Portsmouth Economic Development Website Redesign

Portsmouth Virginia is a historic seaport city in the heart of Hampton Roads. This maritime region was first settled in the early 1600’s as a suitable shipbuilding location because of the deep waters of the Elizabeth River and the abundance of hardwood forests. Portsmouth was established as a town in 1752 and has continued to grow and prosper through the years as a port city with a long and rich history.

In early 2021, the Portsmouth Economic Development (PED) team reached out to Marathon for assistance in improving their digital presence. With Portsmouth’s diverse business landscape, along with a variety of sustainable employment options, there was much opportunity to have a positive impact on the quality of life for Portsmouth residents, however their website was not living up to expectations. Their goal was to provide a better online experience to support the business community in starting, growing, and locating their businesses in Portsmouth, and supporting the growth and improvement of the city’s communities through workforce development.


The legacy website was suffering from an outdated look and feel, clunky and confusing user interface, and poor discoverability through SEO. In addition, the back-end management was complex for the site admins to use and provided very little flexibility. The Portsmouth Economic Development team felt that the website was not meeting the goal of being a single, easy-to-use source of information for their primary audiences which include site selectors, business owners, citizens, and individuals/businesses considering locating in Portsmouth. The team at PED was looking for a more engaging website user experience and a flexible, scalable content management system that would give their internal team the ability to manage and edit the website with ease.

During our initial planning phase, we learned that the Portsmouth Economic Development team was in the process of launching a new workforce development initiative called Portsmouth@Work. Working together with them, we determined that this initiative needed its own website due to the size and nature of the programs, and thus, we began planning for two websites – the main site for Portsmouth Economic Development, and the new website for Portsmouth@Work.


Due to a quickly approaching launch date of the Portsmouth@Work initiative, we mapped an aggressive timeline to coordinate with that event, and a second timeline for the completion of the main Economic Development website a few months later.

Because the two websites would be managed by the same team and had related content, we utilized the multi-site feature of the Umbraco CMS. This feature allows for one back-office login, but management of multiple websites. It was the perfect choice for the Portsmouth Economic Development team, allowing them to target unique audiences while sharing design features and components across the two different sites, keeping the branding and user experience consistent.

The new Portsmouth@Work website was built to serve both the citizens of Portsmouth with career training programs, counseling, and placement, as well as businesses in Portsmouth with information about advisory services, resources, and hiring skilled talent.

The Portsmouth Economic Development website was designed to serve visitors looking to learn more about the city, economic initiatives, and the benefits of opening or growing a business there. The revamp included a new data center detailing key industries and demographics, a section for notable projects, and a new media library for event photos and videos. See the full feature list below. This project also included a substantial data and media migration from the legacy website to the new Umbraco CMS that automated the import of hundreds of images and documents.

Collaborating closely with the PED team, we designed a simple and clear information architecture for both websites with each audience and their individual needs in mind. We created a fresh, bright, and modern style for the overall look and feel, responsive layouts, and implemented larger text sizes and higher contrast for better usability. We also built many custom designed features to better present relevant and important content, and each website was designed to meet ADA guidelines for accessibility.


  • Custom-built property search tool
  • Event calendar
  • Custom forms
  • Custom landing pages
  • Integration with Constant Contact
  • News and press release library
  • Custom media library
  • Responsive layouts
  • ADA compliance
  • SEO