I asked my Final Year Location Planning and Place Marketing students to come up with evaluation criteria to enable them to identify a good place marketing website from a bad one. They then compared their criteria and found that they had all come up with very similar ones – and we tested them out on other sites to ensure they were robust. There’s a list of all the websites we evaluated at the end of this blog.
What did we learn? Well the criteria they decided upon were.
- Originality – communicating a sense of place. Too many websites were similar, unless you looked at the web address you didn’t get any clues about where the place was. Originality could be communicated through colourful place images and also, in some cases, comments and ‘breaking news’ stories coming through a discussion forum.
- Design – whilst originality was important, the best websites looked professional and modern.
- Navigation – the students liked the clearly structured sites, that weren’t ‘cluttered’ and were instinctive to navigate around.
- Inclusive – an interesting one; and a controversial criterion. Some students liked the websites that had information for a wide group of stakeholders, including children.
- Targeted –others thought the websites that had a clear target audience (the type of ‘visit x’ websites) were better as it was clear what their offer was.
- Useful – the website needed to provide useful and current information.
On the whole, the more targeted the website the more sophisticated it was in marketing terms. But we were investigating place marketing. Some of the council or community websites were poor in digital marketing terms but were stronger in terms of ‘place’ – and communicated important information to the people that lived there.
Just like places themselves, there are many stakeholders and it is hard to market a place to all these different stakeholders through one website. In addition, as no-one owns any trademark (i.e. the place name) any group can set up a place marketing website. Some students were surprised about the negative images of a place some websites portrayed but everyone is entitled to air their own opinion about a place.
Have a look at the websites we reviewed and see what you think. Which ones do you think are good or bad? And why?