Portfolio

Visiteden.co.uk

Visit Eden, a flagship for a beautiful region
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Be careful what you wish for

As experienced Google Maps developers, we had often thought how great it would be to build something that really integrated with the Google map experience. So when Eden District Council's Tourism Department approached us about creating a new version of their tourism portal, we jumped at the chance.

The project was always destined to be a challenge, but we could not have known at the start quite what a challenge it would turn out to be.

Breaking away from limitations

The existing site was part of the local government portal for Eden Council, and due to the limitations of that platform, all the pages that showed information on accommodation or local events and activities were provided by a 3rd party as external pages. So if you wished to look at accommodation information then the page would not come from the local government portal, but from the 3rd party website. This meant that no search engine credibility was being given to any of these pages, so they would not show up in search engine results for any of the local search terms.

We discussed with the members of the Tourism team what options were available to us to provide the same data but within a website that was entirely controlled by Eden Council. After a lengthy investigation and negotiation with the 3rd party data provider, we established that an API was available which would allow us to interrogate the remote accommodation service, and integrate the data into the website as if it was created locally.

Visitors can see what to do near their accommodation

In order to improve page load time performance and to provide a fallback in cases of the API being unavailable, a local cache was created, so data would be requested from the remote API then stored locally for a short period of time. This would provide us with the website performance and reliability that we felt the website needed.

Taking control

The Tourism team also felt they wanted to take more control of the information around attractions and events that occurred in the region. For these it was felt better to not rely on the remote API, but instead to create a management system within the website, which would allow the team members to add and update this information as required, giving them the flexibility to have the information that they felt was needed stored and output in the way they wanted.

A central part of this project was the ability to search the information and to create associations between the different data types. We created a system of Google Maps that allowed visitors to see what attractions where near to any accommodation they were interested in, and vice versa. We also allowed the accommodation and attractions to be searchable by type or name, and the events to be browsable by date.

Respond to changing contexts

Smart Phone view of the Visit Eden home page

The visitor was always central to our thoughts in this project, and we envisaged the site being used through a number of scenarios, all the way from an initial browse to see if the area would be suitable for a break, right up to needing to find their accommodation or an attraction while on holiday. For this the site needed to work across a number of devices, laptops, smart phones and tablets, as well as a number of platforms, Windows, iOS, Android and Mac. We created a responsive design that would be able to alter it's layout and attributes depending on the circumstances it found itself in. On a phone graphics were simple, navigation designed for fingers not mouse pointers, and images files were small. On desktops it would be able to provide a richer experience, taking full advantage of the bandwidth and space available.

The future for Visit Eden

The website was launched to general acclaim at the Eden Tourism Summit, where local tourism businesses were able to experience the facilities and opportunities the website provided. It is hoped that over the next year the website will be used and enjoyed by the public at large, providing a welcome boost to the tourism sector, an important part of the local economy which has suffered during the current downturn.

Landing-page creation . Software on all occasions . ACN