Visitors bureau redesigns its Web presence
Posted: January 8, 2013
The Winchester Star
Winchester — The biggest lifeline the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau has to the rest of the world is its website.
That lifeline became a little stronger Thursday when the center launched a redesigned website at its Web address at visitwinchesterva.com, said Renee Bayliss, visitor and community relations specialist.
When making travel plans, the majority of Americans do some or all of their research and planning online, she said. So, having a website people find appealing and helpful is essential to being an effective tourism tool for the area.
“I hope people find it easy to navigate, informative, and helpful for planning their trip,” Bayliss said. “I think the improved content will help people see there is a lot to do here.”
In December, which is considered a slow month, the visitors center’s website had 6,000 visitors, she said. In October, a busy month, there were more than 11,000 visitors.
The launch of the redesigned website came a day later than the original projected date, Wednesday, because some last-minute bugs were being worked out, Bayliss said.
The changes consist of redesigning the overall look of the website, adding new sections and links, and making it easier for people to contact the visitors center, Bayliss said.
The website represents more than a year’s worth of work by the center’s employees and Weathervane Graphics LLC in Front Royal, which developed the site, said Sally Coates, executive director of the convention and visitors bureau.
It cost about $1,500 to develop, which was lower than it could have been because Bayliss did a significant amount of work on it, Coates said.
“It is really exciting,” she said. “We have waited over 11⁄2 years for this.”
The old website, which was about five years old, was designed by White Spider Design in Winchester, she said.
When visitors arrive at the website’s home page, they will see an immediate change, Coates said. It used to feature a huge slide of photos at the top of the page that took up the majority of the page. The pictures have been reduced to a more normal size, and the website options and logo made more prominent.
The home page now has noticeable links for different services. One of the most important was a link to a maps and directions page, Bayliss said. The page has PDF maps of Winchester and Frederick County.
For custom directions to the center, there is a place at the bottom of the page where people can enter their starting address, and a “get directions” button will take them to a Google maps page with both locations, she said.
A link on the home page takes visitors to a brief photo gallery of places and events in the area so they can see what there is to do, Bayliss said. “There is also a link to our Flickr page, which has a lot more photos.”
The home page has an upcoming events box, featuring the most imminent events and linking to a full calendar page, she said. The box constantly updates with the next events.
A special feature box on the home page provides information on three of the most popular topics — the Civil War, family fun, and the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. Having information up to promote the yearly spring festival year-round was especially important considering how big of a draw it is for the area, Coates said.
A nightlife page with links to local venues was added and can be found under the dining tab, Bayliss said. Another new page, this one on historic downtown, is accessible under the attractions tab.
The tours and itinerary page has been updated to offer options for individuals as well as groups, she said.
Also new are two pages under the Visitor Info tab called “Moving here” and “About the area,” Bayliss said. The visitors center frequently gets requests for information on tax rates, utilities and other information. Although they don’t fall under the center’s domain, the site will offer information and links showing where they can be found.
At the bottom of the site are new links to a page about the convention and visitors bureau and one for instructions on submitting events to the calendar, she said.
“We never had anything on the website to tell people they can send in events,” Bayliss said. “It will help people who are trying to promote events to know how they can submit an event.”
The website’s blue and tan colors remained the same because they were consistent with the logo and branding developed several years ago, Bayliss said. The logo for the site remained the same but was enlarged.
With the redone website launched, the next goal is going mobile, Coates said. In August, the visitors bureau learned it had won a contest held for members of the Shenandoah Valley Travel Association for a free website geared toward smartphones.
Bluekey Web Solutions in Charleston, S.C., is developing the phone-friendly site, which Coates hopes will launch soon. The estimated value of the site is $2,500.
The redesigned website for the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau has launched at visitwinchesterva.com.
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org