04 May 2015

Top 10 Economic Development Website Trends for 2015

Anatalio Ubalde is an economic developer, entrepreneur, and inventor. He works with organizations throughout the nation to foster enhanced economic development strategies using Internet technology. His work in geographic information systems, economic development and the Internet has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, TechCrunch, and Inc. In 2009 he was named a Fellow Member of the International Economic Development Council for achieving exceptional stature in the field of economic development.

Economic development websites are constantly improving, as are the online strategies that make organizations successful. To remain relevant you need to keep up with the trends that are defining online economic development results. Here are the Top 10 trends you need to know and implement:

Economic development mobile GIS

1. Mobile  

All the people economic developers want to work with have a smart phone in their pocket and they interact with it more often than their desktop. Mobile-optimized and responsive design aren’t just a trend, they are the norm. Already, one fifth of site selection analysis on economic development websites is happening using mobile browsers. All online services have to be cross-platform compatible with smart phones and tablets.  Want to see a great examples of the same website service designed for different devices? Click on this site selection website link from both your desktop and your mobile device.

2. GIS Site Selection

It used to be that having online site selection assistance was a competitive advantage by providing services such as property search, location-specific demographic analysis, business/industry visualization, and geographic/map display. But now, not having it is a competitive disadvantage. Today, 58% of the US population is covered and served with GIS Planning site selection technology. The communities that don’t have it are losing out on economic investment opportunities.

3. Affordability

Website development costs are dropping dramatically because new economic development website vendors are coming in to disrupt antiquated vendors’ business models. As an example, a legacy website vendor has offended so many of its customers with hidden high costs to “upgrade” to the new version of their software that their customers are looking for reasons to leave. Many are going to next-generation vendors like Golden Shovel as a preferred solution for economic development websites, not only because its websites are better and upgrades are free, but it also has a disruptive pricing model that keeps total costs to less than $1,000 per month.

4. Data Visualization and Interactivity

Economic development GIS mapping Georgia EMC aeropsace

Static websites with limited information don’t meet the needs of current economic development website visitors. Modern EDOs are replacing these “dumb websites” that make their organizations look outdated.  They are being replaced by highly interactive “smart webpages” that incorporate Intelligence Components technology that empower website visitors to actively interact with demographics, search businesses, visualize industry targets, map opportunities, and compare communities.  This is “plug and play” technology that can be added to your existing website so you don’t have to replace what you’ve already built. This is a big trend affecting more than just economic development.

5. Infographics and Webgraphics

economic development infographics data

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the economic development infographic may be worth thousands of jobs. People visiting websites are attracted to the graphics and visual design of infographics that turn data into powerful messages and storytelling. Economic developers have adopted this trend by showing the advantages of investing in their communities through infographics.

6. Scrolling and in-website interactivity

Apple changed the way we interact with content due to the iPhone and iPad. Scrolling, swiping, and parallax are becoming more popular and have debunked the old wisdom that things have to be a few clicks away. Now websites may have few clicks or page reloads at all. You can just scroll to new information or the existing webpage can continue to update with new content.  Take a look at how the Great Lakes Bay Business Advantage website engages visitors and creates the impression of depth and a more engaging browsing experience.

Economic development website design

7. Ecosystems

“A man is not an island” and neither is the economic developer’s website. The days of your website being the online strategy are over. Today, the effectiveness of an economic development website is directly correlated to the online ecosystem in which it is networked. Online site selection portals are delivering qualified prospects to communities that those EDOs never even knew were considering their area.  Social media platforms like LinkedIn groups make conversations with corporate real estate professionals and site selectors easy and accessible.

8. Plug and Play Website Services

Not all economic development organizations have the funds or even want to replace their current websites. They may be good websites that could be great with the addition of the right new tools, services, and features including things like interactive demographics, business search, mapping, and community comparisons. New technology is enabling EDOs to easily plug-in powerful economic development widgets immediately into their websites no matter who designed or developed the website. This provides meaningful improvements without the high cost or long lead-time for replacing an entire website.

Economic development websites data

9. Animated Charts and Geo-visualization

Much of the case for a company investing in a location is the data that drives the business decision. Why would you show static images when you can create dynamic charts in real time that can be viewed multiple ways and as tabular data? Also, because EDOs are promoting investment in specific locations, hyper-local heat maps communicate interactive and customized information in ways that flat images never can.  This, like many others, is a trend impacting more than just economic development.

10. Speed

Even though we live in a world of high-speed Internet, connection speeds vary depending on where you are, what device you’re using, or where you are trying to access the Internet. An unscrupulous economic development website vendor did a speed test of their websites compared to other vendors and came to the conclusion (using their own test measurements) that their websites are the fastest to load. Guess what? They don’t understand Internet speeds and are trying to trick the luddites among us. Testing speeds from their own office (or yours) don’t matter. What matters is the Internet speed from every location customers are at. An example of how to get this issue right is how GIS Planning originally set up CDNs (a network of servers all around the world), so that our website speeds are fast everywhere and not just for clients near our offices.

Want to know more about top trends in economic development websites and how your organization can take advantage of new online data tools? Contact us today.

CLICK HERE to check out the top ED website trends for 2016.


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