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RBJ Best of the Web 2010

Much has changed in the online world since the Rochester Business Journal launched its annual Best of the Web competition in 1996 to spotlight the top efforts among area businesses on the World Wide Web.

Yet the original idea of the competition remains the same: to draw attention to the best of the area's Web offerings.

Readers submitted hundreds of nominations for the 2010 competition. The screening committee also reviewed dozens more from previous years and other lists. This year's finalists range from multinational corporations to solo operations to non-profits. Judges evaluated the finalist sites based on navigability, usability, functionality, content, artist and visual design, and standards compliance.

Dana VanDen Heuvel, founder and president of the Marketing Savant Group in Green Bay, Wis., gave the keynote talk on the marketing value of social media at the Best of the Web breakfast Feb. 25.

And the winners in each category are ...

There was a winner in each catergory, as well as gold, silver and bronze overall winners. Below, fine details on all the Web sites, as well as comments from the judges.

Arts: Paley Studios Ltd.

Banking and Finance: First Niagara Financial Group

Business and Professional Services: Pictometry International Corp.

Community: Seneca Park Zoo

Cultural Non-Profit: Eastman Theatre

Education: Rochester Institute of Technology

Health Care: Skinsight

Manufacturing: Parlec Inc.

Real Estate and Construction: Rent Rochester

Retail/Hospitality: Jackson & Hines

Best Overall Winners 

Gold: Seneca Park Zoo

Silver: Eastman Theatre

Bronze: First Niagara Financial Group
 

This year's judges were:

  • Molly Cappotelli, online editor of the Rochester Business Journal. She maintains the newspaper's Web site, www.rbjdaily.com, and edits and reports for the RBJ's Daily Report and Time Out e-mails;
  • Neil Hair, assistant professor of marketing in the E. Philip Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology;
  • Michael Johnson, an art director, Web designer, Internet marketing strategist and principal of www.PixelPunk.com;
  • Michael Philipson, a principal of the Philipson Group, who has more than 20 years of experience in traditional graphic design, marketing, print production management and Web development; and
  • Chris Roberts, vice president of marketing and interactive for Next Step Publishing and president of Next Step Media Network. 

Arts

www.albertpaley.com
Paley Studios Ltd.
Web site went live:
October 2006
Last major overhaul: October 2006
Average number of page views per day: 900
Cost to create: $11,500
Cost to maintain annually: basic hosting fees
Developed: externally by Biznetix
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: three
Internal company webmaster: Gina Foster
Biggest return on your Web investment: Albert has the ability to use the site as a marketing tool out in the field when talking to potential clients.
Big changes to the site in 2009: none
Major changes planned for 2010: We may look at incorporating some small video clips on our site. We will also be adding our Google sculpture location map.
Comment from judge Michael Johnson: The site is very clean and architectural looking, just as you would expect from an artist like Mr. Paley. I appreciate the use of white space to force the user to concentrate on the work, rather than decorative web elements. In this way, the design has accomplished exactly what it set out to do, and that is to showcase the work. My only complaint: I would have liked to have seen detail shots of some of the pieces, as even the larger images don’t do justice to some of the intricate details of the art. The site was optimized for viewing on an 800x600 screen resolution; 1024x768 is the new standard. This site is about eye candy, and optimizing for this larger resolution would have given the user more opportunities to enjoy the details of the work.
Comment from judge Michael Philipson: Excellent site! Well laid out with easy navigation. Contact information is always available. Beautiful photography on all pages. Fast-loading pages get right to the point. Great contrast of light gray against the rich color of the photography. The only weakness I can see is that there is a link to the Web site from the footer. Why is that there? Perhaps an e-mail link might be more useful as users already are on the site.

www.nancygong.com
Gong Glass Works
Web site went live:
not available
Last major overhaul: June 2009
Average number of page views per day: 56
Cost to create: not available
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: externally by Christopher Maggio Design
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: one
Internal company webmaster: Nancy Gong
Biggest return on your Web investment: Gong Glass Works is a one-person company. Nancy Gong is a very busy woman who relies on her Web site to showcase her talents and commissioned glass art. It is also the foundation for all of her other marketing endeavors.
Comment from judge Michael Philipson: The site has excellent photography and lots of information, although I would have liked to have seen much of the information more condensed. Artistically, it has rather bland colors for a site about brilliant glass works. Today, use of a splash or landing page is considered obsolete and it takes too long to load. Too much navigation on the sidebar and links on the pages are not obvious; you must scroll over the copy to see what is and is not a link.
Comment from judge Michael Johnson: This site took almost a full minute to load even with my fast cable connection. I learned, upon further inspection, that it was because the entire intro sequence was done as an animated gif that weighed in at a colossal 6.5 megabytes. I am a big proponent of skipping long intro pages and dropping people to a well-designed page where they can choose for themselves what kind of content they want to consume (including Flash and video if they wish). The site also suffers from many standards compliancy issues, such as a lack of alt attributes for images and a depreciated table layout that causes the browser to render the pages more slowly. As more and more people consume Web content on mobile devices, we need to remember that mobile connections are sometimes as slow as dial-up when accessing the Internet. Pages need to be optimized for fast rendering and loading on multiple browsing devices.

