Project Summary and Client Background
The original SWFD public website was built on PHP and required a new design and content management platform. For this new site, Bit-Wizards chose the Kentico Content Management System. The website also needed an information architecture overhaul to more easily display and allow users to locate the information they need with emphasis placed on the beach flag warning system.
The South Walton Fire District was created by the Walton County Board of Commissioners on August 9, 1983, through Walton County Ordinance 1983-06. SWFD believes they have a duty to demonstrate loyalty and respect to those served by being involved in the communities where they work. Their responsibility is to protect life, property, and the environment. SWFD is committed to fulfilling their duty and deepening their involvement in the community.
The original SWFD public website was built on PHP was not mobile friendly and the design was dated. The new site would require an entirely new design and content management platform. For this new site, Bit-Wizards chose the Kentico Content Management System. Along with the new design the site needed an information architecture overhaul to more easily display and allow users to locate the information they need while emphasizing the beach flag warning system.
South Walton Fire District (SWFD), a former Managed IT Services customer with Bit-Wizards, needed a new website that is responsive for mobile device browsing. The site would display public beach safety, surf, weather conditions, and other general safety and public services information. The most important of these would be the surf conditions displayed as beach flag warning system which required a redesign and development for quick updates as conditions change rapidly.
- Provide an optimal user experience across all devices.
- Establish a new modern design with minor branding enhancements.
- Overhaul of overall site information architecture.
- Provide Google maps integration to display beach access points and life guard tower locations.
- Design would include a focus for the Beach Flag Warning System and other public safety announcements.
- Use integration where possible to ease the need for duplicate content updates in multiple systems to increase efficiencies across the organization.
The Bit-Wizards Solution Delivery and Digital Marketing teams worked closely with several members of the SWFD team to restructure and organize their content to fit user experience best practices. Then they built a design taking into consideration the need for mobile users and modern design. They also worked to ensure the design and content are compliant with statutory requirements set in place by the county.
Using Kentico CMS hosted in Microsoft Azure allows for high availability even during Florida’s storm and tourist season when the public needs information the most.
The importance of the beach flag warning system deemed it a necessity to display on the homepage of the website. Bit-Wizards built a custom carousel display that is easily updated by the SWFD team as changes occur in real-time and provide a one-stop location for the community to access accurate weather and surf information. These updates are also pushed automatically to all SWFD’s public communication channels including Facebook and Twitter.
SWFD also wanted to enable other public entities in the county to access their beach flag warning system. To answer this need, Bit-Wizards built a widget that other county entities can place on their websites to also display the beach flag update information quickly and accurately. SWFD hosts this information on their website for easy access.
A secondary but still essential requirement was the need to display lifeguard towers and beach access points using a Google maps integration directly on the website. This map integration was a simple solution using out of the box Kentico functionality. Content editors now only need to update their hosted Google Map, and the updates automatically display on the website beach safety page
In addition to the content architecture updates, Bit-Wizards suggested a new page called “Letters from the Community” which features letters written to SWFD in appreciation of their services to the community. Previously, SWFD took photos of these messages and pasted them into their site. Now, with a dedicated page, they can display these letters of appreciation in a way that benefits the community and allows for the optimal display of much-deserved recognition. Other content updates were improved as well. A new content area for the Board of Fire Commissioners Meetings displays meeting schedules and also an area for the community to download pdf files of previous meeting notes. The new Gallery page presents an improved layout of SWFD photos and an integration with YouTube for video posting. The Bit-Wizards team also took special care to apply SEO best practices with content structure and site layout.
This website solution perfectly answers the need of SWFD to be a beach safety and public information authority for the county of South Walton, Florida. Keeping with their code “to protect life, property, and the environment.” The new website has also created major efficiencies for the Beach Safety Director.
The SWFD website is built in Kentico v10 using the portal development method, and it is hosted in Microsoft Azure App Services. The new design is fully mobile responsive, giving users a smooth browsing experience.
To answer the need to display the beach flag warning system prominently on the website, Bit-Wizards built a combination of custom page types and custom widgets that display inside a carousel on the homepage of the site. This carousel solution gave SWFD the ability to add special advisory notes or other information on how the public can handle emergency situations other than just the typical beach flag warning.
This flag widget pulls information from SWFD website and provides the most up-to-date information about the warning flags while keeping the SWFD branding intact. If needed, other sites can easily access the API for the latest data without using the widget.
The final SWFD website project successfully fulfills the goals Bit-Wizards set out to achieve. SWFD has a new responsive website with a modern design that allows users to navigate quickly to beach and public safety information. By using several integrations to keep content editing to a minimum, the Bit-Wizards team has enabled SWFD the ability to focus on what they do best—keeping the community safe. Future projects that integrate with the new website are on the horizon for SWFD. They plan to incorporate their bonfire permitting process into the website so that users can use e-commerce functionality to finalize payment for their bonfire permit online and they also plan to integrate their DES (Digital Emergency System) into website so that updates to the flag warning system can be pushed from DES to the site automatically.