Port of New Bedford
Out of dry dock & into
the 21st century
The city’s greatest natural resource gets face lift with the all-new PortofNewBedford.org
The Port of New Bedford is the City’s greatest natural resource, both economically and historically, and annually generates over $1 billion in economic activity. The Harbor Development Commission (HDC) oversees all aspects of this deepwater port and is charged with stimulating business activity and promoting the Port. As there is no tourism office in New Bedford, the marketing of the Harbor as a tourist destination falls on the HDC as well.
There are six distinct audiences the HDC website wanted to target and/or support:
- Commercial Fishing – for the last 11 years, the Port has been the number one fishing port in the United States (in dollar volume).
- Shipping – the Port plays a key role as an intermodal shipping center for international import and export trade and is a critical hub for domestic short sea shipping in the American Marine Highway Initiative.
- Recreational Boating – the Harbor manages a 198 slip marina, 500 moorings and wants to attract more recreational boaters and visiting sailing organizations.
- Cruise Ships – New Bedford wants to increase cruise ship visits as a port of call for tours of the New England Islands and Seaports.
- Ferry and Excursion Boats – the City offers passenger ferry services to Martha’s Vineyard and Cuttyhunk as well as sport fishing and harbor tours.
- Government Agencies and Taxpayers – as one of the City’s departments, the HDC needs to explain how it regulates the Port and manages the Harbor facilities, and communicate its vision for the future.
Why the HDC came to Design Principles and Michel Cullum Associates
The Port of New Bedford’s Internet presence, housed on the City of New Bedford’s website, was suboptimal on multiple fronts: their section was hard to find, and once you did, the landing page was confusing, unprofessional and extremely cluttered. In addition, it was missing a lot of information and much of what was there was out of date as the HDC had no easy way to manage its content.
Our main challenge was to re-design the website so the navigation was obvious, user-friendly, and specific information was easy to find, whether you were a barge captain, trucker, cruise director or sailor looking for a slip. We also needed to design an attractive look for the site that would speak to both B2B and B2C as well as showcase the Port’s terrific features.
The first step was organizing the content into a 155-page site map. We ended up with seven sections that essentially were portals of information for different target audiences: About the Port, HDC, Commercial Fishing, Shipping, Recreational Boating, Cruise, Ferries & Excursion Boats.
We strategically employed a state-of the-art navigation feature called “mega menus” to easily segment and organize the seven “portals.” Mega Menus ensure a visitor sees everything a section contains without the distraction of fly-outs or the need for hovering. An effectively designed mega menu allows you to find everything immediately.
We also realized many pages, such as Your Guide to New Bedford and Harbor Maps, needed to be repeated in multiple sections. In order to maintain a true bread crumb trail, the programmers made each repeatable page available through a single location, so edits and changes to one document were automatically reflected in multiple locations on the website. Besides being efficient, this feature has the added benefit of the visitor seeing a page in the right context (for example, if you are in Shipping, the Harbor Maps page looks like it belongs to that section, and when you are in Recreational Boating, that same maps page takes on the Recreational Boating section’s look and feel).
The HDC’s new website, www.portofnewbedford.org , was launched in October of 2011. The site has over 86 unique pages and hundreds of links to documents, resource information (such as maps, tides and permit application forms). We even programmed an editable “Special Announcement” message board that appears on every page!
Other New Bedford agencies direct people to the Port’s website as it provides a contemporary online presence. The Executive Director was so pleased, she recommended the website be submitted for a national competition among all the ports in the nation.
We are proud to say the HDC is a client with whom we have a three year Master Services Agreement Contract (through 2013) as a Joint Venture with our two agencies.
Besides designing their website, other accomplishments include:
- Researching and building a proprietary database of close to 4,000 e-mail addresses.
- Segmenting the database to address their six separate targets plus other appropriate third parties such as media/press and Community organizations.
- Reworking their current logo and providing branding guidelines for its consistent use by staff and other stakeholders.
- Designing their interactive e-newsletter format and blast email templates.