www.rentanart.com
Rent An Art Inc.
Web site went live:
November 2005
Last major overhaul: winter 2007
Average number of page views day: about 500
Cost to create: $5,000 to $16,000
Cost to maintain annually: $500 to $1,000
Developed: externally by Belsource
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: three to 10
Internal company webmaster: Aida Zilbergleyt
Biggest return on your Web investment: not available
Big changes to the site in 2009: not available
Major changes planned for 2010: not available
Comment from judge Michael Johnson: The title of this site, “Renting and selling original works of art to businesses and individuals in Rochester, NY” tells the user exactly what the site is about in a clear and concise way. But it is somewhat hidden way up there in the title bar of the browser. I would recommend adding this description right on the landing page so people immediately know what the site is about. The artist pages are clean and simple to navigate using a simple, thumbnail navigational scheme, but I would have liked to have seen a better call to action on each of the pages. As a user, if I see a great painting that I want to rent, I want to have a button or link on that very same page that says, “Rent me now!” So there needs to be an immediate and clear way for the customer to actually order or inquire about a piece that they like—right at the exact moment they want it.

Comment from judge Michael Philipson: The site has easy navigation and obvious links. The bios on artists are concise. But the site is not very artistic in layout or design, and the home page takes too long to load. I would have liked to have seen a more sophisticated look. There are too many sub-nav links. Areas might be combined or perhaps put as links in the footer (the privacy policy, for example). There is no quick and easy contact information. The user has to go into a page not clearly labeled as “contact” to get a phone number. There are no pricing or clues as to what this would cost. Perhaps including a rental price range would be helpful to someone thinking about doing this.

Banking and Finance

www.fnfg.com
First Niagara Financial Group Inc.
Web site went live:
1997
Last major overhaul: August 2009
Average number of page views per day: more than 100,000
Cost to create: not available
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: externally by Jay Advertising
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: five
Internal company webmaster: none; external agency McCann Worldgroup SLC
Biggest return on your Web investment: Enhanced search engine optimization, brand awareness and immersion in the brand experience
Big changes to the site in 2009: Complete redesign of the site wireframes, information architecture, user experience and enhanced brand immersion
Major changes planned for 2010: Enhance the user experience, products and services offered through the site.
Comment from judge Neil Hair: The drop-down box functionality works well; it’s clean, quick and effective. Feature functionality works well. For example, map locations are working well. The site is very quick and has excellent content demonstrations. It has good visual design, and the use of icons is consistent throughout, fresh and modern, with zero pixilation.

Michael Johnson: I was first struck at how well First Niagara has integrated their online and off-line marketing. There was no question that I was in the right place. The Flash intro was done tastefully so as to not distract the user from the task at hand, which is to manage their banking and learn more about the additional services the bank has to offer. As a code geek, I appreciated that the page was marked up with standards-based code with the correct document type declaration, appropriate ALT attributes and modern code architecture. The content was well organized, the layout clear with well-defined navigation, with URLs that are both friendly to humans as well as search engines.
 

www.grbbank.com
Genesee Regional Bank
Web site went live:
2001
Last major overhaul: 2009
Average page views per day: 100
Cost to create: $3,500
Cost to maintain annually: $1,900
Developed: externally by Twin Advertising
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: one
Internal company webmaster: Kate Turner, marketing manager
Biggest return on your Web investment: The biggest return has been in the form of new business coming from learning about GRB through the Web site. Our online presence provides an important avenue for connecting with both clients and prospects.
Big changes to the site in 2009: The relaunch of our site in early 2009 was part of a rebranding campaign. A new logo, colors and simpler site design were elements of the campaign visible on the Web site. Client testimonials were added to showcase our successful local clients and highlight some of the aspects of what we call the GRB Experience, our mission to our customers.
Major changes planned for 2010: We'll continue to add content and leverage current Web technology to provide more robust online resources for both our commercial and retail clients.
Comment from judge Michael Johnson: I like the way they showcased real local people on their site instead of taking the easier shortcut by purchasing generic stock photography. This gives it more of a hometown feel while still looking corporate and professional. The navigation is simple and the content is uncluttered. This site is very readable and usable.

www.mtb.com
M&T Bank Corp.
Web site went live:
1999 (Web banking)
Last major overhaul: 2009
Cost to create: Not available
Cost to maintain annually: Not available
Developed: Internally with external assistance
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: Not available
Internal company webmaster: Chief information officer Matt Speare
Biggest return on your Web investment: M&T serves more than 2 million customers, and our Web site is a primary channel for customers to access their account information and pay bills.
Big changes to the site in 2009: Several sections of the site were completely rebuilt. This includes the In the Community section, which has information about the M&T Charitable Foundation, Community Reinvestment Act and M&T's employee volunteer efforts. It also includes revisions to many of the pages that include background information on products and services offered to businesses and individual consumers.
Major changes planned for 2010: Not available
Comment from judge Michael Johnson: M&T has a strong brand presence here locally, but I felt that their site fell short of convincing us of that leadership position. The layout is stark without an overall division of topic areas, just a lot of unstyled bright blue links, which makes for a cluttered appearance. I didn’t get a tremendous sense of security looking at this site. Aesthetically, I want to feel a sense of trust and safety. I’m looking for a definite corporate look-and-feel on a bank site. It has to scream, “We’re solid! We’ve been around forever and we aren’t going anywhere and you can trust us!” To their credit, I was able to find what I needed quickly, but it wasn’t pretty.

