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StoreLocal Corp./StorageFront.com Partner With California State Universities on Mobile-Website Design

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Online self-storage directory StorageFront.com has released phase one of its updated mobile website, created through a partnership between its parent company, StoreLocal Corp., California State Polytechnic University of Pomona and California State University of Fullerton. The release is the first of four planned this year, according to a press release.

“We reverse-engineered our redesign of StorageFront.com starting at mobile and backing up to a desktop,” said Lance Watkins, CEO of StoreLocal. “We also wanted a think tank of mobile-craving Millennials to partner with our storage experience to create best-in-class UI/UX [user interface/user experience] for storage customers.”

The collaboration was conducted through the Design Innovation Project, a partnership program between the two universities, which pairs the schools with industry leaders “to create ‘mobile think tanks’ specializing in innovative solutions for visual communication problems,” the release stated.

The university program is designed to give students practical experience. "The Design Innovation Project is an incredible opportunity for our graphic-design students within the art department here at Cal State Fullerton’s College of the Arts,” said Dale A. Merrill, dean of the college. “The chance for our students to work with UX designers and industry leaders is a wonderful opportunity ensuring that our students excel beyond the classroom and develop a competitive edge. We are grateful to all our community partners who contribute so much to our students’ education by giving them invaluable hands-on, real-world experience.”

“Early exposure to professional input, critical thinking and problem-solving skills is fundamental to a designer’s development and future success,” added Anthony Acock, an assistant professor in Cal Poly Pomona’s art department. “With the StoreLocal project we have all three.”

The students who worked on the project helped bring modern design principles to the website’s redesign. “In this case, creatively resolving the information framework and researching new directions to execute the narrative through UX design is an invaluable experience for our students,” said Melissa Flicker, an associate professor in Cal Poly’s art department.

Students tackled problems ranging from user experience and branding strategies to print and e-commerce design. “Within the field of communication design, we are experiencing a period of innovation. Not since the dot-com bubble have we seen this level of media expansion,” said John T. Drew, vice chair of Cal State Fullerton’s art department. “The ability for our students to create a directory optimized for a mobile Web experience with StoreLocal is an incredible opportunity. The level, depth and overall research involved in this project supports our graphic design students in mastering UX design, and taking up future leadership roles within our community.”

The project began in December 2014 and included more than 150 students. Based on the results, one student from Cal State Fullerton was hired by StoreLocal as a graphic designer, company officials said.

In addition to the mobile website launch, StorageFront.com also announced users are now able to complete the move-in process entirely online. The new functionality was developed through a partnership with OpenTech Alliance Inc., a Phoenix-based provider of self-serve kiosks, call-center services and other technology for self-storage businesses.

A redesign of the StorageFront.com desktop website is scheduled for the first quarter of 2016 and will use the framework laid out by the students during the Design Innovation Project, the release stated.

StorageFront.com was founded in 2009. It’s a bilingual directory that helps self-storage customers find and reserve storage units. It has a database of more than 40,000 storage facilities. StoreLocal, a co-op of private self-storage operators in Canada and the United States, acquired the website in January. The co-op leverages the combined strength of its membership for services such as customer acquisition, financing, marketing and technology.

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