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Washington Trails Association

Washington Trails Association is one of Washington's largest volunteer-driven environmental organizations. We were excited by the challenge of rebuilding a highly successful, decade-old website. We moved WTA's website to a new server, implemented a new design, and replaced all of the static content with a new Plone-powered website. We recently set up a program to import content from six Mountaineers Books to WTA's online Hiking Guide -- a 2500-hike database that is constantly updated by users.

Washington Trails Association

Washington Trails Association

Washington Trails Association is one of Washington's largest volunteer-driven environmental organizations. They get people out on Washington's hiking trails, organize thousands of hours of volunteer trail maintenance each year, and advocate for non-motorized recreation funding and opportunities.

The Challenge

WTA came to us with an unusual problem: they had an amazing, interactive website chock-full of in-depth information on hiking trails, trip reports and an active user community. The only problem was that the site had been built in small pieces over 13 years by a dedicated volunteer and the volunteer was now retiring.

Worse, the different pieces of WTA's site didn't really communicate with each other. For example, it was impossible to associate a hike with all of the trip reports about that hike.

Finally, WTA wanted to redesign the site to 21st century standards, make the website editing experience easier on their staff, and position themselves for a future where their website and relationship management database could talk to each other.

Our Solution

We were excited by the challenge of rebuilding a highly successful, decade-old website. We dove in with a planning project, in which we worked with WTA staff to break the problem into manageable phases.

In Phase I, we moved WTA's website to a new server, implemented a new design, and replaced all of the static content with a new Plone-powered website.

In Phase II, we replaced the "beating chrome heart" of the site -- the Hiking Guide and Trip Reports systems -- with vastly more powerful, more user-friendly Plone-powered versions. This phase also entailed a massive data cleanup effort from WTA staff, which we supported with a variety of behind-the-scenes tools.

In 2009, Mountaineers Books agreed to contribute content from six books of their "Day Hiking" series to WTA's online Hiking Guide -- a 2500-hike database that is constantly updated by users.

We started off using Amazon.com's "Mechanical Turk" service, which is great for tasks you can divide into tiny chunks. Once we had nicely structured data, it was easy for Groundwire to write a program to import it into WTA.org.

Now, over 500 of the hikes in WTA's online hiking guide feature key content from Mountaineers Books.

In 2010, we added a Facebook sharing tool to the WTA website that allows hikers to write hike reports on the WTA website and then share the content with their Facebook friends. WTA grew their Facebook fan page to over 10,000 fans, and 31% of their website traffic per year comes through Facebook.

In 2010, we worked with a WTA volunteer (whose day job is working on Google Maps) to add an interactive map to the website, The Hike Finder. The map is also connected to the user-generated trip reports and other information specific to that hike.

Since the Fall 2008 launch, WTA's visitor count increased nearly 150% and their pageviews increased over 85%. Most notably, Google search results for individual hike names return WTA in the number one or number two ranked spot, resulting in enormous increases in traffic to these website pages.



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