Bellweather

NYCgo.com Website Design Case Study

The creative strategy behind nycgo.com - winner of best travel website via the Webby's.

Designing nycgo.com

The Design and Creative Strategy Behind
the Webby Award Winning Travel Site
 

Photo by Marley White

Photo by Marley White

The Assignment

Imagine capturing New York City in a single experience.

Your final product must inspire without being unattainable. It must feel big and ambitious, but also easy to navigate. Include imagery, text, eCommerce, icons, and maps. And above all: the work must feel authentic.

Now take all these ideas, and make something that fits onto a mobile screen.

You have five months.

This was the challenge for the new nycgo.com.

Creative Strategy

nycgo = Inspiration + Navigation

We recently finished a sprawling rebrand of NYC & Company—a project that took a year to complete and touched nearly every piece of the organization, from its advertising to its business cards.

The rebrand’s creative strategy centered around creating vibrant, flexible brand tools that could unify many different creative needs—from photography to videos to illustration. The goal was to have a visitor know as they transitioned from piece to piece that they all came from the same brand. The last piece in the rebrand was the website:

 

Project Background

Goal: Drive visitation to NYC (60 million visitors came in 2016)

Site Visitors: ~12 million visitors yearly

Content: Over 9,000 pages

Advertising: Generates millions of dollars in yearly advertising revenue

eCommerce: Integrates multiple eCommerce partners (Booking.com, OpenTable, Viator, and City Pass, among others.)
The site also houses celebrated marketing events like NYC Restaurant Week and NYC Broadway Week.

Timeline: 5 months

Team Leaders: Emily Lessard, Lead Creative Strategist + Creative Director
Louis Lee, Lead Navigation UI Designer

Designers: Caitlin Clingman, Sara Duell, Alexander Quinn, Jose Quinteros, Noah Venezia

Writers: Kate Canary, Michael Chee, Sophie Roberts

Photo & Video: Jen Davis, Kathleen Fox, Naheem Kujenya, Thomas Perry, Christopher Postlewaite, Ryan Schnackenberg, Gracelyn Woods, Tagger Yancey

Awards/Accolades: 
2017 Webby Award Winner for Best Travel Site
25 Best Tourism Websites in the World by Skift 
Five Best Tourism Websites to Inspire You With Visual Storytelling by Libris
"Premiere tourism bureau when it comes to web design" by Flight Network

 
nycgo.com originally designed in 2010

nycgo.com originally designed in 2010

 

Originally created in 2010, nycgo.com had been added to and modified over the years to fit different needs. It served its time well—drawing millions of website visitors yearly. However the site was not mobile-friendly, and much of the content had to be manually loaded or adjusted due to problems with the CMS. All of this caused a drain on internal resources. It was clear we needed better tools and a fresh start.

The creative team had just spent a year building the NYC brand and translating it across dozens of different mediums. It was a natural step to translate the brand into the digital world, as we spoke the brand language fluently.

The Ask

Relaunch nycgo.com as the premier destination for inspiration and activation for visitors and NYC locals. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly and built for maximum SEO.

The greatest challenge: the timing. We had just five months (January to May) to start and launch. If we missed the deadline, we’d have to wait until the end of the busy summer season. 

The Creative Strategy Part 1: Define the Goal Posts

Why do athletes move so fast? Because the goal is visible and clearly defined. The same is true for leading a creative team, or any team of people. The more visible and clear the goals are, the quicker you can move towards the same goal.

After a year developing the brand strategy, several ideas had risen to the surface:

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Inspiration and navigation—these two ideas support so many others. If you are inspiring, you are naturally authentic. If you dedicate yourself to aiding navigation, you are telling a story of accessibility and inclusivity.

These ideas became the foundational goal posts for the creative strategy. By setting inspiration and navigation as the clear goals, we were able to work together as a team to quickly ideate and make decisions.

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The Creative Strategy Part 2: Make Strategy Visible

A perfect example of the inspiration strategy can be seen on neighborhood or overview pages. We were starting with a blank canvas, which can be overwhelming if you don’t have a clear strategy first. What is the most impactful move we could make to support inspiration?

 
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The answer is video. And not just any video. We nicknamed the top videos “video postcards” because that’s just what they are: inspiring, light-filled vistas that just happen to be moving. Something happens in every video—whether it be someone walking by, people enjoying an outdoor meal, or a parade going by. There are no posed people and there is no unnatural light. These “video postcards” tell an inspiring and accessible story of what it means to be in New York City today. We made over 150 videos for the site launch alone, and we committed to an oversized placement so they could be the hero of the story.

 
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Navigation can mean many things. It can mean mapping—being able to locate yourself or a spot in the City. It can also mean finding related items (nearby stores or restaurants, or other art galleries, for instance).

For this reason, each piece of inspiration is always paired with orientating content. You can see this again on the overview pages. Beneath the video postcards are dozens of supportive pieces of content and design, all made to help you navigate a visit. This system of inspiration first, with navigation as support, was one of the first things sketched:

 
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nycgo-design-navigation-sketch
 

This clear hierarchy helped generate thousands of pages, all with supporting pieces of content to help make a visit more exciting and more engaging.

 
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Of course, in this context, navigation also means website navigation, i.e., how does a visitor to the website move from page to page? We worked to create a navigation approach that was both orienting and inspiring. It was also based on a strategic decision to be less English-centric. Even the best translation tools might mangle the names of NYC icons like Prospect Park or Top of the Rock. The solve? Make the beloved icons instantly recognizable. We developed a bespoke set of illustrations that bring the navigation to life and quickly drive audiences to popular content and destinations.

 
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Committing to navigation also means you can have some fun with being lost, as in the 404 page:


The Results

+ 20% increase in traffic

+ 120% increase in advertising revenue

+ 9+ minutes onsite spent per visitor

+ Webby Award: Best Travel Site 2017

+ Huge jump in SEO 

+ Seamless eCommerce integration throughout


The Future

We learned so much from leading this project, and are honored to have the work be recognized. We are thrilled to bring this level of integrated creative strategy and execution to all of our clients. Cheers to our next Webby, and to our past and future collaborators.

With huge thanks to the creative team (most of whom still work closely with us).