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A major arts center finds its masterpiece. A Deedub success story

"Working with Deedub Inc. was an incredible experience, and we wouldn’t hesitate to partner with them again. They communicated clearly, created realistic benchmarks, and after much hard work, delivered a final product that we are immensely proud of."

Jerry Van Leeuwen
Executive Director, California Center for the Arts, Escondido

Hearing a rave review like this makes us very happy, especially when it’s in response to a project as massive as this one.

The work we completed for the California Center for the Arts, Escondido represents the largest project Deedub Inc. has ever undertaken — seven months in duration, incorporating numerous components that all had to fit together seamlessly.

If yours is a mid-sized or large organization in need of agency-quality user experience consulting services that generate results, then this success story is a must read:

Short on time? Skip to the results, or experience for yourself.

Reviving the art & soul of a community

When Escondido voters approved the construction of the California Center for the Arts, Escondido (often simply referred to as “the Center”) in June 1985, they envisioned something more than a mere theater. Instead, their goal was a full-fledged regional arts center offering concerts, performances, education programs, museum exhibits, and more
When the facility opened its doors in October 1994, their vision came to life. Situated adjacent to historic Downtown Escondido, award-winning Escondido City Hall, and scenic Grape Day Park, the Center was literally built at the heart of the community, functioning as both a source of civic pride and a redevelopment catalyst.

However, years later, the Center was hit hard by the economic crisis of 2008. Cuts had to be made to both programs and staffing — a sad reality for many businesses and organizations at the time.

But there was light at the end of the tunnel. New executive leadership came on board in subsequent years, made tough choices, and set a new vision that allowed the Center to refocus and grow. By 2011, a turnaround was clearly underway.

In May of that year, the Center’s leaders learned of Think Grand, a volunteer movement for the community of Escondido that is another one of our Deedub creations and success stories. The Center’s leadership admired our consultancy’s volunteer service to the community, as well as the website and digital marketing efforts we created for Think Grand.

After an initial meeting with Deedub Founder & CEO Dave Woods, the conversation quickly turned to how we might be able to help the Center achieve similar results via its own website and digital marketing.

At the time, the Center’s website was built using outdated technologies like Flash that caused problems for mobile users. That, combined with the toll taken by budget cuts, meant that the website was hard to maintain and no longer serving its purpose. Beyond the website, the Center also needed to enhance its marketing efforts and build greater awareness of its programs within the North San Diego County community.

With the turnaround still in progress, the full-fledged user experience project the Center really needed simply wasn’t feasible at the time. So, we waited patiently, assisting the Center with occasional advice and guidance as the economy and their operating budget continued to improve.

In July 2013, that patience paid off. With the turnaround in full swing, the Center’s board of trustees approved a major user experience project proposal from Deedub.

Creation of a digital masterpiece was underway.

More than an arts center, more than a website

In reality, calling it an “arts center” is a major understatement.
With a 9,000 square foot conference center, a massive and scenic “Great Green” lawn area, comprehensive dining and banquet services, plus numerous meeting rooms and sun-drenched patios, the Center is also a community and special events Mecca. Every year, it plays host to numerous weddings, quinceañeras, corporate events, galas, and trade shows, in addition to all the visual and performing arts events and programs you would typically expect.

As an incredibly diverse and versatile venue situated in a culturally diverse community, building a new website in haste simply wouldn’t do.

In fact, this was far more than a website redesign — this was a full-fledged strategic marketing project that had to be tailored to numerous potential audiences with vastly different needs.

As a result, before we designed a single pixel or wrote a single line of code, we spent over three months working solely on research and strategy. Our services included:

  • Performing a content audit of the Center’s existing website.
  • Holding one-on-one interviews with departmental leadership at the Center, plus numerous meetings with the core project team.
  • Learning about third-party e-commerce and email marketing systems used by the Center that would need to integrate with the new website.
  • Creating and deploying a major survey to over 10,000 community recipients. The survey asked numerous detailed qualitative and quantitative questions about the Center’s website, marketing, and programs. The results were incredible: Over 600 respondents took the time to answer the survey in full or in part. We analyzed and compiled all the data, and delivered it to the Center in the form of a detailed report.
  • Developing a comprehensive content strategy for the new website, including but not limited to: Recommendations for website categorization and navigation; defining total number and type of web pages, augmented by the development of sitemaps and flowcharts; creation of marketing slogans and taglines; defining preferred keywords intended for both emotional and search engine appeal.
  • Developing content creation training templates that simultaneously educated Center staff and enabled them to start writing website content before the design, code, and content management system were finalized.

Showtime, and a standing ovation

Thanks to the strong foundation created by our research and strategy-driven process, design and development of the new website went smoothly, and the new launched in April 2014.

The website boasts a number of important features, and the Center has already seen some compelling results:

  • The website’s design is 100% responsive, meaning it “shapeshifts” to fit any size screen, thus offering full-featured content and functionality across all smartphones, tablets, and traditional Macs and PCs. As a result, mobile usage of the website has increased dramatically, and the site averages a total of 13,000 visits per month.
  • Numerous HTML forms placed strategically throughout the website have allowed Center staff to move away from the primitive world of PDF and paper forms to an email and database-driven workflow. One of the biggest success stories: A Request a Quote form for prospective facility rentals has generated new leads at a rate of nearly one per day without any slowdown in existing telephone inquiries. This dramatic increase in rentals has already significantly boosted the Center’s revenues, and rental sales staff attribute this success and ROI directly to the increased visibility made possible by the new website.
  • The website was built on the open source WordPress content management system. The flexibility and power of WordPress allowed us to build the site completely from the ground up to be 100% custom — no mass-produced templates whatsoever. It also enabled us to put an incredible amount of attention to detail into the finished product, including customized editing interfaces and on-screen training tips that make future maintenance tasks easier for Center staff.
  • Thanks to a highly-Deedub-customized installation of Events Calendar Pro, a popular WordPress calendar plugin, visitors are able to effortlessly find upcoming events in a visually-engaging way. Equally as important, our customization of the Center’s existing online ticket purchasing interface makes the handoff from the website seamless and intuitive for online ticket buyers.

And the icing on the cake: After project completion, we empowered 12 members of the Center’s staff via four hours of comprehensive website maintenance training. Through our 100% custom training curriculum, the content maintenance workload has been distributed to various departments at the Center with the marketing department acting as the final proofreader, approver, and publisher.

Stories like this exemplify what we mean when we say that user experience is everything. But don’t take our word for it — view the final product, and see what the Center’s leadership has to say about our work and results:

“Deedub was thoughtful and thorough in their approach to our project, effectively utilizing market research and industry knowledge to inform their top-quality work.”

Jerry Van Leeuwen
Executive Director, California Center for the Arts, Escondido

“Thanks to Deedub, our website is now a centerpiece in our overall marketing strategy. It’s sleek and sophisticated, it’s easy to maintain, and it effortlessly showcases our numerous programs and offerings.”

Megan Bitsoff
Marketing Director, California Center for the Arts, Escondido