Fair reveals new and improved website

Fair reveals new and improved website
A revamped San Diego County Fair website will be “very high on experience and low on giant walls of text,” said Adam Richardson, who led the development team. Courtesy image

DEL MAR — Visitors to the 2017 San Diego County Fair should have a much easier time navigating the 26-day event thanks in part to the revamped sdfair.com website.

“One of the number one goals we had for this year’s fair was to completely blow up our old website and start over with a much more dynamic, interactive website that will help our guests find what they’re looking for when they come to the fair,” Deputy General Manager Katie Mueller said.

“The fair is a very complicated event,” she added. “It’s many, many, many events within a larger event. There (are) so many attractions and entertainment and exhibits and food and shopping opportunities.

“The old website definitely served its purpose,” Mueller said. “But technology has advanced and people are used to having things more instantly. We’re really excited to roll out a website that will serve our customers much better than in the past.”

“We are going to do a better job at telling our story,” said Adam Richardson, who led the web development team. “We are very good at putting words on a page. We’re not very good at delivering the fair experience.”

The old site was “very long on text and you don’t really get the experience of what it’s like to be here at the fair,” he added.

For example, the previous homepage had a column of 31 options. Those have been reduced to three pull-down sections.

“Participate” will guide fair performers and exhibitors. “Plan Your Visit” provides information such as dates, times, modes of transportation and lodging. “What to See” lists activities in a variety of categories.

Richardson said the new site will have more pictures from past fairs, a social media feed and “some pretty awesome search mojo.”

For example, fairgoers at an animal exhibit or bluegrass concert can visit the site from an app on their phone to find similar activities occurring near them within an hour or so.

“We’re going to do a very good job at delivering you similar stuff,” Richardson said, noting that the new website will include a “you might also be interested in this” feature.

“That’s going to be a huge boon to some of the acts that would normally not get a lot of traffic,” he said, adding that people will be able to search the site by category using many different criteria.

The new site was introduced at the Jan. 3 meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which governs the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Scheduled to be unveiled last month, it was delayed after the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation criticized the theme, “How the West Was Fun.”

“The logo is extremely offensive in light of the history and experience of genocide for the Kumeyaay Nation and other Native nations during the so-called settling of the west,” tribal Chairwoman Angela Elliot Santos wrote in a letter to the 22nd DAA.

Representatives from both sides have since met and agreed on a new theme, “Where the West Is Fun.”

Fair board Director Fred Schenk said the new slogan is “sharper, clearer and more representative … of what we want to share with our community next summer.”

“It’s a show of what people coming together can accomplish … to resolve their concerns,” he added. “It captures well what we will be sharing and the excitement and the energy and the enthusiasm that will be the product of the 2017 summer fair.”

“I think we came up with a better product in the end and developed new relationships that will serve us well going forward,” Mueller said.

Richardson said the website has been visited by people from 223 different countries. His team learned they are “highly mobile,” with 74 percent using a cell phone or tablet to reach the site.

Many changes have already been implemented but the revamp is expected to take two or three years to complete, he added.

“You did a great job,” Director Stephen Shewmaker told Richardson. “It looks good.”

The 2017 fair will begin at 4 p.m. June 2 and run through July Fourth. It will be closed the first four Mondays and three Tuesdays.

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