Differentiate Your Site

    June 9, 2003

A Site Review Of Gaslamp.org By David Yancey of ProWebGuide.com.

Here are some comments from a site builder/developer who also happens to have been trained as an architect originally, and who enjoys visiting urban re-development projects. My quick-scan observations:

1. The black background shouts cool, hip, and perhaps even sexy. Is this really the first impression you want to give first time visitors? Most of the folks who are drawn to visit Gaslamp in the flesh are sophisticated enough to know that any renovated downtown area will be based on restaurants and related entertainment services. Those are not the real differentiator, no matter how great they may be.

2. Aside from the blackness, I get a sense that the Gaslamp is 98% about getting me to come there and eat. Maybe shop, too. I already know that. And I have lots of places much closer to go out for a meal. Why should I come to *your* place? You mention historic buildings, but I don’t see any – unless I happen to find the relevant page. You are not establishing an identity in my head. Graphics and presentation are the keys to this process, plus text that is about *me*, not *you*.

3. There is nothing on the front page that engages me. There is no ambience to the front page that I want to become part of. Your front page is like a big department store window I pass on the street. Elegant, maybe, but not really special. It says “spend money here!”, not “come here and fill a hole in your life.” You need to convey the Gaslamp experience, in a way that *differentiates* that experience from other clusters of fine shops and restaurants. Make Gaslamp so *rich* in my head that it is, to quote the estimable Michelin folks, “Worth a Journey”.

4. Specifically, there is no compelling reason for me to come there *now* – today, this weekend. Instead, you put event information for a whole year on one back page. All that says is that I have plenty of time to check out Gaslamp. Indeed, it may say I should *defer* my visit until there is something I am interested in.

5. Your historical section tries to be different by scrolling from left to right. It is different, all right. Annoyingly so.

6. You don’t reach out to those who do not know San Diego. The millions who only think of it as a naval base on the way down to Tijuana. You don’t integrate Gaslamp with the San Diego destination. Why can’t all these great restaurants offer a weekend and one week “Gaslamp Feast” deal, where San Diego visitors for a weekend or a week can eat out every night at a participating Gaslamp eatery for a set basic prix fixe amount? Make Gaslamp the focal point of the San Diego experience, not a quaint option.

7. You offer no compelling promotion or message to the millions of car-happy Angelinos two hours away.

David Yancey www.prowebguide.com

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