Business and Professional Services

www.cheshireav.com
Cheshire AV
Web site went live
: 2005
Last major overhaul: Oct. 1, 2009
Average number of page views per day: 20
Cost to create: $15,000
Cost to maintain annually: $1,500
Developed: externally
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: one
Internal company webmaster: Justin Cheshire
Biggest return on your Web investment: The Web site shows our capabilities more than ever before. We have learned over the years that visuals are a very impactful way to display your work. The new Web site is video-driven in a way so that customers get to see a variety of events we support around the world.
Big changes to the site in 2009: Because we are very customer-focused, our vision was to have existing customers express their thoughts and experiences working with us over the years. We were fortunate to have many loyal customers come from all around the U.S. to provide some awesome testimonials. Each section of the site is introduced by one of our clients along with individual testimonials in the testimonial section of the site. We also wanted to be able to share news with our clients, such as new hires, recent successful events we support, non-profit work we are involved in to gain awareness, and awards and recognition of the work we do.
Major changes planned for 2010: We have had some feedback that the site's navigation is different from traditional sites. We are making some small changes on how the information is presented to people viewing the site. We also plan to incorporate the social media sites where we display our work as well.
Comment from judge Michael Johnson: Having a layout that simulates a stage and allowing the user to control the stage with a mixing-board-like navigation system was a clever idea. I wish they had focused more on the actual portfolio of work more in the gallery section. Clicking a portfolio piece displayed a tiny icon rather than presented it in the large stage above. It seemed like a wasted opportunity to highlight their work in a very dramatic way.

www.clarkpattersonlee.com
Clark Patterson Lee
Web site went live:
2002
Last major overhaul: October 2008
Average number of page views per day: 65 to 70
Cost to create: $39,750
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: externally by Dixon Schwabl
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: three
Internal company webmasters: Brett Driscoll and Karin Attridge
Biggest return on your Web investment: The development of an entirely new Web site was part of an overall rebranding of Clark Patterson Lee. The firm introduced a new name, logo and collateral marketing materials. The Web site was a significant part of the branding effort and has become the new face of Clark Patterson Lee. We are proud of our new Web site and have linked it to our e-mail addresses as well as our first e-card, sent this past holiday season. The site has brought us countless resumes and requests for additional information.
Big changes to the site in 2009: 2009 reflects the first full year when the Web site was up and running. It changed via the addition of new projects and updates.
Major changes planned for 2010: October 2010 will mark the second anniversary of the launch of the Web site, and we will make some significant updates and additions. In addition to swapping older project examples with new work, we are exploring the addition of video clips of client testimonials. We also will create a feature on the home page to alert people when an update has been made and will add a press link to show all the media where the firm was in the news (TV, newspapers, journals, etc.) and a participation link to include all of our community outreach programs with new photos of our company activities.
Comment from judge Michael Johnson: Clean, simple and minimalist, just like good design is supposed to be. As design professionals, Clark Patterson Lee is clearly walking the walk and talking the talk when it comes to its own Web presence. Minimalist designs are sometimes hard to pull off, lest they look boring, and it takes a skilled designer to make this style work. Less is more in the case of this site, and it was well executed. It had a museum-like quality. I was pleased that all of the content stayed above the fold on my low-resolution laptop screen, and I rarely had to scroll.

www.pictometry.com
Pictometry International Corp.
Web site went live:
1999
Last major overhaul: November 2008
Average number of page views per day: 1,668 in December 2009/January 2010 tracking
Cost to create: approximately $6,000
Cost to maintain annually: $3,500
Developed: Internally and externally with Matt Gruber Design
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: three
Internal company webmasters: Ted Plenge, Brian Jackson and Mike Cantwell
Biggest return on your Web investment: Supporting and expanding our company's brand and overall global awareness
Big changes to the site in 2009: The addition of our Futureview Conference section was a big change. Pictometry hosts an annual conference, and all the detailed conference information, workshops and registration are now available on the Web site.
Major changes planned for 2010: We will be reconstructing the Pictometry Business Solutions verticals, which include Insurance, Real Estate, Construction, Utilities and Gas & Pipeline. Each vertical will feature downloadable sell sheets, videos, testimonials and a vast assortment of our oblique imagery. The home page is slated to be revamped as well to help users navigate more deeply and efficiently into the site. A dynamic contact page that links directly into our CRM software is being developed. We will continue to refine and add content to the federal, state and county government sections as each of our products grows.
Comment from judge Michael Johnson: An elegant design with a subdued and sensible color palate. I love the subtle gradients and drop shadows that give the page a little more depth without being overdone or obvious. The designer exercised restraint, and it worked. The navigation is simple and usable, and I love how they pulled the red color from their logo to use as an accent color. Normally I am not a big fan of Flash intros, but unlike other companies who add Flash unnecessarily just for the sake of eye candy, Pictometry actually used Flash to instruct and inform the user, which I thought was a great use of the technology. They were able to say in pictures what may not have been as easy to say in words. Well done.
Comment from judge Chris Roberts: Knowing a bit about the company, I had no idea how broad and deep its “fly by” service offerings were until I saw the site. I found myself saying, “Oh, that’s how they do that.” The site did a beautiful job making complex technology very simple—and saleable.  

