Case Study: Redesign With a Vengeance


Yippee-ki-yay.

Like a Hollywood actor who keeps reinventing himself, the California Travel & Tourism Commission is back with another site update for Visit California.  This time, the site has taken a few years off by going back to a simpler time of engaging photos, clear links and few distractions.  Could this be the best performance to date?

Let’s review the update.  For those of you who need a refresher, may we suggest: Case Study: VisitCalifornia.com Launches…Again?

The header remains simple with only the primary needs…logo, search, a couple links…no reason to clutter this section.  While the navigation titles remained the same, the addition of rollover navigation allows the user to find what is below each section.  Points for keeping the navigation items at 5, no small accomplishment.

Now, on to the feature, that oh-so prominent ‘hero’ section which has seen its share of updating and tweaking over the last few iterations.  The ‘new’ update goes back to the flash-driven, boxy feel, highlighting popular and unknown (or perhaps local) attractions of the state.  The blend of both known (Golden Gate Bridge) and unknown (the scuba guy?) should answer the needs of both a traditional national visitor as well as a California native. Certainly an improvement over version 2.0, which tried to communicate too many messages in a limited space.

While we love the visual selection option from a user-perspective, we can’t help but think we have seen this feature used somewhere else…now where was that.  But, again, points for California, we like this execution better.

The introduction of a regional, we will say ‘quick menu’, splitting the state into a southern, central and northern option is a great move.  Acknowledging the size of the state and helping the user find information with logical titles is something we do not see enough of at the Travel 2.0 blog.

Follow that up with the key conversion points such as the visitors guide, maps, trip ideas and a visual map of the state…plus a calendar of events…all wrapped with a perfect amount of white space.  You hear that, white space!  Trust us, you need some more on your site!

Close the scene with maps and weather, throw in a footer and I would say we have a solid performance.

Our previous comments seemed to have been taken to heart:

In version 2.0, we have 9 boxes to read, which requires more than a quick glance. Plus, the boxes are not as clearly defined. Interesting what a large difference those additional 4 areas create.

All of these updates have brought the Visit California site back to the welcoming introductory feel of the V1.0 site we reviewed.  We like to refer to this ‘simple’ site structure as a gradual reveal of content…the homepage is just the opening credits…no need to reveal the ending at the start of the performance.

So, two thumbs up from this critic.

Visit California V1

Visit California V1.1

Visit California V2.0

Visit California V4.0

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.