Business In Vancouver
A unique platform for a diverse business community
It takes many groups to create relevant, local content for a successful print and online publication like Business in Vancouver. We were awarded the project to modernize their website and it presented a unique opportunity to reimagine their entire publishing platform.
A complex redesign
With eight separate business units (News; Lists; Podcasts; Event Postings; BIV Promotions; Advertising; Print Distribution; and Subscription Management) that we needed to build custom solutions for, we had our work cut out for us. We had members of the BIV team (many of whom had been through website redesigns in the past) told us it was impossible to build a new website, migrate all the content and users over, set up a new e-commerce platform, improve the internal content entry processes and the performance of the website in less than a year of design and development time.
Breaking the story
A technology upgrade shouldn’t make it more difficult to do your job. It should make it easier. That’s why we consulted with each internal content development team and treated separate departments as mini-projects within the larger initiative.
We met with each group, developed specific tools, received feedback and iterated on each solution. These new applications, in addition to 40,000 legacy articles, lists and older content were integrated into a new BIV website that was optimized for both publishers and readers alike.
We had set a goal for ourselves to complete the project and launch in five months. Beating all expectations, we were able to achieve our goal.
We gave Andrew and his team an impossible task: build us a completely new, modern, publishing platform with all of the features of our existing site (which had been under active development for years), all of the content migrated, and all of the active subscribers moved over. And make it better. We were budget-conscious and had only five months to launch. We launched on time and on budget.
A scalable solution
As a true technology partner, we continue to maintain and optimize the site, meeting every 2 weeks with each stakeholder group to determine priorities and publish updates on an ongoing basis.
The new redesigned biv.com is an expression of our business philosophy that technology should be transparent to the teams that we are building solutions for. We built an infinitely scalable solution that will support long term growth for a very essential group of journalists in our city.
The Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre, is mandated to help support those who support children and youth with mental health issues. They do this by curating hundreds of peer reviewed resources, videos, and articles, building connections between them so visitors can easily navigate the site and find what they are looking for.
Identifying the problem
One of our longest client relationships, we have worked with BC Children's Hospital for over eight years. Having built the original Kelty Mental Health website, we were asked to work with the team on the redesign and redevelopment of a new website in the Spring of 2017. The site had been built on Drupal 6, but had now reached end of life and an upgrade was needed.
Over the years we had continuously improved the existing Kelty website, but there were some changes that would need a complete re-architecture and re-design. Rather than do a straight upgrade to Drupal 8, this was our chance to look at the site as a whole and build new user workflows and experiences.
The core value of the Kelty website are the 600+ vetted resources that have been organized and categorized by the Health Literacy staff at BC Children's Hospital. We believed that there was still more ways that we could help the team organize that content, but more importantly, we believed that there was a way we could empower site visitors to curate that content as well.
We believe in building lasting value into our products, and that the best way to grow traffic on a website is by building the best tools that solve a real need that people have. Another insight that we love to bring to our clients is that they are one of the primary users of their website, so while we focus on the external users through our extensive user research process, we also believe that we can learn a lot from the website content curators and want to make our technology as transparent as possible.
The support workers at the Kelty Mental Health centre take phone calls from worried parents, school counsellors, doctors and nurses and help direct them to the right resources. Often, they will ask for the callers email address and send them a list of websites or PDFs so they can learn more.
Over the years we had built administration tools to help these frontline workers build resource lists or email tools but there had been little to no uptake, they had a system in place that they were happy with, or they felt there were security issues with adding a callers email address into a web form.
We felt we needed to explore this user interaction and build a new tool that any website visitor could use, and hopefully eliminate the need for a user account or any user-identifiable information that would be stored on the server.
Building the tool
We wanted to start on this problem as early in the process as we could. Where normally we would work through a website redesign step by step, we split off a group to work on user interaction experiments that we could present to the BCCH team as well as our UX researchers and designers on the project.
Once we had approval from the various teams on the project, we built a working prototype using the resources and site content that we had imported from the Drupal 6 site into Drupal 8 (which had its own set of problems and solutions).
We settled on a solution a few months later that achieved everything that we set out to do:
- no user identifiable information is stored on the server
- collections can be added, edited and shared quickly and easily
- secure process was built to move editing capability for user collections from one computer to another using magic links
Once we had a working prototype that was feature complete, we had our design team skin the tool and iterate through tweaks to it, as well as our UX researcher collect valuable real-world experiences from users and report back on recommendations.
Kelty Mental Health is a perfect example of the type of digital approach that can evolve over time to address diverse needs as they are identified, developed and launched on a feature-by-feature basis.
We could have just redesigned the site with feature parity and move on to our next project. Instead, we were able to take the time to add a new layer of interaction to the resources, information pages and tools on the site, empowering users to create their own curated lists of content.
