Downtown Santa Cruz

Beyond Business: Shaping a Vibrant Downtown Santa Cruz Experience

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Remaking the Downtown Santa Cruz Association Website

Downtown Santa Cruz serves a wide variety of businesses in the Downtown District. As a small agency, they have always been resourceful in their efforts. Leveraging a website which evolved over time, and touched by many team members, it was crumbling under its own weight. With new branding in hand, they sought out to re-imagine their website and user experience.

Launch Brigade rebuilt the existing WordPress website with a new custom theme, and replaced the excessive number of free plugins with thoughtfully chosen premium plugins. The new website took advantage of the forward looking monikers Eat, Shop, Play, and included community events, business listings, and Social Media integrations.

The new site was faster, easier to use, and allowed Downtown Santa Cruz to focus once again on its member businesses and the downtown community. Members enjoyed increased visibility through business listing pages and promotion through gift cards and events.

Solutions Provided

  • Data manipulation
  • UI & UX Design
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Web development


The Downtown Association of Santa Cruz aims to create a vibrant economic and social space in the heart of Santa Cruz. To accomplish this mission, they help businesses coordinate their activities and sponsor live events such as Wine Walk and Downtown Mini Golf.

Their website needed to engage a public hungry for entertainment, and they needed to make finding exciting businesses and events easy.

The new site also needed to be more modern, reflecting their updated visual identity, along with more energy.

The DTA had an existing business directory but it was clunky. Each entry had been created using the generic WordPress post format, allowing lots of inconsistency in how the information was formatted. Often the address or phone number would be in the title. Other entries might have no address, or no phone number. A lot of the content wasn’t search­-optimized. And there was no map to help people orient themselves downtown to find their destination.



The DTA was using Events Calendar PRO to aggregate live events trickling in from different Facebook feeds. The DTA team wanted to upgrade the look and feel of their events and also feature them using a carousel on the home page.

Lastly, the DTA wanted to feature the latest news and use video to show the growing vibrancy of downtown.

Our Solution

The message to communicate the joy of downtown was simple: Eat, Shop, Play.

The DTA is very active on the social media, so as part of our design, we put in prominent links to the DTA’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

A lot of first-time visitors land on the site due the DTA’s organic SEO placement. DTA wanted to form a long-term relationship with these folks, so we added a respectful modal that appears once every few days to invite users to sign up for a newsletter.

We did some subtle animation with mouse­overs to keep the site engaging, especially within the business directory.

When you click on a business, it gives you a lot of information, including contact information and the store hours. Users can easily filter businesses by category (Eat, Shop, or Play).

As minor touch, we created a plugin to show the current temperature in the upper left corner with custom icons. So if you’re planning to go downtown, you’ll know whether to throw on a comfy sweater or expect plenty of sun.


In the technical backend, there was a lot of data migration and fixing. We started by exporting all the business content from their previous website. Next we optimized the data, then imported it into the new site. Finally we used the Geo Directory WordPress plugin to do geo­location for all addresses and create a map­-based business and venue directory.

Downtown business owners can change their information, and even sign up to have their business featured.

The website is fully responsive and a custom WordPress theme was built using the UnderStrap framework. The carousels were custom-built using the Owl 2 carousel library.

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