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Alexandria MN Website Design

We love to help local businesses create beautiful websites and interact with their audience.

Explore Alex Website Design

The Explore Alexandria Tourism website is our biggest project to date. The main goals were to create a more organized structure for their large databases, get more interaction from visitors, and better optimize the entire site for SEO.

Separate Databases

For a website of this scale, it can be very difficult to organize multiple databases without a proper structure. The ExploreAlex web page had entries for pages, places (e.g. attractions), hotels, events, and blog posts all mixed together. By creating a separate database for each, it made it much easier for visitors to navigate and interact.

On the analysis side, having segregated databases created an opportunity for more advanced visitor stats. We can now see the visitor interaction within just the hotel section without co-mingling data from all the other pages on the website.

Hotels database and filters
Hotels database and filters

Widgets are a big plus to this setup. These features make it easy to display the hotels and places in other content without having to re-enter the details. The low maintenance aspect is even better. When the webmaster updates a hotel’s details (e.g. address), it automatically updates across all pages where that hotel is found. This saves tremendous amounts of time for large databases.

Interactive Pages

Nobody likes to have to navigate through lots of pages to find what they are looking for. It takes time to load each page and makes navigation cumbersome. A big attraction for ExploreAlex right now is the Winter Guide. The old version of this guide involved over a dozen pages and a tricky navigation structure. We were able to compress all of these pages into one interactive guide. The image below is one example of how we compressed an entire page into one easy to navigate widget. It gives visitors a great overview of winter activities and they can visit the links to view more details.

Shortcode widgets
Interactive widgets for a better user experience

Aside from the tab shortcode widget above, there is a recent winter blog posts display, upcoming events snapshot, and winter attractions slider. Visit the Winter Guide on the ExploreAlex to see all the interactive widgets.

Improving SEO

There is always a delicate balance when redoing the website design to improve SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and not harm it. The compression of pages in some sections, like the Winter Guide, helped remove duplicate content and title confusion. For example, two pages about downhill skiing with pretty much the same content creates a conflict for search engines. Google’s algorithm has to decide which is one is better for particular searches and may guess wrong or disregard both.

Another common issue is maintaining permalink structures. You want to keep the Winter Guide at http://www.explorealex.com/winter-guide/. Changing this permalink at all will send a signal to search engines that this a different page. That means starting from the beginning again on building credibility, which is very wasteful.

It’s not always possible to maintain all pages or permalinks from an old website design. The best solution here is a 301 redirect. It is a permanent redirection so search engines pass along page rank (i.e. credibility) to the new location. This setup also redirects visitors automatically to the new location so you don’t lose visitors.

Vital Fit Club Website Design

The initial analysis of the website indicated that a majority of visitors use the mobile site and look at the fitness class schedule. On top of these two goals, we also wanted to make sure the local presence for search engines and maps were well optimized.

Interactive Schedule

A lot of Vital Fit Club members want to know the start time for their favorite fitness classes or they are looking for what the new winter class schedule has to offer. Regardless, the schedule feature had to be great.

The schedule widget we implemented displays in a clean, elegant format that is responsive for all devices. When hovering over a class, the visitor can see the instructor and click on the class to view more details (shown below with the Power 45 class). Another great aspect of this setup is the backend interface which makes updating the schedule for employees easy.

Interactive fitness class schedule
Interactive fitness class schedule
Mobile responsive site
Mobile responsive site

Mobile Site

A mobile site is imperative nowadays. Most websites have seen the scale tip to mobile users and Vital was no different. The mobile site for Vital has all the same content as the desktop version but in a more compressed format. For starters, the menu items are all located within one button. With a click, it expands to fit the screen to make it easy to navigate. The class schedule we just talked about adjusts dynamically to the screen width automatically and the color tones make the items clearly visible. Lastly, the contact page reformats from two columns into one to make scrolling simple.

Local SEO

Any business that draws clients from the area should have a strong focus on local SEO. Before tackling this aspect, be sure you have already covered SEO 101 for the website. After getting the basics completed, the one place you can gain control of your local search results in Google Plus. We started a Google Plus “storefront” page for Vital and filled out all the details. Google then needs to verify the store location with a postcard. It is pretty simple to complete this step, but it takes time.

After the Google local details are completed, Vital Fit Club should appear at the top of the results for searches like “fitness club” in Alexandria, MN. Plus, you get to dictate how the business details are displayed in Google Maps.

Alex Attachment E-Commerce

Setting up an online store can be very intimidating. You have to maintain inventory, accept transactions, and be wary of security flaws. WooCommerce offers a great platform that integrates easily with WordPress for a simple layout.

Alex Attachment, which sells skid steer attachments in the Alexandria area, had about a dozen different products to sell. The theme and layout we chose features numerous images for each attachment along with product details and the ability for the client to select different sizes. Not all products come in one size so it was imperative that clients knew the different specs and could easily select the correct attributes.

For security purposes, we set up an SSL certificate to encrypt all data used during checkout. For confirmation, a receipt is immediately sent to the client and store manager. This assures the client that everything worked correctly and alerts the shop manager of new orders.

Update: Alex Attachment has now been transferred to Prime Attachments

Shop display
Alex Attachment shop
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Tyler Golberg

I love writing about web design that inspires, figuring out Google's black box, and speaking to lively audiences. In my spare time, I enjoy reading Game of Thrones (waiting on Winds of Winter) and touring the lakes on my paddleboard.

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