Travel and Tourism
Showcasing the Mighty Waikato to the world
Established in 2018, Te Waka is a business-led and governed organisation with a mission to drive economic growth in the Waikato region. Te Waka works in partnership with existing economic development, iwi, business, government, and community organisations to unearth opportunities that will lead to jobs, prosperity and sustainable economic growth.
Enlighten Designs collaborated with Te Waka to build a visually stunning outward-facing website that caters to a wide range of audiences whilst being easy to manage behind the scenes and possesses the ability to flex and grow with Te Waka's needs.
Building a cohesive message by valuing the Discovery phase
Previously, the promotion of economic development in the Waikato was split between multiple organisations, initiatives and websites. Te Waka was established to consolidate effort and promote the region in a more cohesive and organised way – starting with a clearly defined and designed digital platform.
Te Waka had inherited multiple sites that fulfilled various niches in promoting and encouraging economic development in the Waikato – but rather than simply grouping all sites together on one single platform, Te Waka saw an opportunity to go further and re-define and re-target to give online visitors a more personalised experience.
They acknowledged the aspiration to move beyond a basic brochure website would need an experienced guide – someone willing to collaborate at every turn; happy for regular inspections and updates on progress, and keen to ensure features delivered would evolve to target user needs directly.
Enlighten Designs ticked all the boxes.
Enlighten proposed a phased approach, starting with a face-to-face workshop focusing on usability and design. As a human-centred creative technical agency, our starting point with a new project is to get to know the personality, strengths, and strategic objectives of our client before moving on to the hands-on work of building wireframes and site architecture.
Marketing and Communications Manager, Amy van Garderen, highlights the value Te Waka gained from spending time on the discovery phase well before launching into a web build.
“We have got about eight or nine persona groups, eight or nine audiences that we’re wanting to appeal to, so I think the value really was in doing the work to understand who they were and what type of experience they might be looking for.”
Not long after the project started, Covid-19 happened, and all consultation went from in-person to online. In hindsight, this turned out to have a silver lining.
"We have got about eight or nine persona groups, eight or nine audiences that we’re wanting to appeal to, so I think the value really was in doing the work to understand who they were and what type of experience they might be looking for."
"There was no effect on us from going online - in fact, it was super-efficient. I don’t know if we would have done any of those meetings in person but we were very efficient at jumping online for 30 minutes, particularly on the training side of things."
Going virtual for delivery
Shifting to virtual communications throughout the remainder of the project using Microsoft Teams kept the client fully informed every step of the way. A simple Teams message could result in an instant meeting to clarify direction or showcase progress via video conference and screen sharing, without having to factor in travel time, parking or meeting room availability.
As a result, van Garderen described the whole project as “smooth and seamless. It was very much understood what the steps were and how we would get there. The regular catchups and I think the working style and relationship just got better and better as we went on.”
User experience testing was achieved through Optimal Workshop’s tools in lieu of face-to-face testing due to the circumstances at the time. The online tools used - Treejack and Chalkmark – are card sort and first-click testing, which serve to highlight how users interact with the sitemap, wireframes and labels of a website. Employing such tools and engaging with stakeholders early on allowed Enlighten to deliver as promised – a beautiful yet user-friendly digital solution.
“There was no effect on us from going online - in fact, it was super-efficient. I don’t know if we would have done any of those meetings in person but we were very efficient at jumping online for 30 minutes, particularly on the training side of things.”
From the first kick-off meeting through to training sessions and post go-live support, Te Waka had one consistent technical point of contact at Enlighten – something both parties acknowledged as incredibly valuable and a contributing factor to the overall ease of project delivery.
The right platform for now, and into the future
A prime concern for Te Waka was choosing the right platform to flex and grow with organisational objectives whilst delivering exceptional visitor experiences. One of the previous platform’s Te Waka inherited was designed to be a toolkit only and, as such, did not have the flexibility to serve anything other than that purpose.