Community

www.pathstone.org
PathStone Corp.
Web site went live:
February 2009
Last major overhaul: February 2009
Cost to create: Not available
Cost to maintain annually: Not available
Developed: externally by Lili Schwarts and Ben Agronick, www.liliandben.com
Number of people inside the organization who work on the Web site: 25
Internal webmaster: John Harrison (technical) and Erin Pickett-Kessler (content)
Biggest return on your Web investment: Not available
Big changes to the site in 2008: Not available
Major changes planned for 2009: Not available
Comment from judge Molly Cappotelli: Their clean home page features an engaging slide show. Ability to search by need, service or location is very user-friendly. The Make a Donation button is understated yet effective.

www.senecaparkzoo.org
Seneca Park Zoo
Web site went live:
2001
Last major overhaul: June 2009
Average number of page views per day: 2,000
Cost to create: not available
Cost to maintain annually: about $4,000 for hosting service and monthly maintenance
Developed: externally by Atomic Design
Number of people inside the organization who work on the Web site: One staff member facilitates the updates and changes; however, content is generated by all members of the organization.
Internal webmaster: public relations and marketing director. The organization also has a monthly maintenance contract with Atomic Design for assistance as needed.
Biggest return on your Web investment: Increased online giving and heightened community awareness of the organization's programming and events
Big changes to the site in 2009: We now have a calendar of events featured prominently on our home page. The calendar has a unique hover-over feature that allows visitors to quickly search our events. If they are interested in learning more, they can click on the event for more information. Our extensive animal section is visually stunning and contains photos of each animal as well as personal bios. The modular design is easy to update and navigate. Through the use of the content management system that Atomic Design created, we are able to update our content more efficiently and creatively. Our search box is very robust and offers visitors numerous options.
Major changes planned for 2010: Our next phase, which we plan on completing in the first half of 2010, will offer visitors expanded and improved blogs, streaming video and photo galleries. We plan to install a feature that lets the user purchase items from our ZooShop.
Comment from judge Neil Hair: The site has a clear structure, is easy to navigate and grasp, and makes very attractive use of pictures that would appeal to its audience.
 

www.southwedge.org
South Wedge
Web site went live:
Feb. 26, 2008
Last major overhaul: not available
Average number of page views per day: 250
Cost to create: Research and development hours donated to the South Wedge Planning Committee
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: internally
Number of people inside the organization who work on the Web site: one
Internal webmaster: Ben Munson
Biggest return on your Web investment: community support and proof of concept
Big changes to the site in 2009: The city of Rochester approached us to design a citywide neighborhood social network environment.
Major changes planned for 2010: NeighborWorks Rochester is helping us pursue funding for a national implementation. We are also exploring ways to help the South Wedge Planning Committee leverage the site to aid community development and to better engage residents in neighborhood planning initiatives.
Comment from judge Neil Hair: Lots on offer and it all works well as a result of using external content providers like Youtube. Great job! Excellent content—very rich, detailed, interesting stuff.

Cultural non-profit

www.rochester.edu/giving/eastmantheatre
Eastman Theatre
Web site went live:
main site on March 1, 2009; seat campaign module on July 16, 2009
Average page views per day: 40.3 (June 1 to Dec. 1, 2009)
Cost to create: $17,800
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: externally by Corporate Communications Inc.
Number of people inside the organization who work on the Web site: two, Scott Collins and Sabra Aaron, University of Rochester Office of the Senior Vice President for Advancement
Internal company webmaster: Sabra Aaron
Biggest return on your Web investment: community presence and awareness
Major changes planned for 2010: We are adding a second seat campaign module in May/June for the new Hatch Recital Hall, which is included in the new addition to Eastman Theatre.
Comment from judge Chris Roberts: The Eastman Theatre site tells a compelling story of a building that’s not much more than an artist’s rendering.  I actually found myself daydreaming about which wing I would pick for my $1,000,000 naming rights. Then I woke back up and realized this is a perfect site to kick off a capital campaign. Well done, Eastman.

www.gevatheatre.org
Geva Theatre Center
Web site went live:
early 2000
Last major overhaul: November 2008
Average number of page views per day: 3,232
Cost to create: not available
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: externally by Dumbwaiter Design
Number of people inside the organization who work on the Web site: one
Internal webmaster: Peter Tarkulich
Biggest return on your Web investment: The biggest return is apparent in an increase in traffic to our Web site, leading to an increase in online ticket sales.
Big changes to the site in 2009: Big changes include the regularity at which our home page rotates its selection of visual pods, creating an interesting and easy link to various informative pages. The inclusion of video previews of our productions, behind-the-scenes photos and videos has given visitors a taste of what they can experience inside the doors of Geva Theatre Center. The creation of a blog for the Stage Door Project: Almost, Maine was a vital viral link through which the nine participating high schools involved in the project could interact and share experiences.
Major changes planned for 2010: Further development of social networking through our Web site with more blogs, etc., making it easier for the public to share the Geva experience
Comment from judge Molly Cappotelli: Effectively uses audio/video clips of its productions. The content is well organized.
 

