Tourism Web Site Design
Amik Technology was selected to Project Manage the re-design of www.nosta.on.ca
A new site www.northofsuperior.org replaced nosta.on.ca. Traffic reports on the old site showed that the most popular information was the list of other tourism sites one should visit.
People have asked what happened with the NOSTA web site project. Below is a detailed explanation of what I believe happened:
The web site project designed in June 2004 and was scheduled for completion by NOSTA's AGM Nov 24, 2004. This project did not happen as designed. The original 25000 budget would have allowed for a small portion of art and a equal or larger portion of infrastructure most of it copied from existing working sites created by Quetico Internet Marketing. The strategy to be used was highly competitive; placing ad's on thousands of pages all designed to place well in the search engines and funnel traffic to the main site. Keyword combinations based on locations and experiences would be fed into the page generator. The resulting pages would have given visitors several opportunities to opt in to our sales message and enter our sites or pass through to competitor sites.
One of the prerequisites was to do a small face lift and install a content management system that best suited the SEO services and fulfillment functions of the new design. During the project NOSTA Executive members led by Bruce Fallen redirected much of what should have been infrastructure design into artwork, building a better brochure. This desire to build a better brochure should not have overcome the intention to reach out to more people. If we look at what Sunset Country is doing, they are building more brochures but each distinctly different with the overall intention to reach out to more people. Is this strategy working you bet! Last report from Sunset Country was that they are reaching over 8000 visitors daily.
Project manager Ross McCubbin believes that NOSTA failed to grasp the significance of the technology offered. There was a steering team comprised of very busy business men but they did not invest the time to fully understand what was proposed and what the market required. As the project progressed NOSTA began to focus on the wrong issues. Much of the funding that should have been used for traffic and fulfillment was redirected into art. Milestones and payments to the developers were even changed to reflect the increasing demand for art, photo's and content.
NOSTA was running several projects in parallel and had moved forward in their marketing approach to the region. One development was the breaking of the region into districts, Pigeon River, Norwester Highlands, Kakabeka Falls West, Land of the Nipigon, Superior Greenstone, etc. 12 regions in all. This was a fantastic idea but the scope creep associated with it should have required a immediate budget change. As they tried to take the new concepts and apply them to the marketing in the web site the complexity grew and the focus continued to change. Further they failed to successfully seek additional funding needed to deliver this state-of-the-art web site.
Bruce Fallen Managing Director claims to have successfully implemented many print brochures, but web sites aren't just brochures not the successful ones anyway! A successful site is a traffic magnet and a business process. It measures all aspects of performance and provides valuable input for making business decisions. Costs associated with larger web sites are surprisingly higher than simple brochure type sites.
NOSTA many times said they know tourism, and they know what works and doesn't work. It is important to use intuition but there are tools now that allow for better business decisions, ones based on data. With products like banner manager web site owners can measure the click through rates of competing ad designs; we can now know statistically what works. As a result of this project Northwestern Ontario wasn't going to be guessing like the rest of the industry.
There seemed also to be a need for a unusually high amount of training of the NOSTA staff on relatively simple content tools. NOSTA spent weeks struggling with simple member and event lists. Ross McCubbin admits that he totally failed to see the problems that came up with finding people that could manage the web site data and functions. Clearly more sophisticated web sites are going to require special staffing considerations.
It is a shame really explains Ross McCubbin, we had a very experienced and committed team. We all wanted to help tourism in Northwestern Ontario. We have the technology we know would have worked wonders to attract visitors. NOSTA looked to be an organization that could have made use of it. It really all fell apart from a lack of funding. Ross tried to contact Fednor about the project funding but was heavily scolded by NOSTA for this approach to the problem. It doesn't make a lot of sense that the government is investing in tourism marketing but then takes a hands off approach like this. In the end all of the team members are refusing to have anything to do with NOSTA and much of the services provided were not paid for.
The true shame is that the project team was in a position to make a major impact on regional tourism promotion, but it appears that this will no longer happen, at least not through nosta.
Funded in part by Fednor & Industry Canada!