We Build Powerful, Beautiful Websites

In the foothills east of Salinas, California, Rancho Cielo provides young people with counseling, high school completion, skills training, and most importantly, adults who believe in them.

We work with Rancho Cielo on all aspects of marketing communications and content. That has included building their Drupal-based website, as well as an internal, Drupal-based case management app, which they use to track the needs and progress of their students, while keeping personal data safely private.

Along with building and managing enterprise-grade Drupal websites, we can create content for all forms of media. Among the content we've created for Rancho Cielo is a video that shows the transformative impact of the Ranch through the stories of retired Judge John Phillips and young graduate Anthony Turpin.

Rancho Cielo founder Judge John Phillips (Ret.) and graduate Anthony Turpin.

UC Berkeley School of Plant and Microbial Biology Website and Microsites System

The School of Plant and Microbial Biology, or PMB for short, needed a new site that would be attractive to prospective students; useful to current students, faculty, and staff; and easy for their many internal site contributors to use.

One special requirement: the ability for PMB faculty to create and maintain their own “micro-sites” within the parent site, with minimal assistance from staff. We delivered a solution that enables even professors with no web design knowledge to easily spawn new sites that can be adapted to their own needs while harmonizing with the parent site and preserving its standards of quality.

The PMB site, like many of our other sites, needs to be highly usable for more than one audience.

Usability for Multiple Audiences

Rather than present visitors with content they may find irrelevant, we find ways to help them filter what they see based on who they are. The PMB site uses “mega menus.” Hovering over a primary menu link reveals an informative overview of a significant portion of the site, with contextualized links. Mega menus allow many visitors to move from the home page to their final destination page in one click. On the PMB site, there’s an extra level of filtering to give them a head start: each of the primary menu items on the home page — About, Faculty, Academics, Research, and People — gets its own mega menu.

The PMB site also exemplifies another usability principle we rely on, the Pareto distribution of user choices: that is, the likelihood that a minority of options will be the most frequently-chosen. (A similar approach has long helped Apple achieve such strong customer loyalty.) This principle guided the choice of the primary menu items, of the quick link boxes below them, and of all the home page content. It guides choices across all our sites:  everything you need can be found quickly, and everything you need most is right here.

American Samoa Renewal Website and Multimedia Content Library

Social Policy Research Associates, a consulting firm in Oakland, California, came to us with a very big challenge: help them digitally document the renewal efforts of the people of American Samoa after a catastrophic tsunami.

SPR had dozens of video interviews, reams of paper documentation, and gigabytes of data, but they needed to tell the story in a way that was immediately accessible to both he public at large and the U.S Department of Labor, which assigned and administered the National Emergency Grant).

We designed a website that retold the tsunami story and a multimedia content library that allowed visitors (on the front end) to easily find information and clients (on the back end) to easily update and edit both the site and the archives.

Information Architecture + Storytelling

Making it easy to navigate large amounts of content is a challenge of information architecture, a discipline with its roots in library science (our Creative Director happens to have a Masters degree in it). Making it meaningful and memorable is a challenge of storytelling.

Boots Road Group defined narrative arcs for the American Samoa content and then designed searchable databases to hold, organize, and present the different types of documentation, from personal memoirs to videos, from newspaper articles to governmental citations.

The result is a website that tells the story of the American Samoa Renewal project using all types of media in a completely searchable digital library.

City of Salinas Website

The City of Salinas faced a problem common to many cities: its website was outdated, looked like it, and functioned like it. Although it had been built on a Content Management System, most staff found it too hard to use, so content was only updated by a small number of them, and there was a great deal of old content that was no longer relevant. Features that the City would have liked to add wouldn’t be supported by the platform without potentially expensive custom development.

Boots Road Group was hired to design and develop a new site that would express the City’s brand as “a place to grow,” whether that’s an agtech business or a family; support its commitment to smart government and civic engagement; accommodate a wide and growing range of online activities and content types; and remain easy for site visitors and site managers to use. In many ways, it’s an online City Hall.

We based our design on the results of an extensive requirements-gathering process that included representatives of residents, businesses, nonprofits, City staff and the City Council.

Custom Features, Functions and Connections

We built the site using Drupal, extending it with custom features and functionality for Salinas. This includes custom content types, multi-mode search including “How Do I?” questions, integration with third-party software such as Granicus, and custom analytics dashboards that allow a City department to see, for example, what its most popular content is, how long people spend on particular pages, how they found the site, and the user population’s demographic profile.

The City of Salinas, which is a Bloomberg What Works City, is committed to open data. As part of that, the City’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) unit wanted to be able to easily create site-based maps that would draw data from the City’s ArcGIS software.

Using the ArcGIS REST data interface, we created a custom Map Gallery, which features a growing collection of maps of Walkability, Bike Paths, Zoning, Vacant Land, Parks, City Council Districts, and much more.

We also created a custom analytics dashboard, so GIS staff can see things like the popularity of each map, how long users spend looking at each map, and how often each map is downloaded.

Since its launch in 2016, the site has shown not just growth in traffic, but strong improvements in session length (up) and bounce rate (down), indicating that visitors find it much more useful.