Taking Over City of Skate’s Website
City of Skate is “a coalition of Twin Cities skaters, parents, and allies whose mission is to design and develop innovative public skate spaces for creative expression, discovery, community, conversation, and health.” City of Skate advocates for skatepark development with local and state government bodies, raises money for skatepark projects, fosters community among skaters, and sometimes functions as the skate community’s de facto representative.
City of Skate’s brilliant visual identity was designed by Barrett Haroldson, who also created its original website and video content. But Barrett wasn’t able to continue maintaining and updating the website so recently I took over.
When I took over City of Skate already had a beautiful website with a ton of potential, but it needed a lot of work to realize that potential. Here was my plan:
Step 1: Move the site from SquareSpace to WordPress. Moving to WordPress would give me more control over the site’s code, structure, and search-engine optimization, and allow me to build custom features for it.
Moving from SquareSpace to WordPress is doable but a little clunky. After importing the content I had to manually review every page, re-add missing images, clean up formatting, etc. And since SquareSpace themes don’t translate to WordPress I also developed a custom WordPress theme that reflects the essential look and feel of the existing site while leaving room for future development.
Step 2: Get it organized. Once I moved the site to WordPress I dug into the structure and content. There were some defunct pages to delete and redirect and some duplicative pages to combine and redirect. Paul had assembled voter guides based on candidate surveys about skatepark funding for several state and local elections, with dozens of pages for candidates and their survey responses. We haven’t come up with a strategy for those pages, yet, so for now I organized them into an archive.
I also generally went through the site, starting to look for opportunities to improve existing content and features like events and the skatepark directory, including their search performance. I added some content, moved some content around, and generally tidied up. And once I had a couple of weeks of performance data in Google Analytics, I started looking for SEO opportunities to add to my to-do list.
Step 3: Keep developing. The City of Skate website is a work in progress, and it will be for the foreseeable future. Paul and I check in every few weeks to talk about things we can improve plus ideas for future development.
At the moment I am working on updating and improving some of the pages—especially those that perform well in search. We’ve planned out some new content, as well. And we’re planning a data-driven voter guide for this year’s election.
Results & Future Plans
Weekly visits to City of Skate’s website have nearly doubled since the relaunch, and that looks like the start of a trend. Since we didn’t even announce a “relaunch” I attribute the growth primarily to my basic-but-important improvements to the site’s SEO profile.
There is still plenty of SEO leverage to be found. For example, City of Skate’s skatepark directory gets a lot of search clicks so I have been updating those pages by adding maps and directions and information about each skatepark. And we decided to add a feedback form for people to report issues since Paul is willing to call the city when something needs to get fixed.
City of Skate is advocating for a $15 million skate park grant program at the state legislature, so there will be another candidate survey and voter guide for this year’s election. But this time I want to build it with structured data rather than just a collection of pages. That way we can present the data in interesting ways—like which candidates in your voting district can do a kickflip. I’ve already started coding a custom voter guide plugin for WordPress and we will publish the voter guide after the primary, once we know who will be on the ballots.
Also on the roadmap is offering memberships instead of just one-time donations, and relaunching City of Skate’s email newsletter in the near future.
City of Skate is my favorite kind of project: a website with lots of potential that can be developed over time instead of as a one-off project. If that sounds like the approach you want to take with your website, let’s talk.