Chinatown is one of New York City's most vibrant neighborhoods. It has a rich history dating back to the 1800s and has become a thriving cultural and culinary community. Characterized by its bustling streets, family-owned businesses, and charming storefronts — many passed down from generation to generation — the neighborhood serves as both a tourist attraction and home to many Chinese New Yorkers.
Small businesses are the heart of New York City's Chinatown.
And like so many other communities centered around the small business they're composed of, it's been a struggle to survive amidst the global pandemic. The Chinatown community in NYC was affected by the pandemic long before COVID-19 escalated in March 2020 — suffering anti-Asian discrimination, xenophobia and even violence. The decrease in foot traffic and these traditional businesses' inability to adapt put the community at high risk of economic collapse.
To support these businesses impacted by COVID-19, Chinatown Rotary took action. As a local branch of Rotary International, a worldwide humanitarian organization helping build goodwill and peace globally, the organization quickly mobilized. Through a grant from Rotary International, the Chinatown Rotary Club has been working to bring life back to the community through multiple grassroots initiatives. That includes strategic planning and pivoting toward more sustainable business models and operations. As a community that has been technologically off the grid for years, a key focus was finding a way to provide an online presence and digital resources to traditionally run businesses.
Majestyk partnered with them to create a website that brings their mission to life. The responsive web experience was designed and built on Webflow. Serving as the central hub of communication for their initiatives, the site features authentic design elements married with a simple UI to account for less tech-savvy users.
As Chinatown Rotary engaged with the community they quickly learned that the traditional businesses were unable to understand how to adapt in order to survive. Without a digital footprint they lacked the ability to reach their customer base as lockdowns occurred. The new website design includes a dedicated section to highlight businesses and their stories.
One of the challenges the team faced in designing this site was developing a design system that was on-brand with the Rotary Club at large while also appealing to a younger audience. We explored multiple UI options and ultimately decided on a clean, bright color palette that incorporated stylized versions of authentic Chinese design.
Designing a mobile responsive experience was crucial to the club as they hope to target a younger demographic through their initiatives. The responsive web design will be a centralized platform for all of their online touchpoints and is designed to scale as their efforts and community resources increase.
Knowing how important establishing a digital presence was to the organization, we shortened development time by building in Webflow. Our creative team was able to manage the entire project without needing to engage with our development team. By eliminating the need to hand-off to a developer, we avoided challenges in translating our design and vision to development. The platform also allowed us to easily transition site management over to the Rotary team to manage content on their own.
As a digital product studio, we genuinely believe that technology can impact our communities for the better. For some, that may mean cutting edge AI to automate operations. But for others, a web platform that connects a community can be life-changing. This project is a small stepping stone in helping to revitalize one of New York's neighborhoods. We hope this can continue to bridge the gap and enable small businesses to adapt to our current digital landscape.
Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the official launch announcement of this project. In the meantime, please consider donating to the Rotary's efforts. And if you're a business in need of innovative solutions, get in touch!
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