Massive New Site Launch for Charleston Regional Development Alliance

We just put the finishing touches on a massive relaunch for the Charleston Regional Development Alliance (CRDA).

A public/private organization responsible for marketing the region as a place to do business, CRDA plays a key role in attracting the right type of companies (like Google) to Charleston.

The site relaunch incorporated several key initiatives:

  • Brand the region under the Charleston Inspired theme
  • Make it as easy as possible for site selectors or site selection consultants (a key target audience) to find and utilize the appropriate data to make business decisions about whether to relocate or expand their business to the Charleston region
  • Showcase Charleston as not just a place for business, but a vibrant, forward thinking community
  • Organize the massive amounts of data in a way that’s easy to find, fun to look at, and easy to update

Before we dig into the fun details, the project wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of the following people:

  • Gil Shuler Graphic Design (creation of the Charleston Inspired branding)
  • Amy Reed at Helium Inc (initial concepting and creative direction)
  • Deirdre Zahl (creative production and interface design)
  • CA (Flash developer and master of the many flash elements throughout the site)
  • BD (Application developer and main programmer who’s responsible for the amazing applications and code that runs the site)
  • Jenn Simpson and the CRDA (for being a great project manager on the client side and making quick decisions, organizing massive copy updates, and keeping things running smoothly)
  • Brennan Wesley Photography (for helping to showcase the beauty of this region throughout the site)

Now for the fun stuff. Here’s are some highlights of some of our favorite elements throughout the site.

Home Page

There are four custom-made “stories” that highlight images from the Charleston region. these statements speak to the key reasons businesses and talent should live and work here.

“Quick Selector Tabs”
Aimed at our key target audiences, these tabs provide a quick way to access the key data these visitor segments need to make their decisions. This lives everywhere on the site as an auxiliary navigation element.

Internal Navigation
In addition to a major information architecture revamp based on usability studies and primary/secondary research, we decided to lay out the “meat” of the sections (or subsections) in a “tabbed” format. This makes it easier to swap back and forth between content, and avoids a huge scrolling page. The main and sub navigation is pretty straightforward.

Charts and Data
One major enhancement is how we handle the insane amount of data on the site. To handle this, we created several applications.

  • Back-end data updates
    CRDA has the ability to manage the many data points throughout the site with a simple excel upload tool. Have a data point that needs to be changed? Just upload the latest version and there it is.
  • Charts and Graphs
    Using a great program called “Fusion Charts,” we can create beautiful charts and graphs with a few lines of XML code. Making data updates for those is as simple as updating a number in the XML document. That’s not an admin function yet, but could be as a future phase of updates.
  • Build Your Report
    Site selectors and consultants want to get their data and get out. So we created a “portfolio” application that let’s you add key data points throughout the site to your very own “build report” section. Once you’re done adding reports, just visit the build report section and output it in PDF, EXCEL, or HTML and you’re done!Need to leave the site and come back? Don’t worry, we’ve set a cookie and saved it all there for you upon your return.

Map Center
Thanks to our tag team of interface designers and flash developers, the Map Center is an easy-to-use application that showcases the various cities, counties, infrastructure, and transporation hubs throughout the Charleston Region. And of course, it’s all XML based so updates to data, points, or copy is super-easy. No need to elaborate any more, just go play with it already!

CRDA produced several testimonial videos from local businesses. We wanted to showcase them in a bold way, so you’ll notice them featured prominently in the target industries section, and all on their own in the video testimonials page. Make sure to watch some of them – they’re a great example of some of the cutting-edge companies and leaders that work here.

Tracking and Analytics
Of course, we have to mention the analytics behind the relaunch. What’s a site relaunch if you can’t tell if it helped your bottom line?

We’re using the latest version of Google Analytics to measure key actions throughout the site, including watching the testimonial videos, interaction with the maps, building report, adding data to the report, signing up for email, site search queries, and more.

We now have a great handle on what’s working, and what isn’t.

Enough already. Go visit the site!