Ideally, Te Waka wanted a content management system (CMS) that empowered them to add and arrange content themselves. Enlighten recommended Sitefinity, a licenced, proprietary and Microsoft .NET powered content management system that comes with a wide array of out-of-the-box functions, including a drag and drop layout builder that allows novices to create complex page layouts – without the need for coding knowledge.
“In picking the Sitefinity platform, [Enlighten showed] understanding that where we’re at today isn’t where we’ll be in two years, and not where we’ll be in five years. Having something that meant we wouldn’t be embarking on a new website [build] in the future but just continue to enhance and build on the website that we created this year – I think that’s really important.” van Garderen notes.
Sitefinity’s out-of-the-box suite of widgets and content modules also made it easy for Enlighten to quickly and efficiently provide Te Waka with tools they would need to become self-sufficient. All of these features combined made Sitefinity the ideal CMS platform to deliver Te Waka the power and autonomy to make changes to their website content fast – whether simply updating an image or undertaking a complete page redesign.
Te Waka sees the website as an informational portal, guiding people out to other sites rather than duplicating and storing information internally. A recent request to support a new partner initiative as a feature page on the Te Waka website was the first real test to see if the new platform not only talked the “talk”, but walked the walk – and it passed with flying colours.
“Six months ago we would not have known about all upcoming initiatives, but we knew when we built this website what type of information we would present, who we would present it to and how we wanted to take people away to other websites for more detailed information. We’re really a portal that people arrive at first … so when I built that page, it was super easy. I could bring in the widgets and the templates and everything that we had forward planned, to build what would have traditionally had to have been a microsite somewhere. I was able to build that inside the Te Waka site really easily so I think it’s already passed its first test from that perspective.”
"In picking the Sitefinity platform, [Enlighten showed] understanding that where we’re at today isn’t where we’ll be in two years, and not where we’ll be in five years."
"We are looking at another section called ‘Partner Projects’ and again just highlighting some of those key projects for the region ... to bring out some of their content onto our home page as well.
We now know that’s a really easy thing to do ..."
By partnering with stakeholders, Te Waka builds a dynamic web presence to support a dynamic region
Thanks to Sitefinity’s capabilities, Enlighten was able to build a comprehensive site with time-savers such as inbuilt forms to capture content from external contributors for the news and events pages.
Previously, news stories about growth and development in the Waikato would be emailed to internal staff, who would then need to shape the content, or in some cases follow up for more information and rewrite, before manually entering on the website.
The form provides external contributors with a clear framework to complete and the results create a more refined content item for a dedicated Te Waka editor to check through and finalise before pushing live.
“It will be a slow education process for us to really get people submitting the events and news – but I even find that when people send me the traditional press release or news story to my email inbox, it’s just so phenomenally quick to add that myself because I don’t have text formatting issues; the heading looks good; the font looks good. Everything is built into that news template so there’s never a “Oh my gosh, that’s not displaying well.”
Like the dynamic region it showcases, maintaining the Te Waka website is an ongoing venture – something that van Garderen states would not have been possible on the old platform.
“We’ve had a couple of chats with different partner organisations/projects about how they could be reflected on our website. We are looking at another section called ‘Partner Projects’ and again just highlighting some of those key projects for the region and support those projects by giving them that space within our platform – to bring out some of their content onto our home page as well.
We now know that’s a really easy thing to do, whereas before on the old site, we would have struggled to find somewhere for it to live, because our establishment site wasn’t built to do anything more than introduce the economic development agency and talk about a few other services, so there was limited opportunity to profile any projects.”
To ensure the platform continues to grow and thrive, Te Waka has a support agreement with Enlighten that takes advantage of the intimate knowledge the team has developed regarding the organisation, the website, and its users.
The support agreement includes scope for ongoing adjustments, advice, updates and additions to continue to build value for visitors to the portal.
Despite a globally challenging year, Te Waka has finished with a visually stunning and cohesive website that not only displays the natural beauty of the region but, more importantly, the economic strength, business partnerships, networks, and services on offer in the Mighty Waikato.
Visit Te Waka's new website and see what all the fuss is about.