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  • Writer's pictureLori Gagen

Creating an interactive experience for tourists in Noble

The opportunity to design and launch a new website for the Noble County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) was an honor, and a job that comes after years of personal passion for the work the CVB does.

I have the pleasure of working on a nearly daily basis, at my "day job", with the CVB, branded as "Visit Noble County". Our teams share an office because both organizations have a shared mission to ensure a thriving local economy.

After providing support for the past two years, maintaining and enhancing the CVB's existing website and providing editing support to publish monthly blog posts, I was asked to submit a proposal for a full website relaunch.

The "old site" was lacking some of the functionality Visit Noble County wanted to see - and making the edits required would have been more difficult, and costly, than starting anew.

"Before" screen shot of home page

Though WordPress is an incredible and versatile platform on which to build a website, making even simple text or image edits can be really challenging for a non-technical user. Heck, in my experience (and I'm always up for a technical challenge), every WordPress-based website is unique and presents a learning curve to navigate editing and maintenance. This is not an ideal situation for an organization without a budget dedicated to that kind of work.

The project began with a meeting of the staff at Visit Noble County, at which we created a wish list of features, and their vision came into focus. From there, I offered three different base designs to get the right "look and feel" before beginning to build the new site:

  1. Option A offered a full-width, responsive style with little white space. This style is bold, graphic, and image driven.

  2. Option B offered a mix of elements - some stretching the full width of any screen, but with more white space. This design can offer a nice mix that provides room for great graphic emphasis but a break for the eyes, along the way.

  3. Option C offered a centered, traditional design with large blank panels on either side of the content. The benefit of this type of design is that no matter how wide the user's screen is, the content will not shift or morph. The downside is it can be a bit boring.

All three design options are "responsive", meaning all can be viewed on a mobile device with ease and no loss of functionality. I wasn't surprised when Option B was chosen.

A tourism website is chocked full of data. Tourism partner contact details, lots of images, and current events that change all the time. Physical assets come and go, partners come into and go out of business, etc. This is why we were all pretty excited about the opportunity to build a "back end" that allows administrative staff at Visit Noble County an easy way to maintain data.

"Before" accommodations page with features subject to frequent change.

Visit Noble County's new site was built on the Wix platform. I suggested Wix because of the ease of (creating and) updating any number of databases to help make data entry (content additions) goof-proof and editing easy. Wix's Dynamic Data features enable an organization to update content on pages without risking changes to design. This is a huge benefit to many smaller organizations that lack onstaff technical expertise.

"After", the new site provides several databases that drive content. This screenshot is from the "back end" of the new site and is not visible to website visitors.
A sample view of Visit Noble County's database of "partners". This is how staff maintain much of the new website's content.

Using the databases (tables) and Dynamic Data connectors, the content visitors see on the new Visit Noble County website is interactive, meaning users (on some pages) have the option to narrow their search by a variety of different choices. Visitors will see options to look for things to do, places to eat (and drink), and places to stay by location, amenities, and even based on Visit Noble County's recommendations for different audiences (solo traveler, couples, friends groups, and even dog-friendly points of interest.)

In order to facilitate the significant enhancements in site engagement and use, Catchy Creations provided Visit Noble County with data templates created in Excel, making it easier for the client to choose, edit, and otherwise prepare the data they wanted to see on the new site.

"After" home page, with fun, animated dog highlighting the option to search tourism assets by "audience".

Pages on the new Visit Noble County site are easy to navigate, linking from one to another, enabling exploration as the visitor's mind switches gears. Each featured asset has a landing page with contact information and more, including (in most cases) a link to the partner's own website or landing page.

"After" sample page with filter to narrow search of Sports & Recreation assets.

Filtered results shown on new website, with buttons to link to partner landing page.
New partner landing pages provide a cross-reference to nearby attractions, content made possible by Dynamic Data connectors. Visitors can continue on to the partner's website for even more relevant information.

Going forward, the Visit Noble County staff has much more control over the critical content of their website, with immediate access (no need to await the response of a technical consultant). When design elements need an update, the organization can reach out to Catchy Creations for low-cost maintenance.

The timeline (about 13 weeks from start to finish, over the holidays):

  • First meeting: October 10, 2022

  • Proposal submitted: October 20

  • Proposal accepted: October 24

  • Website design phase: October 24 - November 22

  • Meeting to review first draft of design: November 22

  • Meeting to review second draft of design: January 4

  • CVB prep of database content: October 24, 2022 - January 15, 2023

  • Import of database content: January 15

  • Designs finalized and tested: January 15-25

  • Live launch: January 27

It was a pleasure to work with the CVB team promoting the extraordinary tourism assets in Noble County. Contact me about helping your organization enhance its digital experience for your patrons!

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