The Santa Clara County Open Space Authority (OSA), Silicon Valley, is dedicated to balancing the preservation of open spaces with future urban growth. dedicated to balancing the preservation of open spaces with future urban growth. The organization protects over 18,000 acres of wildlife preserves, including over 20 miles of trails open to the public. Its scenic vistas and bountiful flora and fauna inspire visitors to appreciate the beauty of nature and protect it for future generations.
The redesigned website, increased traffic and engagement by 331%, giving OSA more opportunities to connect with visitors through events, volunteering, community outreach, and conservation efforts.
The Problem: An Unengaging, Organization-centric Website
OSA’s outdated website no longer met visitors’ needs. It was difficult for users to navigate, too organization-centric, and not mobile-friendly. As a result, it failed to engage website visitors and provide them with relevant, timely, and useful information.
The Objective: Engage and Educate
OSA wanted its new website to engage website visitors and support the organization’s purpose and mission.
The specific objectives were:
- Increase the number of people coming to OSA’s preserves.
- Raise awareness about the environmental and economic impacts of conservation.
- Increase participation in OSA volunteering programs.
- Reduce and simplify volunteer reports and timesheets.
- Educate the community about open government and provide full transparency.
- Establish OSA’s thought leadership on conservation.
- Assist with community outreach and engagement.
- Provide access to public policy documents in a user-friendly manner.
Starting by Learning
What Users Want
WeDevelUp was chosen to execute this project out of 20 other respected agencies, due to our user-driven approach, thought leadership in user experience, and proven record of generating user engagement.
Our focus from day one was on the end user. We started the project by traveling to Santa Clara Valley to interview OSA’s staff and local audience, and learn about their needs, wants, and pain points.
We learned that they needed the website to include several features, such as:
- Quick and easy ways to find the best preserves and trails depending on their activities and preferences.
- Invitations and recommendations for local events and volunteering opportunities.
- Information about conservation, as well as local plants and animals.
- Updates about volunteer opportunities (for individuals, corporations and schools) and an easy sign-up process to reduce paperwork.
- Full transparency on the effectiveness and outcome of taxpayer money.
Develop Wizard animation
If You Talk the Talk, You Must Walk the Walk (Literally)
As part of our research, WeDevelUp's team hiked most of OSA’s trails, learning about the preserves, studying local plants and animals, as well as planning out a strategy to create an “ultimate digital experience”. Having our team go through the same experience as visitors was invaluable. For example, we realized that some of the trails didn’t have cellphone reception, so the future website would need trail maps that could be downloaded and viewed offline.
How Bad User Experience Resulted in an “Aha! Good User Experience” Idea
During the first trip to meet with OSA’s leadership team, Andrew Kucheriavy, the Chief Experience Officer of WeDevelUp, wanted to pick a nearby preserve for a quick, but challenging hike. During this process, he resorted to using Google Maps, looking up the location of each preserve, studying four different trail maps, and then comparing them side by side to pick which seemed like the best option. As a result, Andrew missed some good nearby hikes. He also spent more time on research and sitting in traffic to get to the furthest preserve than on the actual hiking trail. Hardly an enjoyable user experience.
An idea was born. The new website interface cuts through the clutter and shows the various activities visitors can partake in at OSA’s preserves. Website visitors first choose an activity (either hiking, biking, horseback riding, or family activities) and an intensity level (either easy, moderate, or difficult). Based on this input, the wizard suggests trails and preserves to visit and shows the actual trail and location of the recommended preserves given the user’s location.
Interactive Trail Maps that Work the Way You’d Expect
From day one we knew that maps were going to be the most important component of the new website. The usual Google Maps wouldn’t “cut it”. We designed custom, interactive maps with detailed features of each preserve that could be accessed on computer or mobile devices, or downloaded, emailed, printed, and used offline. We also made it very easy for users to switch between preserves, as well as “zoom out” to view the entire area for a point of reference.
Volunteer Portal: More Time on Trails, Less on Paperwork
OSA relies on volunteers to patrol the preserves, assist with trail maintenance, and serve as docents and guides. The new website has a dedicated Volunteer Portal, where visitors can apply to become volunteers, and active volunteers can log in to enter their volunteering activities. The portal also gives easy access for OSA’s staff to manage and track the overall impact of the volunteer program.
Thought Leadership on Conservation
The Conservation section of the website educates the public about the importance of environmental conservation and maintains updates about OSA’s conservation initiatives. Throughout this section, OSA is positioned as a thought leader, providing valuable information to the public about the economic impact of conservation, the importance of clean water, how conservation affects agriculture, and the variety of wildlife present in the preserves.
Increased Community Engagement
Community involvement is very important to OSA. On the Community section of the website, visitors can learn about the impact that OSA has had on the community, various projects it has sponsored, and apply for grants to establish open spaces in urban communities.
Improved Open Government and Transparency
OSA wanted to ensure that the information about its innerworkings and the use of public funds was as transparent and accessible to the public as possible. The website includes a Public Information page where visitors can access public records, request permits, find information about public meetings, and download OSA’s policies, guidelines, and financial reports.
Results: Better Engagement & Happier Users
As a result of this project, the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority now has a website that has the potential to increase the number of people coming to its preserves, raise awareness about conservation, increase volunteerism; provide transparency about its operations, establish OSA as a thought leader on conservation, and more.
We wanted to update our old site to be user friendly and implement features that would make our users excited to visit our site. WeDevelUp addressed all our needs and wants within that scope of work. We've received compliments from our partner agencies and the public about how much they like the new look and how easy it is to navigate.
Alisha Maniglia, Communications Coordinator