www.wxxi.org
WXXI Public Broadcasting Council
Web site went live:
1996
Last major overhaul: 2009
Average number of page views per day: approximately 16,000
Cost to create: $100,000
Cost to maintain annually: $124,000
Developed: internally
Number of people inside the organization who work on the Web site: 2.5
Internal webmaster: Andrew Wheeland
Biggest return on your Web investment: We're connected with more viewers and listeners.
Big changes to the site in 2009: Our navigation, our new online video player and the surfacing of more news, blogs and promotional content
Major changes planned for 2010: More space for user discussion, more dynamic pages for individual programs and hosts, improved multimedia handling capabilities
Comment from judge Molly Cappotelli: This site is effective in alerting WXXI radio listeners and TV viewers of programming, as well as hosting a section dedicated to blogs, forums and polls. The site also offers national headlines, online audio files and transcripts of news stories. It’s very easy to navigate.

Education

www.harleyschool.org
The Harley School
Web site went live: 1997
Last major overhaul: 2007
Average number of page views per day: 4,200 unique visitors per month
Cost to create: not available
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: externally by Whipple Hill; implemented and maintained internally
Number of people inside the organization who work on the Web site: three
Internal webmaster: Aimee Lewis
Biggest return on your Web investment: The Web site has aided us in our ability to communicate with prospective parents. More and more parents use the site to learn about our mission and philosophy, prior to calling the school for more information and to schedule a visit. Our site is fast, easy to use and informative.
Big changes to the site in 2009: We increased our use of online event registration. We also made weekly updates to news sections and posted information to the parent portal, and we created a new section for international students.
Major changes planned for 2010: We plan to continue to grow our site to expand our online store, upload video and enhance our parent portal to include more information and class pages. We also plan to expand our international pages and have them translated into other languages.
Comment from judge Michael Philipson: This nicely designed site uses school colors. Good photography. Lots of information is well-presented with many options for downloading more detailed information through PDFs and interacting with the site. Good member sign-in area.

www.rit.edu
Rochester Institute of Technology
Web site went live:
1995
Last major overhaul: November 2009
Average number of page views per day: 361,000
Cost to create: Difficult to assess; several departments dedicate time toward design and development. There are few direct costs, mostly skilled personnel in a variety of RIT departments working together with the leadership team. All divisions at RIT are represented on the committee to ensure a Web experience that suits many different needs, interests and constituencies.
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: internally designed, developed and maintained
Number of people inside the organization who work on the Web site: Approximately 15 designers and developers as the technical team. The advisory committee is composed of approximately 25 members who represent each division of RIT and guide the work conducted by the technical team.
Internal webmaster: Jason Pitoniak
Biggest return on your Web investment: Improved numbers of visitors, recognition for leading use of technology and design, a few viral media efforts and very positive feedback from the visitor community
Big changes to the site in 2009: Use of high-definition video and sound-we believe that we are either first to do so on a university home page or one of the first-entire redesign of the look, feel and navigation, introduction of dynamic high-quality content and simplification of the Web interface, or decluttering
Major changes planned for 2010: We will be introducing more interactive options for visitors to become involved.
Comment from judge Michael Philipson: Beautiful site—well-designed with colors and layouts. Nice typography and use of colors. Well written. Great carousel feature on home page with links to other pages, videos, etc. Great photography. Some links take me to subsites, and it is hard to navigate back to the main RIT site (for example, Alumni, Finance & Administration). Very deep site. Could some of these areas be condensed and combined?

www.schoolworld.com
SchoolWorld
Web site went live:
2003
Last major overhaul: March 2009
Average number of page views per day: approximately 11,000
Cost to create: not available
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: internally
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: seven
Internal company webmaster: Mike Ramsager
Biggest return on your Web investment: The biggest return has been the ability for those in the education market to experience SchoolWorld products hands-on. The new corporate site has been developed using our trademarked SchoolSites product. SchoolWorld.com has transformed into not only a sales and marketing tool but also a technological showcase.
Big changes to the site in 2009: The site was designed from the ground up-conceptually, graphically and technologically-using internal resources and SchoolWorld's own products. The Web site showcases several product capabilities while incorporating new corporate branding, positioning and messaging elements into a cohesive representation of the company's purpose and vision. SchoolWorld also incorporated its Video On Demand WebModule to showcase client testimo-nials and company announcements. We also updated the TeacherSites login area with an integrated login piece right on the TeacherSites landing page.
Major changes planned for 2010: Adding custom Flash panels and cycling news areas, as well as doing a complete overhaul of all Web site content, copy and graphic treatments
Comment from judge Chris Roberts: More of a B2B site than an education site.  But, if I were a K-12 administrator, I would be impressed by SchoolWorld’s ability to convey the needs of my school district. They clearly understand how to create a premium online education product and how to showcase their abilities.