These user interactions feed into analytics data, giving us another dimension of understanding in how visitors interact with the content on the site, which will feed us with a direction on what tools to build next.
Check back often to see how the site continues to evolve.
Oppy, one of North America’s largest produce distributors, was looking for a technology partner who would listen to their needs, approach their problems objectively, and strengthen communication throughout their worldwide network of growers and buyers.
Transforming data into solutions
Oppy had a tremendous amount of information (updated on an up-to-the-minute basis) within each category of produce, but their old website was limited to presenting static pages and downloadable PDFs.
The client recognized that, by working with the right technology partner, their site had the potential to become a more useful tool for every member of the supply chain.
Rather than addressing a long list of bugs with the old site, Mellenger Interactive focused on developing a comprehensive project plan to create a new web-based tool that would deliver timely information (that was as fresh as the produce itself) and add real value.
We produced this demo video that appears on Oppy's homepage.
Interactive data experiences
Availability is presented in overlapping, brightly coloured bar charts. Location information is presented as interactive overlays, showing supply details of where a variety is sourced, right down to the province or region level. Category information for a specific variety of produce is easily determined through the use of icons.
Key employees throughout every division of the operation, as well as external suppliers, are now empowered to modify information, including product availability, using a streamlined data entry process. Fresh information is then propagated throughout the site so everyone in the supply chain is able to make decisions based on accurate information.
This level of interactivity provides a platform for collaboration between business operations that would otherwise rarely occur and allows for greater teamwork and problem-solving within the company.
By building a solution that gives category managers the tools to update data themselves, visitors can be confident the information on oppy.com is fresh and up-to-date, which will ultimately help drive sales and marketing initiatives.
Every facet of The Fresh Sheet is built with the ongoing needs of the user in mind. Whether we’re talking about potential customers, internal staff responsible for updating content, or people within Oppy responsible for making decisions based on timely information, we wanted this web-based tool to be easy to use and to deliver a fresh and rewarding experience every time.
For this reason, we made sure that it was built on long-term content delivery platforms that include Drupal CMS, HTML5, and a mix of interactive overlays (using custom programming, Google Maps API v3 and Fusion Tables.)
The result is a website that is easy to maintain, update, and enhance as additional functionality is required.
“We knew our website was capable of more, and partnered with Mellenger to realize its potential.”
Haystack is a Drupal and Wordpress plugin that improves conversion by allowing site visitors to quickly find exactly what they’re looking for.
A recurring challenge
Mobile-friendly websites look great, but the lack of traditional menus make them harder to navigate. Optimization for mobile devices has typically meant stripping back functionality. This is an even bigger problem for e-commerce sites with thousands of hard-to-find pages which leave potential customers twiddling thumbs instead of clicking on purchases
Supercharging the search process
We knew there had to be a better way, so we decided to create Haystack — a fast, intuitive, auto-completing search tool — and allow other developers to improve the user experience of their websites with this easy-to-install plugin.
Building the tool
We initially built Haystack to improve the search performance of an existing client’s website but soon realized it could do the same for almost any (Drupal or Wordpress) site.
If you’d like to see what Haystack can do for you, sign-up for your first month free by visiting haystack.menu
Heart and Stroke Foundation
You have seconds to read this and save a life.
For more than 60 years, Canadian families have looked to the Heart and Stroke Foundation to help them improve their health every day. The challenges faced by our population today are different, but no less compelling than those faced 60 years ago when the Foundation was created.
Time to Respond.
A critical challenge
The Heart and Stroke Foundation was working on an awareness campaign for cardiac arrest. Research had shown that people were unprepared to deal with a heart attack within the 3-minute window required to save a life.
Together with our partner on the project, Watershed Group, we decided to create an app that would entertain, engage and communicate the time-sensitive nature of the subject in a way that reading text in a brochure or on a web page would lack.
We created the CPR app to demonstrate that the first couple of minutes following cardiac arrest are critical.
Knowing how to save someone experiencing cardiac arrest doesn’t really help if you’re the one having the heart attack. The insight was to encourage people to get their friends to learn CPR (an act that could literally save their life.)
We built an app that would create an engaging experience that would stick with people, train them to deal with sudden heart failure and, more importantly, give them the urgent desire to share it via email and social media. (“Hey, I learned how to do this to save your life, now you now need to learn this too.”)
While the subject matter was serious, the app also needed to be fun.
We named it Call. Push. Restart. (sharing the same acronym as the proper name for CardioPulmonary Resuscitation) and incorporated the necessary steps (Call 911, perform CPR to the same rhythm as the song “Staying Alive”, properly deploy and use a defibrillator—Clear!) There was also a random element of surprise.
Users needed to respond to scenarios whenever they were notified by the app within in a one, two or four-hour window. Results (good or bad) could be shared with friends and followers.
