Our website, cruzio.com, has always been a big, big part of our company, our culture and our identity — and we hope Santa Cruz’s community culture. Just as Cruzio was born out of Chris and Peggy’s passion for the technology and the opportunities it offered to connect people in new ways, the site started as a portal for the community, not as a way to sell Cruzio products. Operating cruzio.com as a community portal is still very important to us, and though that portal has morphed many times over the years, we’ve maintained that key element.

Somewhere around 2005 we relaunched the site on a CMS (Content Management System) platform with the idea of taking the site’s interactive features to new levels. With the ability to login to the site came member profile pages, “friend” requests, photo posting, blogging, calendars and listings, forums and reviews. We were excited. Social networking was really just starting to blow up, and we thought a local outlet for these new technologies was a great idea. We still think it’s a great idea, but getting to a sustainable critical mass proved challenging. With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Yelp (yes, those sites really took off didn’t they?) folks have many outlets for their blogging, networking and reviewing. Those sites are so useful precisely because they are so popular. For someone to log in to a separate site to see their local friends, connections, events and businesses, you need to create a definitive resource.

We’ve been talking to other local portal operators, content creators and community evangelists for years about the need for a unified database that can be displayed on multiple sites. That way the user of each site gets the best information & the most utility possible. That’s why we’re so excited about the City of Santa Cruz’s new community calendar project using the Elm City platform. For a community like ours, that has a lot of events and happenings, a comprehensive calendar, that can be added to easily and displayed anywhere, would be a huge boon. We can’t wait for the project to get going. We’ll be involved in any way we can, and we’ll definitely incorporating the finished product into cruzio.com.

We’re also asking ourselves, and others, what else can be approached in the same way? What other useful content and resources can be put in a widget that any site could then easily display?

It was this kind of thinking that made us realize that cruzio.com was overdue another refresh so, back in May, we put out an RFP for local design teams who might be interested in the job. Leveraging our flourishing web design community seemed like a no-brainer as we really wanted to get some fresh new perspectives on the site, the available technology, latest design standards, etc. We weren’t disappointed. Our first open meeting was standing room only and the questions came thick and fast. They’ve been coming ever since, from the designers, and from us. It’s been a lot of fun.

Opening the conversation up has really inspired us to think about the purpose of cruzio.com, and the ways a local site can achieve multiple goals through great design. New thoughts on navigation, responsiveness (when we launched the last iteration of the site, mobile usage was barely a consideration), layout, information architecture, branding and usability have got us really excited about what the next incarnation of the site will look like and how it will feel to interact with it.

We’re still just warming up, but we expect to have the new site launched in the early part of 2014. Stay tuned.

James Hackett
Business Development Manager
Cruzio Internet