Community information portal site has a fresh look
One of the challenges with information and technology is keeping up with ever-evolving changes and dynamics. Olds Institute embraced that challenge as it gave its community directory and information platform website, EverythingOlds.ca, a modern new look.
“It’s more than just appearance, although that is an attractive feature of the new site,” says Mitch Thomson, Executive Director of the Olds Institute for Community & Regional Development. “Websites must be highly functional and today, they have to be dynamic and responsive. The new site will provide timely information that is easy to locate, provide a portal to our community partners’ websites, and give visitors an easy-to-navigate platform for the digital information kiosks that will continue to populate key locations in the community.”
The original site was created primarily as a business directory in 2013. The demands placed on the website over the years with the addition of a “virtual mall”, community calendar, blog and other features caused it to overwhelm its original framework. “There was only so much capacity it could manage,” says Patti Simoneau, Marketing Coordinator for Olds Institute. “We have a very diverse directory of businesses and non-profit organizations, and the structure was not designed to make additional content readily available. We needed a rebuild, with a plan to be able to keep up with the advancements in technology as they come available.”
One of the advancements that is expected to have an impact is machine learning. “At the recent Travel Alberta conference, a keynote speaker from Google showed us how a platform like Google Business will develop into an augmented reality (AR) experience. Our new web provider, Strong Coffee Marketing, was at this same conference. They are excited about adding these ‘cool tools’ to their kit. It’s reassuring to have a team working with us to ensure we stay as close to the leading edge as possible.”
The Community Calendar was another key focal point for the project. “We met with marketing representatives from all of our stakeholder and partner organizations this spring,” said Simoneau. “One thing that very quickly came to the top as a priority was that calendar. We used the call out headline “What’s Going On?” for the calendar and positioned it as the very first thing people see when they open the home page.”
The redesign of EverythingOlds.ca was made possible by the Visitor Services Information Fund, a grant awarded to Olds Institute by the Government of Alberta Ministry of Culture and Tourism, headed by Minister Ricardo Miranda.
“This website is the main platform for our visitor information kiosks, so it had to be very user-friendly,” said Simoneau. “We worked with Strong Coffee to organize a taxonomy for the directories to make information quick and easy to find, to make the site visually appealing, and still allow for posts and articles with more detailed information that can be readily found from streamlined menus. Additionally, it will be able to ‘pull’ and ‘push’ information to and from other websites in the tourism sector that are tied together with the Alberta Travel Information System (ATIS). By posting events on EverythingOlds.ca, for example, our local operators and partners may have their events broadcast to a much larger online audience.”
The data is still being populated even as the site goes live. “There are nearly 1000 businesses, tourism operators and non-profit organizations to comb through, update and load onto the site. It’s a lot of work, but it is completely accessible and interactive. If anyone from the community sees something that is missed or knows of something new, there are lots of tools on the new site to allow them to add to the content. It is after all a community portal, so the members of the community will be counted on to help us keep things current.”
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