How would you like to hand-hold a web developer as he creates a WordPress-based Tourist Community Site? Amir Helzer of ICanLocalize recently decided to create such a site for his small tourist town of Bariloche in Argentina. And he wants your help. Over the next month or so, Amir will be taking your advice on this blog to help him create his community tourist site with WordPress. As with all such endeavors, it begins with a plan.
By Amir Helzer
I’ve been living in Bariloche, Argentina, for the past few years. It’s a small town, so folks know each other pretty well. A popular tourist destination, everyone here is doing something with tourists, from renting out cabañas to ski instructors, trout fishing guides to para-gliding. As a web expert, friends often ask if I can help them build a website for their business. They hear that it’s a good way to get new business, especially rich folks from the US and Europe. We may be a calm and relaxing vacation destination, however, we are also determined business people.
Most locals are familiar with static websites, with enough content for a contact page and photo gallery showing off the same tourist images of Bariloche. Recently, I decided instead of meeting their needs individually, I would create a community site for tourist information with WordPress. It will be called Baripedia.
This is not a common project and I need your help and input to make this tourist community site work with WordPress. I’ll be asking WordPress to do a lot of things that stretch it in many ways, ways we aren’t very familiar with. I think it’s the right tool for the job, but making WordPress do what we ask of it pushes it beyond its traditional usage. Want to help?
The Challenges of a Community Tourist Site
Most businesses appearing on Baripedia will need the basics and a bit more:
- A few ‘static’ pages, like a home page and details about different things they offer.
- A contact page.
- Order processing, so that visitors can pay online for products, lodging, and services.
- News and events.
- Map locater (such as Google maps, but it isn’t available in Argentina).
There are a variety of challenges facing a community site focused on tourism. It must represent the community as well as each business involved. Here are some of the challenges involved:
Each company must have a page of information about their products and services with contact information.
- Ecommerce WordPress Plugins must also serve each individual company from within the site.
- We need to decide how to incorporate each business into the site. Should we use WordPressMU and give each business their own “blog” with a front entry blog that links all of the individual ones within the network together? Or have one self-hosted version of WordPress that serves all the businesses?
- Decide how much “freedom” and control each business would have over their “pages” and content. What if one business gets into blogging and writes over 100 blog posts quickly while the others write only a couple?
- Decide what content will go into the community site and which business will contribute what content. Do we need a community editor that will keep the blog going or will each business contribute fairly equally?
- Decide the format of the design and structure. Will it be a newspaper/magazine style, or should it be more commercial and aimed strictly towards high end vacation customers? Or maybe it should be very community-oriented and “friendly”, representing the relaxed tourist community?
- We need functions that are not blog-oriented, such as table views of different businesses with filtering and sorting features. How do we build these functions so that they’re agile and will not easily break when WordPress updates.
To choose right, we must remember what’s important to the people who would eventually participate in this project. To work well, over time, people need to get a real benefit, which can be measured. There are three main things people need it for:
- To have a URL to print on business cards, brochures and other printed stuff.
- A URL to give to other websites. I’m talking about these separately, as this URL can be ask long and complex as needed, while the other must be short.
- To get traffic from search engines and people who know the ‘portal’.
While an independent website, on its own domain would be best for having a short and nice URL, it’s the least fitting for the other two needs. In reality, if there are hundreds of similar businesses, in the same town, Google is not likely to return the website of a particular one, when it can return the website of a directory. Especially if the directory is rich in contents and adheres to web standards.
Ideally, we should find a solution which lets every business feel like he’s got his own patch on the net, where he can express himself and be competitive, while the entire site acts as a high quality resource for information about Bariloche. Your suggestions?
Thanks, Amir Helzer of ICanLocalize
By Amir Helzer of ICanLocalize and Baripedia
Helzer is the founder of ICanLocalize, a human translation service for websites and publishers, developer of Baripedia, a community tourist website and WordPress blog for Bariloche, Argentina, and a web developer.