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Backpacking Queensland: Australia

  • Project Name: Backpacking Queensland
  • URL: http://www.backpackingqueensland.com.au
  • Project Highlights:
    • Initial web review and strategy document
    • Design and development of new site
    • Development of Web 2.0 functionality
    • SwuzzleBucket Advertising network partner

Backpacking Queensland approached Xebidy to review their proposed web strategy after hearing our Managing Strategic Designer Dan Roberts talk at the recent ATEC Backpacker Conference in Byron Bay.  Xebidy initially undertook a review of the current website and the strategy going forward.  In this review we promoted that a significantly more amount of attention needed to be given to Web 2.0 functionality.

Web 2.0 refers to the interactive elements of the site with the website visitor.  The resulting recommendations subsequently led to Xebidy being engaged to develop a completely new site for Backpacking Queensland.  Some of the new functionality that we have introduced are:

Tags: The idea of the tags is that users can add their own keywords to pages throughout the site as they travel the site to use to remind them of the pages. When an internal page is tagged this tag helps to build up the tag cloud which appears on the home page. The larger the font of the tags on the home page, then the more pages within the site that have been tagged with those tags. Tags, subsequently, provide an informal navigation structure created by the users. We added a little twist to the whole tagging concept by also then providing the user with links to You Tube for videos, Flickr for photos, Wikipedia for definitions, and del.icio.us for other pages across the Internet tagged the same. That means, if a user tags a page Cairns and then wants to see videos and images of Cairns from where they are on the Backpacking Queensland site the functionality is there.

Social network links: The social bookmarks facilitate users saving the Backpacking Queensland pages in popular bookmarking websites. Sites such as Digg and Del.icio.us are where users save their favourite web pages instead of saving them in their browsers. This is very pertinent for travellers who are never in the same Internet Cafe, or on the same computer, and so use these social bookmarking sites save pages they might want to go back to for booking or more information. By providing these links we think we are making it easier for the users, one less impediment to use, and therefore hopefully increasing users likelihood of returning to the Backpacking Queensland site.

Blog feeds: In the new Internet users are seeking information from their peers about the products they are consuming, whether they be travel products or otherwise. Reviews and ratings sites, forums, and blogs provide a user with a great deal of independent content to help them evaluate their options. In the same way as a traveller will talk to other travellers in the hostel common space so too do they use the Internet to research their travels. On the Backpacking Queensland website we have introduced links directly to blogs about the member products. Like the concept of linking the users to You Tube and Flickr for same tag images and videos, we believe that by providing this information on the Backpacking Queensland users will be able to get the independent feedback they require about the products without necessarily needing to go searching elsewhere. The travel stories are all received through our Xebidy Xefeed product where the feeds can be checked for relevancy and then fed back to the Backpacking Queensland website. It means that “unrelated” feeds do not appear. We have handed this completely over to the girls at Gate 7 to manage on a daily basis – although we do offer a complete Internet and social media monitoring service in house here.

Google maps:  The maps show you where the member being shown on that page is, and an aggregating map shows where all the members in the area are. Rather than using stylised maps which are meaningless to a user who has not been to, say, Toowoomba, a Google map can be traversed and can show different views from street levels to satellite. On the Backpacking Queensland site we default to satellite maps for the aggregating views because they are fun and make the site look cool, and then use hybrid maps which combine the satellite map with streets for more purpose (unless the satellite view is not high enough density and we just use street view). The user can easily change these views. As many know mapping is something we take quite seriously at Xebidy and unfortunately it becomes a function of time and cost as to how much mapping functionality to include to a client. We are currently undertaking a very extensive development with another client that would see the maps being able to change the content on the page around them and also have a lot of information around the main focus of the map, for example, a hostel can show where supermarkets, ATM’s things to do etc are relative to them. Hopefully, we can extend Backpacking Queensland mapping in this direction at some point in the future.

Reviews and ratings:  The ability to review a product and have your say, and the ability to make purchase decisions based on other peoples’ input is an important part of Web 2.0. It was agreed very early on that this was a desired feature of the new Backpacking Queensland website. We added one “new” feature, if you like, to this; and that is the ability to add images to a review. If someone has something bad to say, such as the room was dirty, then they can back this up with an image. Hopefully, however, it will lead to users sharing good images as well – “had a great time, here’s me at the Calypso pool table soaking wet – don’t ask”. The greater the users interactivity the more successful the site will be.

Google translations:  You will see in the top right hand corner of the Backpacking Queensland site flags for the different languages and then clicking on these a user is redirected to the Google server where the site is automatically translate. Of course, this is not ideal as inevitably the translation is not of a very high quality, however, it does provide a good intermediary solution to Backpacking Queensland. Anyone that knows anything about websites will know that translating a site can be both expensive and very time consuming. The intention here is for Backpacking Queensland to monitor the traffic and clicks over the next six months or so and should one or more languages prove very popular then they will consider the resources needed to do a proper translation. The Google tool, however, is not all that bad; one of its’ cool features is that it allows users to correct the translations that are not right through the “suggest a better translation tool” and also view the content back in English to assist with deciphering the content. Hopefully, travellers may even contribute to bettering the translations so that it becomes more useable for Backpacking Queensland over time.

On-site advertising: The Backpacking Queensland website uses the Swuzzlebucket onsite advertising network. This is a very new concept that offers an advertising network for the Australian and New Zealand backpacking industry only. It focuses on providing advertising only on adventure tourism and backpacking websites and only shows relevant ads. It means that the users are getting a better experience as they are getting appropriate ads and that advertisers are getting much better value for money as their ads are displayed to their target market. The Swuzzlebucket network works on a minimum charge per 1,000 times an ad is displayed and a cost per click meaning that advertisers only pay for when their ads are working for them.

Newsletters: The newsletter functionality is based on the Open Source solution PHP List. It is all managed on the Backpacking Queensland server and is using probably the most popular newsletter serving software in the world. Like Dan’s blog posts on why Xebidy chose the Silver Stripe framework for the Backpacking Queensland project, we chose PHP Lists because we do not see the point in reinventing the wheel. PHP List is awesome, it has great reports and monitoring ability to see who opens the newsletters, which are deleted and the links etc., that are most viewed. On the Backpacking Queensland site we have used the functionality to the fullest by collecting some demographic data as part of the sign up process. The users are asked when they are traveling to Australia, how long they will travel in Queensland for, some demographic information like age, sex and nationality and then there are options for their interests. Armed with this sort of data Backpacking Queensland can now run specific targeted newsletter campaigns; for example, they may want to send a newsletter to all females, from the UK, aged between 20 and 30 who are interested in diving, that are coming to Australia and Queensland in the next six month, offering some special diving products. There is enormous advertising revenue potential here.

Backpacking Queensland is a very large site and one that we at Xebidy have enjoyed working over the last four or five months. The girls at Gate 7 in Sydney, who are charged with maintaining the site, have been a wonder to work with and hopefully we can work with them again to extend the site. We already have lots of ideas about how to make it better and increase the reach.

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