Beyond Canada 150: Ottawa Tourism taps OPIN to revamp digital presence

Local agency specializes in custom Drupal web projects
Ottawa cityscape, as seen from the top of the Andaz
A view of Ottawa, as seen from the top of the Andaz Hotel. (Photo by James Peltzer)

As the festivities marking Canada’s 150th anniversary drew to a close, Ottawa Tourism faced a simple yet formidable task: Maintain the momentum from 2017, when a record 11 million visitors arrived in the nation’s capital.

With travellers seeking ever-increasing amounts of information about would-be destinations online, Ottawa Tourism understood that strengthening its digital presence would be key to building on last year’s successes.

The destination marketing organization started its search for a new digital agency that would be tasked with refreshing a website that needs to speak to visitors, residents and Ottawa Tourism members alike.

In the end, Ottawa Tourism didn’t have to look far from its downtown office.

Following a request for proposals process, Ottawa Tourism recently announced its partnership with OPIN Software, a digital agency housed in a modern office on Catherine Street.

“It’s a great time to be updating the website, especially with a local company that can add that extra local flavour,” says Beverley Carkner, Ottawa Tourism’s director of marketing.

A strategic partnership

As the digital agency of choice for an ever growing list of local, national and international organizations, OPIN has a portfolio of work spanning a wide range of sectors. In Ottawa, the firm has worked with the City of Ottawa, the Ottawa Public Library, the University of Ottawa and the Office of the Prime Minister, among others.

For Ottawa Tourism, the decision to partner with OPIN came after a lengthy search. Though it wasn’t a prerequisite that the chosen company be from Ottawa, it was nevertheless a factor that the Ottawa Tourism team took into consideration.

The locks in downtown Ottawa.
The locks beside the Chateau Laurier. (Photo by Ryan Stefan)

“Working with OPIN has been a really great relationship,” says Carkner. She says the two organizations share a similar corporate culture, and have found great synergy since forging the partnership in April.

And for the OPIN team, the experience has been similarly positive.

“In working with Ottawa Tourism, we get to work with a lot of local businesses, which definitely has a cool factor,” says Steve Lavigne, a product owner at OPIN.

In his role, Lavigne holds the vision of the product and acts as the requirements liaison between the client and the development team at OPIN.

Drupal

Another major factor in choosing OPIN was the agency’s use of the Drupal platform. The open-source content management system is becoming increasingly popular among web developers due to its highly customizable nature.

“It’s a really exciting time to be developing a website that reflects the city that we live in now.”

The Drupal community has members all around the world, with approximately five per cent of websites running on the platform. These include Montreal’s airport authority, the Edmonton International Airport and numerous departments and branches of the Canadian government.

While an open-source platform wasn’t a requirement for Ottawa Tourism, the organization quickly learned that the technology was the logical choice for its new web presence.

The organization’s current website runs on WordPress, another open-source platform. Though it’s the CMS of choice for many, the plugins for Ottawa Tourism’s events calendar and multi-language interface often result in a slower overall load time for the site.

“The way that Drupal works, it’s much easier to implement these types of tools in a way that doesn’t clog the system,” says Carkner.

Agile

Another way that OPIN set itself apart from the competition is with its use of the Agile project management methodology. As Lavigne explains, it’s a system that many software developers claim to use, but there are few who are true practitioners.

“OPIN prides itself on its use of Agile – we reference the textbook daily to make sure we’re actually following it and not just saying that we do,” says Lavigne.

Put simply, Agile breaks down the management of a project into brief, two-week iterations. At the end of each two-week cycle, the development team checks in with the client to ensure the project is moving in the right direction and to determine priorities for the next cycle.

The OPIN web dvelopment team poses at Tulip Festival
The OPIN team. From left, Adrian Rylski, Jesse Kahtava, Tazirie LeClerc, Steve Lavigne and Valerie Boucher. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

It allows web development teams to recalibrate throughout the life of a project, rather than arriving at a check-in with the client several months in only to find that the project has gone in the wrong direction.

“They get to set the priorities of what we work on first and they get to see value from day one,” says Lavigne.

Agile fosters a collaborative approach to web development, ensuring the client is involved every step of the way.

Jantine Van Kregten, Ottawa Tourism’s director of communications, recalls being on the team that assisted in the development of the organization’s first website more than 14 years ago.

“I think of that process and how slow, cumbersome and awkward it was,” says Van Kregten. “It’s a really exciting time to be developing a website that reflects the city that we live in now.”

Ottawa Tourism’s new site is still under construction, but you can follow along for updates on Twitter @Ottawa_Tourism.

To learn more about the work OPIN Software does for businesses in Ottawa and worldwide, head to OPIN.ca.