The campaign was the most successful initiative in the history of the foundation. In addition to 25,000 downloads from the iOS and Google Play app stores, the British Columbia campaign also generated significant news coverage.
CBC News reported on the app and shared stories of the entire newsroom getting involved in the act. We figured it was a good indicator of success if people with lives as hectic as reporters, editors and news anchors could enjoy our app.
During its initial launch in April, Call. Push. Restart. was one of the top 5 Health and Fitness apps in Canada.
A few months later, we rolled out an update with additional scenarios and a coupon for $200 off an AED for anyone who downloaded and shared the app.
The tool continues to be used (and potentially save lives) to this day.
With fruit production ramping up in growing regions around the world, Enza, Turners & Growers, and Oppenheimer Group needed to simultaneously promote Envy and connect with people who were already struggling to find the apple in the market.
Promoting a rare find
Anyone who's bitten into an Envy Apple is blown away. This Braeburn/Royal Gala cross is surprisingly large, crisp, and sweet - which makes people's enthusiasm hard to contain. Given the viral nature of consumer reaction (take this tweet from pop icon Cher for example) the marketing strategy was naturally geared toward driving trial.
While this made sense at first blush, there was a significant hurdle to overcome. A new variety of apple tree takes years to bear fruit and - while it was now being grown outside of New Zealand in a number of orchards in Washington state and Chile - Envy was still hard to find. So, how do you drive trial when people can't get their hands on the product?
The solution we came up with is a Web-based locator application that connects people who are seeking Envy with those who have found Envy in their communities.
This allows Enza, Oppy and their partners to avoid potential backlash through social media regarding product scarcity and allows for a community of seekers, finders and vendors to grow organically online.
Beyond simple functionality, the result is a living demonstration of the desirability of the product (visualizing the number of people around the world currently looking for Envy Apples.)
The interactive experience was created using a variety of technologies including a location-aware database, proximity-based referral engine, and Google Map integration. Usability barriers (such as ID and password creation) were eliminated while retaining the ability to seamlessly capture user data in order for the tool to work and provide functionality.
In other words, the technology doesn't get in the way of the user experience, while providing valuable metrics on availability and market demand.
The platform also allows for the evolution of diverse marketing initiatives including lead generation, contesting, referrals and even product fulfillment based on demand & engagement within a specific region.
The unique data set is self-populated by consumers.
This provides distributors and vendors with the most up-to-date information on demand and availability when it comes to placing orders and planning local marketing initiatives.
Store Managers can participate in the conversation without needing a login & password. It also provides them with an ideal opportunity to engage with community members surrounding key dates — like the arrival of the first shipment of the season. The platform also creates a self-sustaining content stream for social media.
Talk about a juicy solution!
Cities don’t become exceptional by accident. URBANARIUM provides Metro Vancouver with an intelligent platform for dialogue around urban planning and identifying areas to be celebrated or improved upon.
A community-wide challenge
Many decisions that shape a city are made by a limited number of people with vested interests — such as politicians seeking to construct monumental legacies or developers looking to maximize their return on investment. The people who have typically been left out of the conversation are those who must, literally, live with the consequences: regular citizens.
The Vancouver Urbanarium Society seeks to increase the brainpower involved in key decision making by engaging the broader community in discussions and providing them with reliable, unbiased information.
It was only fitting that we became engaged in this project through our association with Post Projects— a design firm we shared downtown office space with.
Engaging the community
The Smartmap is a digital tool designed to get people talking about their urban surroundings and contribute to the ongoing conversation.
It starts off by asking a simple yet provocative question: “What place, space or building do you think is smart or not so smart in your city?” Users can also begin the process by dropping a pin on the map for a specific location they feel motivated to talk about. Photographs can be added as well— to provide additional clarity and sway.
Anyone who visits the site can vote anonymously in favour of any point of view they discover on the Smartmap, or feel inspired to add their own fresh point of view.
The Smartmap is constantly evolving over time, which makes it an increasingly useful tool for people to check in with to discover what’s going on in the city.
Functionality comes from what is essentially an annotation layer that sits ontop of a stylized version of Google Maps. By combining the two interfaces, we have created an entirely new way of communicating and thinking about the city.
By using the Smartmap, visitors to the site simultaneously learn and share—what they think about—urban planning, architecture and design.
An ongoing conversation
The data set within the Urbanarium Smartmap is questionspecific and the infrastructure is easily extendable, meaning that—once the original Smartmap is filled with information—the Vancouver Urbanarium Society can easily create a new Smartmap (to answer a different question) that adds to and expands on the broader discussion.
So, rather than simply grumbling about an aspect of the city that bugs us (individually) we can all contribute something meaningful to the conversation on how to make life in Metro Vancouver even better in ways no individual (or special interest group) could ever imagine.