Gorgefriends.org strikes a balance between being a credible news authority and tourism outlet
“The great thing is if you work with the right people, like Cascade, and they are willing and motivated to improve their work when you come across something that doesn’t work as well as you’d like, the solution is...we go to them and talk about ways to make it better.”
-Stan Hall, Digital Content Strategist • Friends of the Columbia Gorge
Founded 1980, Friends of the Columbia Gorge has served as protector of the natural beauty of the Gorge and encourages the public’s enjoyment of this Pacific northwest jewel. Our latest website project with them was driven by a need for a mobile responsive site that serves multiple purposes including a news feed, donation portal, tourism information, event guide and a “Find a Hike” section, all of which would need to be flexible enough to work into an upcoming brand refresh. From a technical standpoint, they needed a scalable platform and a way to streamline third party integrations like MailChimp, SalesForce, and other CRM systems.
Our strategy included an overall design that was more visual and less text heavy to showcase the beautiful images of the Gorge. We started with an audit of the existing site that included site analytics and input from key stakeholders.
From the visitors view, a robust and user-friendly Find a Hike section needed to include multiple preferences including distance, difficulty and activities such as family friendly, birdwatching, historical or trails with waterfalls.
On the back end, we created an intuitive and flexible content module that allowed for easy updates and customization while still following the brand’s aesthetic style guidelines.
The site launched shortly before the devastating Mosier oil-train derailment in June of 2016, which created an environmental and public safety emergency. It was quickly put to the test as a resource for up-to-date news on the fire and environmental impacts as well as a portal for donations to aid with the recovery efforts. The site provided tools for the team to deploy critical information without the need of technical assistance by Cascade.
The solution was again tested during the Eagle Creek fire in August 2017. The Friends site quickly established itself as the go to resource for objective information as the situation unfolded. It also allowed for efficient donations to support the entire region. In support of the ongoing fire recovery efforts, the Find a Hike section has a map overlay that shows which trails are open or closed.
The site wasn’t developed to just handle crisis, we were able to integrate five different 3rd party software programs to maximize the performance of the database, social media channels and other tools like forms and calculators. The new site allows better access to analytics that tie to key performance indicators and goals that can be tracked and easily reported to the client.
While the site is robust enough to handle rapidly changing news during times of crisis, it’s also an ongoing source tourism and conservation efforts to preserve the beauty of the Gorge for years to come.
3rd Party Integration
Building a fundraising Portal
From May 28, 2016 (the day the current site launched) until Sept. 2, 2017 (the day before the Eagle Creek fire began), gorgefriends.org had 742,782 pageviews over 432 days – a per day average of 1,719.
From Sept. 3, 2017 (the day the Eagle Creek fire began) until yesterday, gorgefriends.org had 1,490,355 pageviews over 519 days – a per day average of 2,871.
New interactive Plan a Hike map drives 50% of site traffic.
During the Eagle Creek fires Cascade quickly created a pop-up fundraising site to raise funds for rescue efforts. Goal was to raise $5000 to reimburse the local search and rescue organization. Actual was closer to $45,000 raised.