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Messages from the President

Revisiting the Value of Website Design - September

By: Anna Tanski | September 1, 2015

Picture Dorothy, Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man as they first entered the land of Oz. Beautiful, bright colors created an imaginative landscape which inspired them to explore the wonders of Oz and follow the yellow brick road to adventure. That visual and emotional â€"wow” factor is precisely what Visit Duluth set out to replicate in our website redesign.

Back in 1996, Duluth was among the first destinations in the country to recognize the emerging internet as a marketing tool at the cutting edge of technology. Within the tourism industry there was significant debate whether the costs associated with establishing a presence on the world wide web was warranted. Was this just a passing fad or worthwhile investment at the ground level of a new frontier?

Today, with more than 2.3 million page views, we know the answer to that question. Since its inception, www.visitduluth.com has undergone several major overhauls and spurred the rebranding of our organization from the Duluth Convention & Visitors Bureau to Visit Duluth in 2000. Our last major website redesign was in 2008, before social media integration was recognized as a key function. Technology restrictions in place back then created limitations impacting the look and feel of the site.

Budgeting for this type of project typically required reallocating resources that would have gone toward marketing. Visit Duluth brought the website redesign project in-house and rallied our talented staff to tackle this major undertaking. This past year has been a labor of love as the team researched, tested and ultimately created a website Duluth can be tremendously proud of and the internal process meant marketing and promotion budgets remained in tact.

The updated visual and structural elements of the website improve the user experience, create new opportunities to promote our members and entice visitors to come to Duluth.

Key features include:

  • Responsive layout with larger images reflecting the natural beauty of the city. Local photographers who contributed are also recognized in the visitor guide and received a one year complimentary membership to Visit Duluth.
  • Comprehensive mobile device support including tablets and smart phones. Previous mobile site was linear and not user friendly.
  • Reorganized and streamlined navigation system with drop-down menus.
  • Site-wide search engine with customized search options for member listing by category. Users can check boxes in drop down to select only the categories they wish to view.
  • Increased visitor engagement through social media and user-generated content. When Duluth is tagged in social media, those posts will automatically populate that section of our website. Visit Duluth reviews all posts to ensure content is appropriate.
  • Interactive mapping highlights member locations including their detailed listing with video, photos, social media and website. GPS directions to the member location also provided.
  • Improved event listings including user-submitted events, concise event summaries that link to complete event details including video, photos, social media sharing and category searching.
  • Integrated landing pages for niche markets. Wedding page has been launched. Future landing pages will include Gay/Lesbian, Biking, Local Brew Scene and more!

Visit Duluth now has the capability to constantly enhance our website as new features are developed and technology evolves. We will continue integrating with our social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. www.visitduluth.com is a valuable resource for visitors and locals alike. A tool to maximize information and keep tourism thriving in our beautiful city.


Anna Tanski, President/CEO