Health care

www.rochesterperio.com
Progressive Implantology & Periodontics
Web site went live:
fall 2006
Last major overhaul: fall 2009
Average number of page views per day: 150
Cost to create: $20,000
Cost to maintain annually: varies
Developed: externally by Persuasive Communications
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: three
Internal company webmasters: Paul Bush, Michelle Mastrosimone
Biggest return on your Web investment: The Web site has been instrumental in helping our patients learn more about treatment options and educating them on the systemic effects of gum disease relative to overall body health. The Web site has been helpful in driving new patient flow as patients seek information on treatment alternatives in the market.
Big changes to the site in 2009: Approximately 39 new pages of content were added to the site. This included additional patient information, resources and testimonials.
Major changes planned for 2010: We plan to add new content to the referring doctors' page and add patient testimonial videos.
Comment from judge Michael Philipson:  Great site! Easy to navigate, clearly defined areas. Great typography and layouts. Nice photography, easy to read and not complicated. First image in the Gallery is a bit shocking. They might want to warn people or just present it in a slightly different way—maybe through illustrations, which could lead to another area with more graphic images (meant more for dentists or professionals than a member of the general public using the site).

www.rochesterhealth.com
Rochester Health
Web site went live:
March 1, 2009
Average number of page views per day: 282
Cost to create: Direct costs through the launch date were $221,000, including $80,000 for development and $57,000 for content production, with the remainder to marketing and other operating costs. These costs do not include internal staff resources.
Cost to maintain annually: Approximately $20,000 in direct costs, exclusive of internal resources such as programming, database administration, graphic design, health care directory and content maintenance and community outreach
Developed: Functionality and design requirements were written internally and submitted to external Web developer Practis Inc. for implementation, with project management oversight by Rochester Health.
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: The site is the primary focus of the company, so the internal staff fulfills all roles necessary for maintenance, enhancement, content and marketing of the site.
Internal company webmaster: staff
Biggest return on your Web investment: Our biggest return on investment has been the accomplishment of our community-based mission by increasing community awareness of local health care resources, centralization of the health care services directory, collaboration among local health care entities and assisting non-profit health care organizations by publicizing fundraising and awareness events free of charge.
Big changes to the site in 2009: Since 2009 was the site's inaugural year, no fundamental changes have occurred; however, based on user feedback and community advisory committee input, we have identified many opportunities for enhancement in the future.
Major changes planned for 2010: Create a dedicated cancer resource informational section with the local Cancer Collaborative; coordinate with local county public health departments in establishing a central health notification system through a Web page and e-mail alert; develop a user-customizable health care provider and services directory, whereby a user can create a directory of his family's doctors, pharmacies and other health care providers and services, which can be accessed online at any time; incorporate keyword searchability in the health care provider and services directory to allow users to identify providers with special expertise that may not be readily identifiable by the provider's specialty. For example, a search on diabetes may result in podiatrists, endocrinologists, primary-care physicians and dentists who treat diabetes.
Comment from judge Molly Cappotelli: This nice, clean and comprehensive community-focused online resource includes plenty of information. There were several multimedia features, including an interactive video on the home page and an opportunity to hear a radio interview. It features content provided by physicians, dentists and hospitals. Very informative.

www.skinsight.com
Skinsight
Web site went live:
January 2007
Last major overhaul: September 2009
Average number of page views per day: 20,000, based on data from Google Analytics
Cost to create: Logical Images Inc. is the site owner. The firm's initial costs to launch the site in 2007 were quite low. We have excellent engineering and editorial teams on site and were able to launch the initial version in about six weeks using only internal resources. For our 2009 rebranding we worked with a local Rochester marketing agency to create our new brand image and design the site's look and feel, which cost approximately $30,000.
Cost to maintain annually: approximately $85,000
Developed: internally and externally. Logical Images' internal engineering team has programmed and maintained Skinsight since its launch. Our internal editorial team works in conjunction with a panel of physician experts and professional writers to keep our content current. In 2009 we engaged Avery Marketing to create our new brand image and design the site's look and feel. We continue to partner with Avery Marketing on developing fresh ideas for content and editorial support.
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: Three full-time resources plus assistance from our internal editorial team as needed
Internal company webmasters: Pat Santos, lead software engineer, consumer health, and Rory Burrill, director, consumer health
Biggest return on your Web investment: awareness and revenue. Logical Images, through Skinsight, has been recognized by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and well-known online health sites including MedlinePlus, RightHealth and Healthline as a trusted source of skin health information. As the site traffic has grown, we have seen steady growth in revenue from advertising on the site.
Big changes to the site in 2009: Skinsight underwent a complete makeover in 2009 with changes to nearly every aspect of the site. Underlying all of that change was the implementation of a dynamic content management system that has allowed us to post content quickly and efficiently while enabling features that let our visitors interact with our panel of experts. We believe that online health, as well as in-person care, is shifting from a static, mono-directional relationship of a provider and recipient to that of a dialog between informed and involved participants. Logical Images is working to provide the best pos-sible information to all who are involved-both doctors (through our professional resource, VisualDx) and patients/consumers (through Skinsight). With this in mind, in addition to updating the brand as well as the overall look and feel of Skinsight, we created new resource centers to help people navigate our content, a new blog and most recently a discussion forum. One area we left untouched was the presentation of the actual disease information, the research section of the site. Feedback from our visitors indicated that they liked the simplicity and ease of use of the existing presentation.
Major changes planned for 2010: We are looking at how to provide even more information to our visitors through new technologies, namely through video and mobile applications. Patients and consumers are accessing information in very new ways, and we are working to stay on top of these changing behaviors.
Comment from judge Molly Cappotelli: This site is interesting because it serves a large audience and doesn’t just cater to a specific business. It’s interactive with forums and includes space on the pages for advertisements. This site has high usability with its clear and easy-to-find hierarchies of information.

