Showing the community development, and not just telling it. We were able to craft these easy to edit pages that feature large banner images, ample room for descriptions of the work and embeddable entities; which allow for slideshows to be placed within the text.

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