Redux. Continuing the Conversation With Florida’s Interactive Team.

Hello Sunshine! This is the second installation of a two part conversation with CA Clark, VP of Electronic Publishing at Miles Media, the interactive agency for VisitFlorida. Yesterday, CA responded to our initial questions about the inspiration for the design of the new VisitFlorida site and it’s novel use of tag clouds as a primary navigational element (yesterday’s blog is available here). Today, we’re going to primarily focus on content – who manages it, how portable is it and how Florida handles the vast sea of user generated content, comments and photos.

How are your partners able to edit/add content to the site? Is the process automated or do they have to be facilitated via staff?

In a variety of ways, but the main way is via a partner extranet application that we also re-built from scratch as part of the new site. That application embraces a lot of the same technological approaches in terms of focusing on the user interface and employing AJAX and JavaScript to do as much as we can without having to reload the page.

Through the data engine, partners can add, edit and delete their property information, amenities, photos, videos, 360s, events deals and respond to comments made about their property.

I’ve been working exclusively in the web publishing business for 12 years and I can definitively say that this is the most complex, most complete and largest project I’ve ever been involved in. We had an active team of about 12 people working on various aspects of this project for over 14 months. It’s been a long road, and we’re really happy with the result, we hope Florida visitors will be too.

What considerations were made so that your data is portable (i.e. can be used to generate widget/gadgets on social sites)?

The whole architecture of the site is really built to be modular. Essentially all the data we’ve got – photos, videos, stories, trips, etc are all stored in their own silos. So if we wanted to say take the photo strip piece and turn that into a widget for use on another site, it’s really just a matter of dumping the structure we already have into XML and distributing the widget. It’s something we’ll be looking at after launch.

The Florida site is awash with opportunities for users to contrinute their opinions and photos to the site. With so much UGC and commenting available, how are you handling the monitoring and editing of those comments? How are you handling negative comments?

We’re trying to make the site both as useful and as transparent as possible. To that end, user comments are posted immediately. There are several steps to get to that point, including a illegal words filter and verification to make sure you’re a human; but we felt that if users had to wait for a day to see their comments, we’d kill the whole concept of sharing. Visual content like photos and videos are a different story, before those are publicly available they need to be reviewed by a human since there’s no AI I’m aware of that could accurately filter out inappropriate content. As for negative comments, they’ll stay as long as they’re relevant to tourism and verifiable.

Why were certain elements…text, font, color, size…selected for the site?

Obviously there are a lot of different factors that go into design, not the least of which is the branding campaign and approach of the client.

In this case, VISIT FLORIDA’s “sunshine” campaign was the basis for the design and implemented in a way that we hoped wouldn’t get in the way of the use of the site. Beyond that, we tried to use web-safe fonts wherever we could and minimize the number of images that had to be created and to be consistent throughout with the visual cues we provided. Most of the active stuff has the same little blue buttons, the links are all consistently formatted, titles are similarly formatted, etc.

Tell us what you think! Does the new Florida site inspire you to hit the beach? Take our online poll and give us your feedback!

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.