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There are no places to experience in Washington

posted by DL Byron on August 07, 2006

Go to Experience Washington and after being impressed by the super-creative, whizzy-whiz-bang Flash site, try searching for “Mazama” … or any city or area. The basic functions of browsing, searching, and finding are non-functional because they’re overwhelmed by a brochure-like Flash interface coupled with .NET, Microsoft Maps, and an “everything we can throw at the browser approach.” I’m sure it looked great in the pitch, had them cheering in meetings, and demos, but very frustrating to actually use.

Dear Agency that made this site, please view this page in the Safari browser and notice how there’s nothing there. Then go here in Firefox. And try to “find a place.”

There are no places if the search doesn’t return them and it doesn’t. And I bet for the same budget, you could’ve hired travel bloggers to blog all over the State and built a valuable community of travelers and tourists instead of an online brochure.

Comments (8)
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Aug 07  |  Eric Sheckler said:

Wow. How could anyone but appreciate the fact that you’re able to summarize months of work with an exceptionally witty and glib line?

I bet your clients are astounded by the depth and diligence that informs your analyses, summaries, and recommendations.

P.S. Bet you’re great @ cocktail parties.

Aug 07  |  -b- said:

It just rolled out this morning and further evidence of my need to take a vacation — starts tomorrow. Was that your firm by chance that did the design? Due props for the photo-brochure. It’s very attractive. It failed me as a functional site and that’s where I had the problems - the photos are very well done. I did hear back from Wa State and they said it’s a work in progress - fair enough. As to cocktails parties, I’d hope so or I bore people with non stop blog talk.

Aug 07  |  Eric Sheckler said:

I am in fact the site designer; we’re using another firm for development.

Whether you’re in need of a vaction or not, there’s no professional excuse for belittling work based on an utterly superficial assessment.

We’re acutely aware of the search and mapping issues, and are working to address them as soon as possible.

But if you think that the site is merely a “photo brochure,” as you continue to assert, you’re profoundly wrong.

Here’s some facts: The site is based on some 110,000 uniquely geocoded data points. We have the location of virtually every point of interest in the state.

We’ve designed the site so that we can easily promote these points into navigation pages by applying a photo and about 40 words of copy.

These “photo brochure” pages are navigatonal nodes, and offer proximal searches for accommodations, activities, attractions, events, etc.

In short, the site is infinitely searchable by context. “I’m @ the Space Needle, what’s nearby?”

We’re glad you like the photos.

We’re proud of the fact that we have developed a vibrant community of nearly 400 photographers ranging in age from 13 to 80 who’ve submitted over 8,000 photos for consideration in about six months.

We’ve only had budget to license 500 photos to date, but we’re hopeful about our ability to move forward with the project.

That is, unless there develops a critical mass of people like you who feel compelled to talk before you ask.

And if you’d bothered to ask, you might’ve been able to provide something of value to your own community – informed commentary.

I’d suggest you check back in to experiencewa.com from time to time to see its progress. Might cause you to reevaluate “photo-brochures.”

Aug 08  |  -b- said:


Thanks for the response. I make no excuses for my observations - the site is very attractive, but it didn’t work for me and I spent about more than an hour on it. I also don’t see the post written as a flame, belittling or superficial. I took the time to write to your clients, via the contact form, offering the same opinion. Their response was courteous, acknowledging that the site had problems. I replied back and posted here - it’s topical to what I post about and a great example for my clients of how to bust out of a brochure and not lock your content up in Flash.

I do see your points and ask if you tried to search on the site like I did or go to the pages that have no content — both failures are linked above. I hope you’re not isolating yourselves from the facts I state and the bottom line is that that no matter how great the site is (and it does look great), it failed for me as a user and I’m the sort of user who should be able to work their way through any sort of mess, because I’m tech savvy. It doesn’t matter how many individual geocoded points the site has if it fails to communicate. And in contrast, the Access Washington sites are incredibly useful.

Regretably, the post was read as one agency flaming another. It’s not, it was me trying to plan a trip to Mazama and finding myself very frustrated. As you wrote, obviously much time went into the site and I’d hope my comments aren’t taken personally, but can make it into another rev. I’d be happy to defuse this, over coffee, say at Zeitgeist Coffee sometime? Let me know.

Aug 08  |  Paul said:

Dare I enter the fray?

While the site is nice looking, the only place I see flash being of use is in the map. Other than that requirement from the map tool, the rest of this site could be nicely handled with JS (AJAX dare I say) and CSS libraries. This would allow the site to flex with the user, thier prefered way of navigating/viewing the great content, and thier possible disabilities or platform.

And I bet no one would know the difference… other than eliminating the limitations of Flash.

Aug 08  |  Eric Sheckler said:

Thanks for the comment Paul.

Funny you should mention it, but the workplan & schedule have been in progress for a few months and in place for a few days.

We’re looking forward to making the switch, as well as resolving the issues mentioned above.


Aug 08  |  DL Byron said:


Lets us know how it goes and when you get the next rev up.

Aug 11  |  ncwportal said:

I’ve always thought the site left a little to be desired. For a site that has thousands of photos being sent to it, been on the web since 1999, has the complete support of Washington State, and has probably cost tax payers tens of thousands of dollars, it just seems like there should be a little more to it.

On the flip side, I am glad it’s not a perfect site. It leaves room for the little guy (with no budget) like myself to compete.

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