Concept/Vision, Information Architecture, Visual Design, MODx CMS Implementation, UTF-8/Internationalization
The San Francisco Center for Economic Development (SFCED) works collaboratively with the city and county of San Francisco and other organizations to promote a thriving economic climate by attracting and retaining businesses in San Francisco and promoting a business-friendly environment. They have the information, resources, and relationships to assist in deciding to move to San Francisco.
SFCED’s existing website did not fully support the mission of the agency, to promote new business and support existing organizations; nor did it reflect the San Francisco’s role as the heart of the technical world. SFCED approached Quinn Interactive (QI) for assistance in completely rethinking their site to change their image and presence in the economic development landscape.
The QI team met with the SFCED’s leadership to discuss the economic development world and best practices for websites, then to delve strategically into the mission and vision for the new site. They decided that they needed a clean and easily navigable site for their various audiences. The site needed to have a fresh look and feel that could change through adding photography of the beautiful and diverse city. The site had to support changing data and statistics, allow for promotion of critical events, support information for various target business types, and encourage learning about the social and cultural environment that supports families and spouses of those who wish to relocate or start businesses in San Francisco. Critical to the site’s success was acknowledging the local community leaders and investors who contribute to SFCED.
Information Architecture and User Interface
Working with SFCED and several stakeholders, and after informational interviews with domestic and international site users, the QI team created a new site architecture and navigation system. This IA/UI was then café-tested with people on the street, pre-selected site users, and SFCED supporters. The results of this testing guided the refinement of the final site structure. To support the various users of the site, including non-native English speakers and international visitors, the team chose the approach of a strong primary and two secondary navigation tools. Contact information had to be obvious on every page.
The visual design of the site had to be clean and simple yet reflect the culture of the San Francisco Bay Area. SFCED requested no Flash or complicated animation on the site. The design had to be welcoming to multiple cultures and international visitors. The new design starts with an updated logo, updating their old static gray tone to an orange, rooted in the International Orange of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a darker gray. To make the logo feel like San Francisco, the image of the iconic bridge was integrated into the design. The website design builds on the blues of a sweeping, bird’s-eye view of the city, and the International Orange of the updated logo. The new design allows for colorful photos to support the identity of SFCED as part of the vibrant City by the Bay, visually enhancing neighborhoods and financial districts.
Content Management System
MODx is an open source web content management system (CMS) that has a simple administration interface allowing for fast site updates and clear content management. It is an excellent selection for small to medium sized websites. MODx was a perfect fit for SFCED’s page count and content types. It also features multilingual capabilities to supports SFCED’s ChinaSF initiative, published in English and Chinese on the site. With the agency’s small staff, they needed a CMS that was easy to learn and simple to administer. MODx meets the criteria with a rich text editor, document tree, and visual templates.
Because SFCED markets San Francisco globally, the CMS had to support multiple languages, particularly Chinese for the ChinaSF initiative, which was scheduled to launch simultaneously with the new website. MODx supports internationalization and most languages. Minor development was required to implement the multilingual features. SFCED contracted with translators to produce the text for the Chinese-language section of the site.
SFCED began using the new site right away in China to market San Francisco as a business relocation destination. The response to the updated visual design and the improved navigation means higher traffic levels, longer stays on the site, and immediate contact with SFCED staff to assist decision makers learn how San Francisco can support their business goals.