Citrus Studios Launches TheValley.net!

Southern California’s San Fernando Valley has always played an iconic role in defining the American suburb. Home to over 1.7 million people, and encompassing some 260 square miles, “the Valley” defies easy typecasting, despite people’s inclination to do so.

TheValley.net, sponsored by The Valley Economic Alliance in partnership with the Valley Visitors Bureau, serves as the Valley’s “official” representation online. Citrus Studios was recently selected to reimagine TheValley.net Web site. This was no small task, as it required combining five individual Web sites-focused on areas such as business development, community, lifestyle, tourism, and more-into a single cohesive site. In addition, Citrus was tasked with implementing user-friendly yet powerful content management and e-commerce systems.

Citrus began by developing a comprehensive plan for organizing and presenting the vast amount of content that the new site was to assemble. The aforementioned primary subject areas were to be maintained as distinct segments within the new site, but were to interlink in a manner that suggested the dynamics of the Valley itself-a diverse and vibrant community of residents, businesses, and visitors. Frequent updates were a key element in the new site’s plan for success; it was decided to present these timely postings as if they were breaking news items.

Such frequent updates necessitated the ability to make them-by non-technical people. Drupal was selected for TheValley.net’s content management needs. Drupal is a flexible and highly scalable solution that was built in an inherently modular manner: additional “modules” are seamlessly added to Drupal to extend existing features, or introduce new ones. Ubercart, the e-commerce solution designed for integration with Drupal, was implemented to provide full online product and order management functionality, as well as Amazon store integration. Drupal’s content management capabilities include full image and file management, meta data incorporation and editing, and the development of search engine-friendly URLs.

The result is a highly successful “portal to the Valley,” in all its unique and varied guises. The home page contains a “carousel” of featured articles. These are selected by the site’s editors, and can be added, deleted, or updated easily at any time. Intended to serve as an ongoing “go-to source” for its various constituents, the site is designed to enable customization for repeat visitors. Logged-in visitors can customize the home page by selecting and displaying relevant weather reports and traffic maps. In addition, they can choose to display data from five stock indexes, and/or news feeds from three area publications. This powerful functionality serves as a differentiator from other Web sites, and encourages repeat visitation by providing constantly updated, targeted information.

Job listings are provided through an integrated feed with JobThread.com. An interactive Flash map incorporates demographic data to provide a Valley overview that is as interesting as it is helpful. A searchable directory of businesses, attractions, and dining locations puts information at users’ fingertips. Advertising banners are easily added to the site, and provide additional income for the Valley Economic Alliance.

The new TheValley.net provides a fitting introduction to the Valley itself. Like the fabled place it represents, the site is dynamic, all-encompassing, and ever-changing.

www.TheValley.net

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