Manufacturing

www.parlec.com
Parlec Inc.
Web site went live:
October 1997
Last major overhaul: 2009
Average number of page views per day: 1,000
Cost to create: $21,000
Cost to maintain annually: $3,000 in hosting, backups and upgrades
Developed: externally by Archer Communications
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: two
Internal company webmaster: Mark Wiktorski
Biggest return on your Web investment: Giving our customers and distributors a portal to get information
Big changes to the site in 2009: Revamped our home page to include more information and more links. We also revamped the navigation to make it easier for the end user.
Major changes planned for 2010: revamping our service section
Comment from judge Chris Roberts: A beautiful site that understands the power of great photography. Who knew nuts, bolts and thingamajigs could be so elegant? From an outsider’s perspective, this company appears to be very successful and polished from their B2B Web site. (I liked the element table Flash catalog, as well.)
 

www.transcat.com
Transcat Inc.
Web site went live:
1999
Last major overhaul: December 2009
Average page views per day: not available
Cost to create: not available. Transcat considers Web development to be an investment. Through ongoing projects, our existing customers are offered a better online experience. Additionally, there is a strong focus on new customer acquisition driven by online advertising.
Cost to maintain annually: There are many projects designed to constantly improve upon the site. Our goal is to develop a positive experience for both new and returning customers. To this end, the Web site receives an ever-increasing portion of the marketing budget.
Developed: internally and externally. Transcat marketing and internal subject matter experts work with a select group of external partners to develop and maintain the Web site. Multiple external parties were involved in designing the site. Giraph Works LLC was responsible for customer research, system design and project management. Innovative Solutions did programming and implementation. Clark CSM created the messaging platform and graphics design.
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: The site is part of an integrated process throughout our sales and marketing departments. Many individuals and teams constantly contribute to the online content.
Internal company webmaster: Jim Walker
Biggest return on your Web investment: We have seen our biggest online return in the area of new customer acquisition. Nearly half of new clients begin with a Web transaction, which is why we always seek to improve our online presence.
Big changes to the site in 2009: Through customer research, we discovered that our visitors are on a mission. We simplified the site design, removed distractions and wrapped a new design around usability, relevance and speed.
Major changes planned for 2010: We have some exciting projects in the works, including a new Web site for our online calibration customers and a method to automatically serve up different content depending on a visitor's industry.
Comment from judge Neil Hair: Plenty on offer here, with lots to review and digest. Rich content.

www.uniblitz.com
Uniblitz
Web site went live:
July 1, 2009
Last major overhaul: not available
Average number of page views per day: 750
Cost to create: not available
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: externally by Atomic Design
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: five
Internal company webmaster: none; Atomic Design maintains the site
Biggest return on your Web investment: Increased awareness of the Uniblitz brand for manufacturer Vincent Associates, reinforcing product quality and capabilities and differentiating Uniblitz in a competitive niche industry, as well as maintaining sales during a down economy.
Big changes to the site in 2009: The site was rebuilt from the ground up. A new shopping cart and content management system were implemented, improving usability, navigation and processes. Positive feedback has been received on how much easier it is to use the site and place orders. Our new brand was reinforced throughout the site through design, color and content. The new CMS makes it easier to maintain and update, and it reduces costs while enhancing the visitor experience. Marketing strategy and online marketing were strongly tied into the new Web site and included search engine optimization, search engine marketing, pay per click, online advertising, newsletters, press releases, trade shows, news, new product focus, benefits, landing page creation and analytics. Our new site targets vertical markets and has some focus on custom capabilities. Most importantly, the site and online marketing are an integral part of our 2010 marketing plan. Google rankings have improved dramatically on a global level for targeted search terms and continue to improve.
Major changes planned for 2010: enhanced functionality and business process tools.
Comment from judge Molly Cappotelli: This is a very organized retail site. The merchandising portion is very clear and easy to use. My favorite part is the comparison chart section, where consumers can compare and contrast different products. From a content perspective, this site is jam-packed with information.

Real estate and construction

www.coniferllc.com
Conifer Realty LLC
Web site went live:
May 2009
Average number of page views per day: 2,000
Cost to create: not available
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: externally by Mason Selkowitz Marketing
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: two
Internal company webmaster: Marketing Director Sandra Gorie and the marketing manager
Biggest return on your Web investment: Higher traffic and a better user experience. We can make our own edits and property additions, which saves us a lot of time and money. We also updated design to new corporate branding.
Big changes to the site in 2009: A totally new site was built on a content management system that allows us to make our own updates. We also incorporated interactive 360-degree virtual tours of some of our properties.
Major changes planned for 2010: To add more interesting user content and also more virtual tours and video testimonials. We will be adding more new properties too!
Comment from judge Molly Cappotelli: This organized site does a good job of showing the whole experience of living in a property that Conifer manages. The slide show on the home page is nice. The Welcome video is professionally done but takes a while to load the first time it plays. The apartment finder search tool is quite handy.

