Building a Housing Resource Hub in Rhode Island
Imaj created a website and housing resource hub for Rhode Island Housing in 2006/2007. Although the site has been managed in-house for the past several years, it still stands up as an excellent case study for our approach to and expertise in developing strategically integrated, comprehensive, targeted websites.
BACKGROUND AND GOALS
Imaj served as the Rhode Island Housing agency of record for eight years, creating and initiating a full-scale, integrated marketing communications and re-branding plan for the quasi-public agency, its sub-divisions and several affiliate agencies. As part of the rebranding, Imaj planned, created and launched a new website to:
- Communicate all of their services and market their mortgage products to various audiences.
- Provide optional points of entry and pathways for various audiences, depending on biases, perspectives and personas.
- Serve as a hub/portal for housing resources and housing news in RI.
- Connect the RI Housing brand and services with those of affiliates and partner agencies.
WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
Before any consideration of a visual or experiential approach could take place, we gleaned a comprehensive understanding of 1) who Rhode Island Housing’s audiences are; 2) how they identify themselves; 3) how they search for information; and 4) what information they seek. Through focus groups and interactive behavioral studies we found that users sought answers to very similar questions most often by either a) identifying themselves as part of a group (homebuyers, homeowners, etc.) or by b) identifying a specific need or question (I’d like to find a home to rent; I need to make repairs to my home; I’m seeking help with my mortgage).
This process instructed us that, once a branded and engaging interface that reinforced the brand was developed, we must produce ways to lead users to the information they wanted through multiple paths, rather than placing the burden on the user to figure out idiomatic reference points.
Because it was a portal for the community to access up-to-date information on nearly any question they may have about owning, buying, or renting a home in Rhode Island, it was absolutely essential that the site remained fresh and relevant. Therefore we developed an interface that made updates and maintenance quick and easy, and an architecture that was logical and intuitive.
To promote the site, we implemented an SEO strategy to drive all housing-related traffic toward the site. Rhode Island Housing’s ability to then redirect any visitor based on their need allowed them to control messaging as much as possible. We ran banner ads and invested in Google campaigns.
For every individual ad campaign we ran for Rhode Island Housing a web/social integration strategy was created and implemented. Web-based videos tied into television commercials, which tied into media campaigns, which tied into targeted online promotions . Information was gathered from every new visitor and information avenues were seamless from social to web so data had only to be collected once.
As with all campaigns, Imaj actively keeps Social media current and engaging, while policing content. The unprecedented opportunity to interact with both existing, and potential customers has made all of our brands stronger. Some of our clients are getting to the point where they act immediately on the engagment and input from social media, which we believe is a critical factor to taking advantage of the media and two-way conversations, as well as being perceived as current, engaged, and relevant.
The end result was an engaging design with highly functional offerings and several paths and some redundancy of information, leading to the right places within the site. We engineered the navigation of the site in such a way that pathways back to the top level of the site were always clear to the user, regardless of what path they took to arrive at the information they sought.
All of our efforts resulted in significant – and sustained – increases in traffic to the website. The site has changed somewhat since we built it ten years ago, but it remains an important resource for homeowners in Rhode Island.