Case Study: A Conversation With the Interactive Team

I’ve always been impressed with the interactive programs at Visit Florida and have developed a tremendous amount of respect for CA Clark (Vice President of Electronic Publishing) and the rest of the team at MilesMedia who work on the account. In fact, the Florida site was one of the top five inspirations for me when I started working on our programs in Oregon three years ago.

When Troy and I found out that relaunched their site this winter, we just couldn’t help but chat up CA Clark for his insight into the new site. The following is part one of a two part e-mail conversation between CA and the Interactive Trend Report.

How was the design of the site used to create a positive impression of Florida?

First of all, this is really a very different approach to design than I think you would typically see on a destination site. Instead of the big header visuals, we’ve got a very large content area that incorporates tons of thumbnails, maps and tools. So from the start, we’re not approaching this as a traditional design project. Instead we tried to look at it more like an application, which is the direction we think the web is really going. To answer your question more directly – I think we’re creating a positive impression of Florida through the presentation of the content on the site – photos, videos, stories, trips, listings – rather than through the site itself. We’re trying to get out of our own way and let the content speak for itself.

What websites, either travel-related or not, influenced the new site?

Lots really, the home page and tag display pages owe some to Yahoo!’s niche sites like; the trip planner borrows some from and; Kayak and Pricegrabber were both models for some of the listing display stuff that we did. There are lots more, I’m sure I’m missing some important ones. We were definitely trying to make something that was competitive not just on a destination basis, but on a broader web industry basis.

How are you, or will you, integrate the print travel guide into the site and vice versa?

The site is meant to be the primary fulfillment mechanism, so there purposely aren’t a lot of references from the site back out to the guide. Having said that, the new site creates a lot of new possibilities for intertwining content between the two such as integrating the experts into the guide with references out to the site or including user-supplied photos or trips in the print products.

What do you think the reaction will be to the tag cloud navigation structure?

We did quite a bit of usability during the build, and a lot of that was focused on the navigation. What was interesting is that while the test users didn’t necessarily understand what a tag was, it didn’t prevent them from using the site as intended. So we changed some of our labels, but basically we found that people didn’t have to understand the structure for it to be useful. So far our beta testers don’t seem to have had problems either, so we’re feeling pretty positive about the public reaction when we do the full release.

Tune in tomorrow for a continuation of this conversation. In the meantime, do tell us what you think about the new Florida site via our online poll (click the link to vote if reading via email or RSS). How do you feel about the use of “tag clouds” as a primary navigational element? Does the creative inspire you to hit the beach?

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.