Economic Development Website Review: Town of Vienna

By Andrew Davies

An analysis of the Town of Vienna’s Economic Development website, highlighting its strengths and suggesting areas for improvement.

In a previous post, we looked at the “Missouri Loves Company” campaign site to learn a few things about what goes into an effective Economic Development (EconDev) microsite. Well, microsites are like movie trailers – meant to excite the viewer into watching the full-feature film, which in this tortured metaphor is the main EconDev website. So let’s grab some popcorn and see what we can learn from the Town of Vienna’s Economic Development’s website

First, the Strengths

Stating the value upfront

Effective Economic Development (EconDev) websites should immediately establish their value proposition. Vienna’s website does this well by providing visitors with a taste of the town’s demographics and unique offerings all in one sentence. The website then offers clear calls to action that prioritize small and medium-sized businesses, particularly those in retail.

Clean, easy-to-navigate visual design

This website has a clean and well-organized design that makes it easy for users to navigate and find what they’re looking for. All of the content that supports their main objectives, such as learning how to start a business in Vienna or finding help to grow a business there, is just a single click away from the Homepage. Plus, their consistent use of a pleasant color-scheme and typographic hierarchy makes the o -page content easily skimmable.

The Vienna Economic Development website Homepage
Obviously, the Vienna Economic Development website has a lot of visual appeal.

Now, the Lessons

1. Where are you, Exactly?

It’s not immediately clear from the homepage where Vienna is located. The only hint is in the URL and the  footer, where it is mentioned that it is in Virginia. However, it’s not clear which part of Virginia it is located in. As we mentioned in another post, It’s crucial to identify the state’s location, especially for out-of-state and international visitors. 

So we recommend including some language that clears up their location along with a map somewhere on the homepage, in addition to the top of the “Welcome to the Town of Vienna” page. You could do something subtle like the Chester County EconDev site, Choose Chester, which includes a location marker in their headline, “South Charlotte’s Innovation Corridor”. Or better yet, follow Abilene Texas’s example by including a large map of their region showing their proximity to major cities.

Screenshots of the Economic Development websites from Chester county and Abilene Texas

Speaking of which, Vienna’s proximity to major metropolitan areas like Arlington and DC should be highlighted more prominently. According to their Market Study report, 

“Between 2010 and 2019, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Metropolitan Statistical Area (‘MSA’) added more than 380,000 jobs, fueling a need for various residential and commercial spaces across the region.” 

So we suggest showcasing Vienna’s proximity to these areas, including commute times and transportation routes. For example, The Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) has a “Map Room” on their site; a whole page dedicated to showing visitors how Savannah’s location offers various advantages like population draw and proximity to major transportation routes.

SEDA's Economic development website's map room page.

2. Don’t make me hunt for your bragging rights 

Vienna’s website could benefit from showcasing more unique and specific statistics to differentiate the region from other similar towns. While there are a few bragging points mentioned on the homepage, such as the annual retail demand, the other claims such as high-income families and the number of businesses may not be enough to capture the attention of potential investors or businesses. 

One suggestion would be to showcase some of the exciting demographic stats from their annual report in a more prominent and visual way. While this data is available in the Research & Reports section, it may be buried and overlooked by visitors to the site. 

A good example to follow would be Chester County, which displays its region’s successes in a large and visually appealing manner. They also highlight their economic development organization’s achievements, such as the number of announcements, jobs, and total investment brought to the region. By emphasizing specific and quantifiable data points, the website can better showcase the region’s unique strengths and attract more attention from potential investors or businesses.

Chester County's Economic Development website spotlights a lot of their bragging stats on their Homepage.

Show off Your Town’s Strengths with Contextualized Statistics

When it comes to presenting statistics, it’s important to provide context to make meaningful comparisons. While it’s impressive to highlight significant achievements like having a world-famous media district or the largest port in America, it can be challenging for smaller towns like Vienna to showcase their accomplishments. To ensure a fair comparison, we recommend providing context for the types of activities that can be expected for a region of similar size. 

For instance, you can use the data from market studies and state of the economy reports to compare the statistics of your town to others of similar size. Alternatively, if there has been a remarkable increase in a particular statistic, you can show the progress of that stat over time to demonstrate its significance. By providing context, your statistics will be more meaningful and help to showcase the strengths of your town.

Highlight Your Testimonials

Apart from showcasing statistics, local business testimonials or success stories are an effective way to provide tangible evidence of the prosperity of your region’s economy. Currently, the primary method to access these business stories is through an alert bar at the top of the page, which is usually reserved for emergency alerts, notices, or even cookie disclaimers. Thus, it often goes unnoticed. The only other way to access these stories is through the generic menu label ‘blog’, which is not the most intuitive place for a site visitor to find this crucial content.

We suggest creating a dedicated page for testimonials and business success stories. It could be placed under the “Why Vienna?” section to keep the menu items manageable. However, we also recommend promoting these testimonials throughout the site by scattering them across various sections, including a prominent area on the homepage, possibly in the hero section right at the top instead of the photo montage.

For instance, The Lawton FortStill Economic Corporation has a slideshow cycling through multiple video testimonials on it’s Homepage.

Lawton FortStill Economic Corporation's Homepage video testimonial section.

Who will I talk to?

Generic contact forms can be an efficient way to get prospects to reach out, but adding a personal touch can go a long way in building trust and establishing a connection with potential clients. One way to achieve this is by giving your site visitors a name and a face to go along with that contact information. For example, Savannah and Charleston’s Economic Development organizations have implemented this strategy by including a contact person’s headshot and various contact methods in each relevant section, making it easier for potential clients to reach out and get the help they need.

Charleston and Savannah's Economic Development websites showing headshots and contact details of the relevant contact person.

Give visitors control over the movement

When you first land on the ExploreVienna homepage, the hero image starts moving back and forth. However, some people may have an increased sensitivity to that kind of animation due to conditions like migraines, seizures, or motion sickness. Therefore, we advise only adding motion to your webpages when it’s useful, like a video that showcases your region’s unique qualities. Then, if you decide to include some movement that is self-intiated, make sure to provide a pause button, allowing visitors to stop the video and avoid any negative effects of browsing your site. This approach is in line with the WCAG recommendations for web animations, 

“For any moving, blinking or scrolling information that (1) starts automatically, (2) lasts more than five seconds, and (3) is presented in parallel with other content, there is a mechanism for the user to pause, stop, or hide it unless the movement, blinking, or scrolling is part of an activity where it is essential;”

The FilmSavannah website highlighting the video pause button in the hero section.

Wrap it Up

The Town of Vienna’s Economic Development website is a great piece of work. It has a lot going for it, including a captivating value proposition and a clean design that’s easy to navigate. But as with everything, there’s always room for improvement. For instance, it would be great if the site could provide more specific location information and unique statistics to differentiate the region from the rest. By implementing these changes, the Vienna website would be able to showcase its strengths better and attract more potential investors or businesses.

Creating an effective EconDev website is all about balance. It’s about highlighting your strengths while providing enough context to make an informed decision. The Town of Vienna’s website is a great example of how to do both well, and with a few tweaks here and there, it could become even better.