Visit NBMA: A Companion App

New Bedford Massachusetts Lighthouse

While not originally from New Bedford, Massachusetts, I’ve become a New Bedford guy. I love this city, and I want as many people to visit this place as possible. In my last post, I explored reimagining New Bedford’s website. After analyzing and reorganizing NewBedford-ma.gov, I realized there is potential to improve the website, increase tourism in the city, and provide valuable storytelling elements to residents of this city. 

Website Woes

NewBedford-Ma.gov does not do a good job marketing the city to visitors and potential new residents. The town has developed Destination New Bedford, a sister website to highlight happenings in the city. However, the website is essentially a directory for things to do and does not offer much storytelling for users. The website is also incredibly dated, with the last blog post posted in November 2019. Both websites are missing that exciting energy and come off as lazy. 

I’d also argue that while Destination New Bedford is an improvement over NewBedford-MA.gov, it still misses the mark. For starters, it’s inconsistent with New Bedford’s main website. It’s set up differently, uses a different look, and uses a different tone in writing. I think New Bedford could benefit from developing an inclusive website that includes all of these elements on-page. 

A screenshot of NewBedford-MA.gov
A screenshot of NewBedford-MA.Gov illustrates the lack of information on the Visitor’s tab.
A screenshot of DestinationNewBedford.org
A screenshot of DestinationNewBedford demonstrates the difference from the main website.

A St. Paul Case Study

Saint Paul’s visitsaintpaul.com inspired me to think differently about NewBedford-Ma.gov. I found the website easy to navigate, beautifully designed, and enjoyed the simplicity of finding a place to eat in St. Paul. I am now inspired to visit St. Paul and visit some of the breweries featured on the website. Each link includes photos, a map location, and brief written information. 

VisitSaintPaul.com highlights business with rich media content.

Breweries also reside and thrive in New Bedford. Let’s look at how NewBedford-Ma.gov showcases their breweries.  There are no photos, no video, no description, nothing is available on the website. Instead, it’s only a link. Good luck finding it in the sea of links! Destination New Bedford, does have a better posting for Moby Dick Brewing Co. but also does not include any images and is text based.

A New App: 

The Whaling City is far more exciting than the city websites propose. There is so much New Bedford offers visitors and residents, including unique and fun things to do. The city is home to the world’s most significant historic whaling community, America’s largest fishing port, a bustling arts community, a vibrant and diverse culture, and an excellent array of shops and restaurants. I would love to see this app developed to get people acquainted with the happenings of the city. 

Greg Penniston works on a setting up a mural developed by New Bedford’s Eden Soares.

I’ve been thinking about a cell phone app called ‘Visit NBMA’ and derives from the Visitor’s tab on Newbedford-ma.gov. The current website includes a page loaded with links for visitors but is not the most effective way to market the city to potential newcomers. Instead, rich images and videos would elevate the city’s story tremendously. 

Information Architecture

I’ve developed an information architecture mapping out ‘Visit NBMA’ to include five areas with headers:

  •  About New Bedford
  • Things to Do
  •  Eat
  • Art and Culture
  • Transportation
A Proposed site map for Visit NBMA
A proposed site map for Visit NBMA

My vision for the app includes each heading as a swiped page on the app. Each header page will consist of no more than five links, and each page will integrate with a map highlighting the user’s location. These headers include information that is not readily available on NewBedford-MA.gov.

About New Bedford

This header will include New Bedford information, including links connected to New Bedford’s whaling history and current American leader as a fishing port. This section would also share New Bedford’s history with the civil rights movement, literary history and celebrate New Bedford’s fantastic architecture. 

Things to Do

Admittedly, I love living in this city. There is just so much to do! Whether it’s exploring the New Bedford Whaling National Park, visiting the Buttonwood Park Zoo, or visiting the New Bedford Whaling Museum, there is something for everyone. Throughout the city, there are many events, including monthly art, history, and architecture (AHA!) festivals, live music, and large-scaled folk and jazz festivals. This header will feature a calendar of events and offer visitors four additional links, including places to visit, stay, and shop. 

Eat

New Bedford, Massachusetts, is home to America’s largest fishing fleet and provides the nation with scallops, codfish, and mackerel. It’s no surprise, but the seafood restaurants in New Bedford are excellent. There are also many places other than seafood that perfect craft beer, burgers, and burritos. One of the major issues about living in this city is deciding which restaurant to visit.

This section includes a complete guide for visitors to showcase the fantastic eateries in the area. The header further breaks down into restaurants, cafés, bars, take-out, and sweet treats. 

Art and Culture

Artists and musicians have always loved New Bedford, Massachusetts. The city capitalized on a historic Star Store’s renovation project that transformed New Bedford into the Southcoast arts and culture capital. The Star Store project is absent from NewBedford-MA.gov, and there is little mention of arts and culture.



The city did create a sister website, NB Creative, but again, inconsistent with the city’s main website. It has a different tone, is formatted differently, and includes different information architecture. While it is an improvement, much more effort is needed to tell the stories of artists fully.

This section would highlight the city’s numerous murals and provide a walking tour for people to find murals in the app. The section also includes information about artist galleries, artist studios, and collections. Many visitors, and residents even, don’t know that New Bedford is home to an extensive collection of original John Audobon paintings.

Transportation

Finally, the app includes information about the city’s various transportation options, including information regarding the New Bedford Airport, the State Pier, Bicycle paths, and bus and shuttle information. 

I think this app could better engage visitors and residents of the city and include storytelling to New Bedford. Visual storytelling is crucial to connect with potential customers and can change the trajectory of brands and cities. I would also love to see New Bedford, Massachusetts become an exemplar website for other communities across Massachusetts.

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