Monday September 28, 2020

A high-performing digital eco-system for the Covid era and beyond

Fáilte Ireland was in the process of transforming its digital presence when Covid-19 brought tourism to its knees. Its digital partner Strata3’s agile working methodology and focus on digital performance has helped deliver a new website that raises the bar

6th September, 2020
Sarah Gleeson, Digital Performance Principal; Andressa Lombardo, Senior UI Designer and Edel Maher, Senior Project Manager, Strata3

Even before the pandemic highlighted its importance, Fáilte Ireland had very specific metrics for success and clearly understood how valuable good user research can be in achieving these goals. Of the many insights gleaned from a deep-dive conducted ahead of an upgrade of its flagship website, one stood out: visitors to DiscoverIreland.ie search by destination first. Whilst pioneering regional portals such as Ireland’s Ancient East had significantly improved the user experience, ultimately, visitors wanted a single resource at their fingertips.

Conceived in late 2019 and launched in July, as thousands of staycationers headed for their summer breaks, the new DiscoverIreland.ie places the search function front and centre. And the whole-country approach has already proven itself. “It makes sense,” says Edel Maher, Strata3’s senior project manager on the site. “Everything is in one place; people can find what they want, yet the element of discovery is very much still there.”

Fáilte Ireland’s brief to Strata3 was clear: a future-focused immersive site that looks beautiful and is both functional and high-performing. The Strata3 team worked with Fáilte Ireland to create a persuasive, friction-free experience that converts a higher percentage of visitors, delivering on commercial metrics such as growing traffic, partner referrals, and ultimately, driving domestic tourism. Strata3 quickly saw that an agile methodology was the best approach, not just because of the project’s complexity and scale, but because it can continuously adapt to evolving business needs and the rapid pace of change in the digital landscape.

Why agile working?

Maher explains. “As a methodology, agile encourages you to work dynamically to a vision, instead of managing a series of tasks or phases. The vision was for a visitor-focused, destination-led site. On this project, design and development happen simultaneously and continue iteratively after launch. Prototyping aids problem solving and timely decision making. Agile allows us to test and learn throughout the project and collectively develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) quickly. We then continue to question, experiment, measure and improve based on analytics, visitor feedback and behavioural data.”

Playing to people’s strengths

From the outset, the agile approach had been Strata3’s first choice and Fáilte Ireland was fully committed to this approach. This methodology closely aligns with Strata3’s robust learning culture, which encourages staff collectively to explore new ways of working, assess their viability and build the best of them into the company DNA. Its belief in agile as an approach that plays to people’s strengths made it an easy choice for Fáilte Ireland, and the dedicated client and agency teams quickly became one large and integrated team.

The partnership between client and agency has also deepened as the urgency for information and support for the industry was heightened by the countrywide lockdown in March. As Fáilte Ireland – and the tourism industry – went into recovery mode, Strata3 developed a Covid-19 Industry Support Hub for Fáilte Ireland, as an initial response within its corporate site, while continuing to build the new consumer site.

Strata3’s lead UI designer on Discover Ireland, Andressa Lombardo, was delighted to see what she calls ‘culture in action’ when talking of the synergy that evolved between Strata3’s people and Fáilte Ireland’s. “Agile working is open, collaborative, honest. Its iterative nature gives everyone a voice. People who might never be client-facing get to showcase their expertise in ways that aren’t possible otherwise. You can really be yourself; in fact, outcomes are better the more you are yourself. And because it builds pride in what you do, teams get invested in outcomes. The result is something really special.”

“The commitment and dedication of the team have been second to none in getting this project to launch,” says Claire Cadogan, head of digital marketing for Fáilte Ireland. “From the discovery and agile operational sessions to delivery, the team has never wavered from the vision. This vision, strategy and roadmap – now, in particular, set against the backdrop of Covid-19 – has delivered a critical tool to help drive the recovery of the tourism industry in Ireland, and lands at a very opportune time.”

Aesthetically beautiful, commercially focused

The shared vision for the site has been realised too, with exceptional feedback from both Fáilte Ireland stakeholders and visitors. It looks beautiful, but the minimalist interface sits in front of an innovative back-end and mix of technologies and systems designed to deliver content in useful ways that encourage repeated content discovery. Sarah Gleeson, principal UX designer with Strata3’s Digital Performance practice, states, “Now the focus is towards growth, optimisation and further digital success aligned to both Fáilte Ireland and the user’s goals.” A rigorous, iterative process of optimisation continues, with plans to add personalisation to improve the relevance of visitor experiences further and other improvements to meet ambitious performance goals around growing engagement, referrals to industry partners and returning visitors. Strata3’s performance team is working together with Fáilte Ireland to foster a culture of visitor- and data-driven decision-making, as part of an insight-led performance strategy that maximises ROI. For example, usability testing with visitors and partners before the launch of the MVP allowed the team to evaluate the user experience effectiveness and identify experimentation opportunities. And with anecdotal reports already suggesting Irish people are rebooking holidays at home for 2021, things are looking promising. Staycations, it seems, are very much here to stay.

THE TECH SIDE

Discoverireland.ie uses Kentico Kontent as the multi-channel content hub (headless CMS) serving content either directly via the Kontent API or an Azure Cognitive Search Index. The Strata3 team built the site using React, NextJs, and Redis on Azure Web App Services. This approach delivers technical excellence across mobile and larger screens with a responsive and fast site. The project utilises the Azure DevOps toolkit; user stories and tasks are managed on sprint boards, while the code repository and automated deployments use Azure DevOps pipelines.

Strata3 is Ireland’s largest digital strategy, innovation and performance agency.

For more details, visit www.strata3.com

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