Vancity Buzz is Vancouver’s primary online source for local news and entertainment. As a leader in their industry, it is important for them to keep their website user-friendly and elegant, which is why they contacted myZone media for a complete website redesign.
Once the new site was up and running we decided to sit down with Manny Bahia, the Chief Business Development Officer of Vancity Buzz, and our development team to discuss how the process of creating a website works, what kind of changes were made, and how the new site is working out so far.
First Step: Brainstorming
Deciding what features are best for a website and how to bring them to life is the first and most important stage of planning a new website design. Most importantly, the client and development team need to work together to make sure they share the same vision and create a website that fits the client’s needs.
Andrej Simunaj, head of the myZone Development Team, stresses how important brainstorming is when starting a project.
“Almost every new feature that you see on the new Vancity Buzz website is a product of our brainstorming sessions that we had at the very beginning of the project,” he explains.
“We literally had a couple of whiteboards full of ideas. We had done a deep analysis of similar sites and looked at the pros and cons for every feature and idea. Ultimately we couldn’t do anything and everything, and hence we focused on what’s going to bring the best results to Vancity Buzz and their readers. That’s where working closely with the their team was crucial and brought a lot of insight/perspective.”
Manny also had some words of wisdom for businesses debating whether or not to invest in a new website design.
“With increased competition in every industry and new innovations coming about daily, it is vital for any online business to be constantly updated. The beauty of online is that you can try new things and gain feedback immediately from your users. Going forward, mobile-first is going to separate the winners from the losers online,” he says.
Features of The New Website
The redesign focused on several key features Vancity Buzz set out in their brainstorming session with the myZone team, including optimization for mobile users, a sleeker, streamlined design, and more advertising space.
Optimization for Mobile
According to recent census data, 63% of adult cellphone users in the United States use their phone to go online, and more than 30% of mobile internet users use mostly their cell phone to access the web rather than a desktop or laptop computer. In order to compensate for this trend, Vancity Buzz wanted to make sure their new website was mobile-friendly.
“Our original mobile design loaded quite slow and we have solved that issue with a much more optimized experience,” says Manny. The development team also created a design that loads significantly faster, especially on less-powerful cell phones.
“With a fresh start we were able to write a clean code which had significant impact on site optimization. By optimizing processes and utilizing an additional caching level we managed to decrease page load times by 30% to 50% across the site, which is especially important for mobile users,” says Andrej.
Mobile-optimized website designs also need to be clear and easy to skim through, which is exactly why Vancity Buzz opted for a sleeker redesign of their front page. Users are now able to quickly view what’s new from the dropdown menu in each category.
“The top navigation gives readers a quick snapshot of the four most recent stories in each category/sub-category through a quick hover. The overall design is more visual but optimized for faster load speed,” Manny explains. The website combines the visual appeal of an image-heavy page but with faster loading times than before, creating an overall better user experience.
The team at Vancity Buzz was also interested in creating additional advertising opportunities to maximize revenue. “We did not have all of the standard advertising offerings on the web. We can now display state-of-the art advertising which allows us to sell full takeovers with the skin. The new design has also allowed us to offer more dynamic banners of more sizes,” says Manny.
These additional advertising opportunities create a new source of income for the entertainment website, and add obvious value for advertisers.
The Impact: More Traffic, Faster Loading Times and Better Results
All of these changes have created a new aesthetic for the website and new opportunities for VCB, but they’ve also improved overall website traffic. The reactions to the new website design have been decidedly positive.
“Our analytics have improved as a result of all our changes: Readers have overwhelmingly loved the new design and our analytics prove that,” says Manny.
Andrej was also excited about the new VCB website. “For myself and our entire team, working on the project was an excellent experience. We were able to bring in a lot of our previous experience as well as learn a lot throughout the process. At the end I can say that we created an awesome news website that can stand besides some of the best news websites in the world, and that makes me proud.”
Manny also appreciated Andrej’s team’s work. “myZone provides high quality web development at affordable pricing. They understand our needs and provide useful suggestions. It also helps they are available practically 24/7.”
Vancity Buzz’s new website design is an all around success, but the company doesn’t plan to stop there; they are currently working with the team at myZone to design a new app, as well as a bunch of other features for their website. In the digital age, the importance of staying one step ahead of the game cannot be stressed enough, and it seems the team at VCB are well aware of that.