Blue Ridge Nat’l Heritage Area// Launch Site
The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area works with Western North Carolina chambers of commerce, artists, and tourism sites to promote their services and showcase the cultural and natural resources of the area. The two main features of the original site were a directory of attractions and a directory of local artists, but most of this content was either hidden behind a search or deep tree structure of menus.
There was a lot great stuff on the old site but finding it was very difficult and the navigation structures assumed you were focused on a specific goal. There was very little cross-traffic between content silos. Content was frequently duplicated, making it hard to maintain; sometimes content on the same topic was fractured across several silos with few interconnections between them.
What NewCity decided to do was create a way for visitors to the site to browse content. Structure would be there if they wanted it, but at every step of the way we wanted people to also be presented with content that was similar to what they were already looking at. We wanted a site structure that encouraged wandering exploration.
In order to facilitate these cross-links and expose as much data as possible, we first chose the Drupal Content Management system to replace their older proprietary CMS. Drupal had several advantages. It allows significant structuring of content, letting us create complicated forms to capture all of the necessary information on each artist and attraction. It also has a very powerful categorization system for content, letting us build complex relationships between pieces of content. It's also an open-source, highly extensible system, which let us build features into the site that were unique to the BRNHA.
To present as much content as possible in a small space, we used some Flash components. All of the flash components gather their data from Drupal so the content of the flash items can be managed in the same place as the rest of the web site. After an initial load of data from the web site, the flash components allow visitors to search and filter attractions based on exhaustive criteria in a system that is much more responsive and dynamic than standard web pages can be. But for users unable to use flash there's a more traditional, non-flash presentation of the content.
Additionaly, NewCity created a mobile website for Blue Ridge National Heritage Area to compliment the full new website, and to present themselves to the increasing number of mobile users hitting their site.