The brief: The New Zealand Walking Access Commission is a Crown entity that plays a lead role in protecting this heritage by promoting free, certain, enduring and practical access to the outdoors. They required a new website which communicated this, but also a separate, interactive online tool that efficiently revealed the thousands of accessible tracks and trails spread across the country.
Understanding the Problem
Because of the uncertainty over what the online track and trails tool was, Somar engaged the Walking Access Commission with a Design Sprint to fully understand the problem and come up with solutions in a short space of time. In just 3 days, the build team alongside the product owner: identified the core problem, ideated on potential solutions, refined the ideas, and even user tested a simple prototype. This helped us, and the product owner, identify issues before the project officially started.
The tracks and trails tool required a map interface because it was the most obvious solution to illustrating physical landmarks and paths around the country.
We implemented a custom map which not only reflected the brand, but also combined a lot of additional topographical and terrain information that other maps do not.
Combined with search and filter functionality, it allows users to find nationwide tracks by region, activity, difficulty, length, and more.
Built for the Users
Through-out the project, we invited members of the public (sometimes those engaged in tramping clubs, and also just non-outdoors people) to come into our studio and try out the website. We gave them scenarios and observed how they carried out the tasks using the online tool, making notes on things they liked and areas they struggled with. All of this was exposed to the build team (including the product owner at the Walking Access Commission) who made iterations and refinements to the website. The end result is a well tested user experience that delivers what people need; without any double guessing.
Every project has issues and roadblocks. Somar roll with the punches and learn from everything we do:
Complex Data Sources
Because of the shear number of tracks and trails (it needed to allow for over 5,000) and how complicated the paths can be, managing that amount of data and serving it to the user in an accessible manner required a lot of technical management. Pulling in data sets from multiple sources, Somar ensured that load times and delivery of the information worked across a range of bandwidth limitations and also mobile devices.
Crafting Brand Guidelines
When the Walking Access Commission first engaged with us, they acknowledged that their brand guidelines were not sufficient. They also did not have any digital brand guidelines. Somar started off the project by creating a pattern library based off their existing brand for the organisation, which formed the building blocks to their online presence.