www.eastmanbusinesspark.com
Eastman Business Park
Web site went live:
Feb. 2, 2009
Average number of page views per day: 265 in 2009, 274 in 2010
Cost to create: approximately $14,000
Cost to maintain annually: approximately $3,000
Developed: externally by Corporate Communications Inc.
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: one
Internal company webmaster: Sharon DiTucci
Biggest return on your Web investment: Drawing new visitors to our site and offerings, providing valuable information to existing customers, getting our name and capabilities out there
Big changes to the site in 2009: The site was established in February 2009, so no major changes have been made yet, although we expanded our services and availability information throughout the year. We also began pay-per-click activity in October.
Major changes planned for 2010: No major changes are planned, but we will continue to add services and availability information and will increase our pay-per-click activity.
Comment from judge Michael Johnson: The typography is excellent and it really helps define the information architecture of the site. There is a lot of content here, but the designers have organized it in a clear and organized way. The addition of a “bread crumb” trail really helps the user know where they are at all times. They never feel lost as the hierarchy is always visible. (Note to readers: “Breadcrumbs” are “you are here” indicators as you go deeper and deeper into a site. They are called breadcrumbs as a nod to the Hansel and Gretel story where they dropped breadcrumbs so they could find their way back to where they started.)

www.rentrochester.com
Rent Rochester
Web site went live:
2002
Last major overhaul: 2009
Average number of page views per day: not available
Cost to create: approximately $20,000
Cost to maintain annually: This year's cost was higher than average because of the expense of upgrades. We figure the annual cost between 2010 and 2011 will average $20,000.
Developed: externally with local developers
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: three
Internal company webmasters: Jill Casey and Rich Calabrese
Biggest return on your Web investment: Developing a 100 percent trackable lead generation system for our customers
Big changes to the site in 2009: Besides the look, colors and layout, we have several new features such as traffic reports (the Report Card), a phone call tracking system, a quick lead form and interactive mapping, to name a few.
Major changes planned for 2010: At this point, we don't want to reveal the specifics before they're launched. The changes are being developed right now, and they're very exciting and unique. They'll be launched this spring or summer. Stay tuned!
Comment from judge Molly Cappotelli: The well-developed design serves the purpose of the site with few bells and whistles. Visually, the site conveys the impression of no-frills real estate listings. It’s easily manageable if you’re a renter or an owner hoping to rent a property. Is it intuitive and logical. The interactive map on the home page is very user-friendly. It expands with neighborhoods and pictures from the areas. A small thing, but as a visitor I love that the phone number is included in the copyright on the home page. Visitors can instantly find a number to call if they’re having problems with the site or need more information.

Retail/hospitality

www.breatheyoga.com
Breathe Yoga and Juice Bar Inc.
Web site went live:
July 2007
Last major overhaul: Sept. 10, 2009
Average number of page views per day: 350
Cost to create: $5,800
Cost to maintain annually: $240
Developed: Designed and built externally with copy written internally. Kafer Technologies built the site, and Michele Deyulio designed it.
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: one
Internal company webmaster: Cyndi Weis, owner
Biggest return on your Web investment: Being able to keep our customers in the know about the classes and events that we have at Breathe. The ability to make our own Web site changes is a huge benefit to the new site.
Big changes to the site in 2009: Breathe did a large physical expansion that completely changed the look of the business. We rebuilt the Web site at the same time to reflect the new look and feel of the space. The new site has a much more dynamic feel to express the vitality of the business.
Major changes planned for 2010: Plans include using more social marketing so information is more accessible in the moment.
Comment from judge Michael Philipson: Great imagery and use of colors that give an immediate feeling of yoga, natural health, etc. Easy navigation, great photography and the use of different colors for each section are nice. I just smiled when this site opened on my browser. The colors and typography really fit what they are promoting.
 

www.hickeyfreeman.com
Hickey-Freeman Co. Inc.
Web site went live:
1998
Last major overhaul: 2007
Average number of page views per day: 7,500
Cost to create: $10,000
Cost to maintain annually: $2,500
Developed: externally by UniteU
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: five
Internal company webmaster: Patti DeFrank
Biggest return on your Web investment: Getting product and brand recognition to a broader audience
Big changes to the site in 2009: not available
Major changes planned for 2010: not available
Comment from judge Neil Hair: Very intuitive design and structure of site. Everything appears to work in the order that it should.

www.jacksonandhines.com
Jackson & Hines
Web site went live:
March 30, 2009
Last major overhaul: November 2009
Average number of page views per day: Total visitors, 3,800; page views per visitor, 2.7
Cost to create: $40,000
Cost to maintain annually: not available
Developed: externally by Corporate Communications
Number of people inside the company who work on the Web site: two
Internal company webmaster: not available
Biggest return on your Web investment: Working with a company called firstpageofgoogle.com, which has been able to get 34 of our keywords on the first page of Google and many words on the first page of bing. And they charged only $500.
Big changes to the site in 2009: More customer-friendly changes to the e-commerce portion, such as the need to enter information only once for billing and shipping. We also want to add a wish list.
Major changes planned for 2010: Retention of customer information and maintenance of first page.
Comment from judge Michael Philipson: This site really describes a feeling of comfort, warmth and trust. Nice font work throughout, although in some headings the tracking is too wide, pulling the letters apart. Easy to order items and nice suggestions made along the way. Straightforward navigation and contact information. Although it is a beautiful site, I really don’t get an immediate idea of what exactly they sell. It could be skin care items, but then I notice other types of items.
 

2/19/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.
 


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