biopic

The San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau (SACVB) website, www.visitsanantonio.com, unveiled $200,000-plus facelift this morning at an official opening ceremony at Geekdom, the technology co-working space in the Weston Centre downtown.

Though the back-end of the new website utilizes cutting edge design and functionality, users are presented with a simple, sleek look that’s easy to navigate.

Potential visitors and locals can access the new site by logging in via Facebook.  The site accommodates for an individual’s interests and adjusts the homepage display to reveal venues and events that are likely to appeal to them.

Screen shot of visitsanantonio.com
Screen shot of www.visitsanantonio.com.

Digital Strategy Director Ly Tran of Proof Advertising, an Austin firm that designed and built the new site, demonstrated by logging in with her personal Facebook account. The homepage, which previously highlighted the River Walk, The Alamo/Missions and  “Romantic San Antonio,” replaced the Alamo with a “shopping” highlight, since her Facebook profile indicated that as one of her interests.

(SA purists can relax their Austin envy, Proof Advertising also has a satellite office, complete with employees, in San Antonio.)

Reviews of local attractions are pulled from Trip Advisor and users can see their Facebook friend’s “likes.”

“Trip Advisor is a collection of strangers telling you about (San Antonio), Facebook is a collection of your friends and family,” Tran said. “It’s a merging of those existing platforms … basically cutting out the middle man. This is the first CVB (convention and visitor bureau) website to integrate Facebook (profile information) at this level,” she said.

Proof Advertising Director of Digital Strategy and Architecture Ly Tran poses for a photos at Geekdom for SACVB's new website unveiling. Photo by Iris Dimmick
Proof Advertising Director of Digital Strategy and Architecture Ly Tran poses for a photo at Geekdom for SACVB’s new website unveiling. Photo by Iris Dimmick

And, yes, it’s also optimized for a user-friendly display on mobile devices (tablets, iPhones, Androids, etc).

The new, interactive and social media savvy website will serve as a valuable resource to encourage potential visitors “to want to choose San Antonio for their travel experience … while giving them to tools to help plan their stay,” said SACVB Executive Director Casandra Matej.  She added that the new site will also help with recruitment for businesses “to express the quality of life.”

The revamped site also provides a profile where users can save events and favorite places while planning their trip.   Discounted vacation packages and hotel deals can also be found via the existing infrastructure of the City’s program San Antonio Vacation Experience (aka SAVE in San Antonio).

San Antonio’s tourism industry, noted Matej, has an annual economic impact of about $12 billion and employs 112,000 San Antonians, or one in eight residents.

The site’s functionality is not, of course, limited to visitors. The CVB also encourages locals to use the site as a tool to re-discover their hometown.

"San Antonio is a city on the rise ... That means we're a part of something greater than ourselves," Lorenzo Gomez said at the new SACVB website announcement at Geekdom. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
“San Antonio is a city on the rise … That means we’re a part of something greater than ourselves,” 80/20 Foundation Director Lorenzo Gomez said at the new SACVB website announcement at Geekdom. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

“I feel like a missionary in my own city,” said 80/20 Foundation Director Lorenzo Gomez, who recently moved downtown into an apartment above the Majestic Theater.  Gomez anticipates using the website to find fun things to do downtown. “Even though I’ve lived here for years, I get to re-discover San Antonio.”

[Read Gomez’ story, “Where I Live: The Towers at the Majestic,” here.]

Gomez, who worked at Rackspace for 10 years and now works with Rackspace and Geekdom Co-founder  and 80/20 Foundation Founder Graham Weston, described what it was like trying to recruit people to work at Rackspace in San Antonio five years ago:

“I had to hire dozens and dozens of people, most were relocations. If they had a family – I would close (convince them) 90% of the time,” he said, citing the “suburban option” as pretty much the only option at the time. “If they were young and single  – I would just hang up the phone.”

But now, he said, San Antonio has developed myriad options for young professionals. The downtown option. The Mid-town option. The Southtown option. There’s actually a thriving market of things for young, energetic professionals to do.

“Now more than ever we have something special to show them,” said Gomez. The City’s CVB website is one of many pieces of the puzzle to back up Graham Weston’s signature statement: “San Antonio is a city on the rise.”

The former SACVB’s site suffered serious deficiencies: No mobile device optimization (what you see on your phone is the same as what you’d see on your lap/desktop) and it’s hard to see the “big” picture of what San Antonio has to offer because pages/posts weren’t organized logically.

During the 18-months required for Proof Advertising and the SACVB to analyze, design and develop the finished website, they learned that 40% of users access the site via mobile devices.  And while the event calendar was one of the most sought-after pages of  information, it was also the most difficult to find and navigate.

By using a lot of SACVB’s existing resources and staff to help with some of the management and data organization, the City avoided a bill that probably would have looked more like $500,000 for the complete overhaul of the site, said Andres Munoz, SACVB vice president of communications and marketing. Though a specific number wasn’t provided, Munoz estimated that the project cost the City $200,000 – $300,000.

The coding and infrastructure behind the website makeover are complex, but for the average user, the outcome is simple: it works well and it looks good.  Check it out for yourself at www.visitsanantonio.com.

Iris Dimmick is managing editor of the Rivard Report. Follow her on Twitter @viviris or contact her at iris@rivardreport.com.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org