Travel Oregon

To Delight and Inspire.

Bringing the wonders of Oregon directly to you.

We think Oregon is kind of a big deal. From the coastline in the west to the deserts in the east, there’s a lot to see and do here. But how on earth does one convey the majesty of this state through a website that not only informs, but tempts them to visit and see it with their own eyes? That was the goal of the Travel Oregon website redesign: To delight and inspire people to come to Oregon and realize that yes, they like it here too.

Travel Oregon is the official tourism marketing organization for the State of Oregon. They work to enhance visitors’ experiences by providing information, resources, and trip planning tools for just about any activity available in our state. Most importantly, they inspire the public to visit, and consistently convey the exceptional quality of Oregon.

We crafted a stunning new design leveraging an abundance of beautiful imagery with an information architecture that drives users to the content they need to plan their visit. But it’s not all good looks. The site, built on WordPress, integrates numerous backend systems including a content repository shared by all Destination Management Organizations in the state. The new site is blazing fast, with performance wins all around, thanks, in no small part, to our partners at Pantheon.

Creating the Optimal User Experience

Image: Aurora over Crater Lake

One of our primary goals was to create an experience that would invite users to discover more activities and resources throughout the site. We did this by leveraging their editorial content (1,947 trip ideas) to contextualize the 10,716 (at launch) listings that are maintained in Oregon Tourism Information System (OTIS), their tourism database, and inspire travel to Oregon. However, figuring out how to utilize this vast amount of content proved to be a bit of a challenge – but not impossible!

In addition, midway through the project, Travel Oregon went through a rebrand which proved to be a huge lift for all involved. The previous site was filled with whimsy, illustrations, and generally had a warm, earthy feel. The new brand pushed the site into a modern aesthetic. Some key design choices were made to retain the playful vibe expected from Travel Oregon’s fan base, however their future presence needed to feel clean, bright, and inspired.

One of the things we felt strongly about in taking on this project was the concept of giving users a sense of “place.” It’s that feeling you get when you see an image of a location so breath-taking that you want to go see it for yourself. And Oregon has no shortage of impressive vistas.

We wanted users to really, truly picture themselves here; and we achieved this through a feature we implemented on the homepage hero. Visit TravelOregon.com at various times of day from other time zones, and you’ll be served up a scenic image from somewhere in Oregon at the local time here, in Oregon.

Image: Example of homepage hero when it's evening in the Pacific time zone.
Image: Example of homepage hero at other local times during the day (afternoon and evening).

Instantly, a user is transported to the Painted Hills, a hike in the forest, or a waterfall out of a fairy tale.

Front-End

The most unique element of Travel Oregon’s site goes back to the rebrand. We had to skin the theme and apply the new brand halfway through the project lifecycle. This was achieved in record time (a few weeks), and it was due to the care and consistency with which the initial theme was developed.

The design embodies how many Oregonians feel about our state: it’s picturesque, has many wide-open and grand natural spaces to explore, and a warm and friendly culture that is often synonymous with a small-town feel. It was important for the front-end team to translate these designs into reality with this in mind.

At first glance, visitors will notice the images and will find it very easy to dive deeper into the site down to micro-levels of content that speak to their interests. After sticking around the site a bit longer, visitors may even notice the details of whimsy: 7 different colors for 7 different regions, the aforementioned hero image and time on the home page changing throughout the day, the Oregon skyline textures scattered across the site. Even the dashed horizontal rule has its own story, spelling out Oregon in morse code.

Image: Example of regional colors to distinguish site content
Image: Keeping whimsy with textures and morse code across the site

There was special attention placed on mobile responsiveness and browser compatibility. Considering many visitors would potentially be exploring this site while on their Oregon vacation, we needed to ensure that accessibility wasn’t hindered in any way. All content, maps, and resources needed to be seamlessly served up in the mobile experience.

Image: traveloregon.com mobile views of maps and articles

Collaboration, Integration, and Implementation...Oh my!

There were a lot of players involved in this rebuild. As with many of our projects, we needed to partner with several third party vendors to make sure all the pieced synced and that there would be no gaps in the process for Travel Oregon. Wieden+Kennedy was responsible for the re-brand that was released midway through the project, and we worked closely with their team to apply their shiny, modern brand into our design concepts.

TenBridges is the agency that rebuilt the platform responsible for supporting the robust listing content (OTIS). The scaffolding for that content occurred in parallel with our rebuild in WordPress. Needless to say, it was high-risk for us to simultaneously define data structures in supporting systems; and had to be in sync every step of the way to ensure content appeared as intended to administrators and end-users alike.

One of the most vital components of the Travel Oregon site is the request form for Travel Guides. Increasing distribution of these guides is one of the leading KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) for this project; and the seamless integration of those request forms was top of mind. So we worked with Co-Operations to be sure we understood how information needed to be captured and sent to them for fulfillment of said travel guides. Of course, Travel Oregon also has their sights set on expanding their digital audience. For that we worked with Tourism Engine, who manages their email list and travel newsletter. Needless to say, there were integrations galore, and assuring all invested parties that we would connect the dots in this complex ecosystem was no small feat!

Image: Oregon landscapes at different screen sizes

We built the site on WordPress (WP) – our largest build in the platform to-date. Travel Oregon’s database (OTIS) has its own hierarchical structure, but we built an approach in WP to allow all the robust content to import and scaffold into a distinct hierarchy on the WP side that is maintained in a constant integration. It proved to be a very complex yet necessary integration. But we did develop a custom WP plugin to support the integration with the OTIS API. Did we mention we also had to merge content from Ride Oregon Ride into this new site? Because we totally did.

Performance of the site on a variety of devices was key – as part of the redesign, we focused on the performance of the platform, the code, and of course, the content, At the platform level, Travel Oregon selected Pantheon for their reliability, highly tuned hosting environment and the inclusion of their Fastly-backed Global CDN. Throughout development, inefficient code was refactored and additional services such as ElasticSearch were implemented to increase performance. As content is created, imaged are optimized (without taking away from their quality) to quickly deliver all of those juicy, rich landscapes to you.

Image: Grid of Oregon locations and activities across the state

The Results

Overall, ThinkShout maintained a strong UX narrative throughout the project lifecycle – this project was really more about how Travel Oregon could serve their audiences and tell an attractive, content-rich story of Oregon and all that it has to offer.

Not only that, but we also have built an infrastructure that is easy for administrators to maintain and manage – saving time and costs for staff. Additionally, the improvement in site speed and performance gives the team at Travel Oregon the sense of security and peace of mind that comes with having one less thing to worry about.

The result was the merging of two sites (the former TravelOregon.com and Ride Oregon Ride) that now make this the go-to site for all things indoor and outdoor in Oregon. It welcomes hours of exploration and information for those considering a visit as well as resident Oregonians themselves.

Launch Site

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