About Big White Ski Resort
Just 56 kilometres away from Kelowna and the sunny center of the Okanagan Valley, lies Big White Ski Resort, the third largest resort in BC. Big White is one of North America’s premier mountain destinations.
They have been operating since 1963, when owners Cliff Serwa and Doug Mervyn installed the first t-bar lift on the hill. Over the next 22 years, Big White Ski Resort saw the first lodgings constructed as well as a number of new chair lifts installed. In 1985, Big White Ski Resort was bought by the Schumann family, which led to the start of rapid growth and change. By 1996, Big White was Western Canada’s largest on-mountain village with over 5,500 people.
Now, in 2020, the resort is bigger and busier than ever. Big White is proud to be the home of 16 lifts, 3 hotels, 25 condo and townhouse complexes, 244 vacation homes and cabins, and a ski-in ski-out youth hostel. While you’re staying in one of their many lodging options, you can choose from a variety of different activities beyond skiing. Now open all year-round, there are both Winter and Summer activities from ice skating, dog sledding, snowmobile tours to downhill mountain biking, hiking, and much more.
Big White, Big Site
As a major tourist destination, Big White’s website receives a lot of traffic every day. Similar to owning a car that puts on a lot of miles, Big White’s website needs continuous maintenance and enhancements.
In 2017 Big White needed a web development partner that could work alongside them to provide timely maintenance, improvements, and upkeep.
Their previous website had been designed and developed with another agency, and the team at Big White wasn’t happy with its performance and results. Cheeky Monkey Monkey Media was the perfect partner to step in and help manage the website through ongoing iterations.
Planning, Programming and Enhancements, WebOps.
As we began to work with Big White, we introduced the WebOps approach which included a collaborative team to address and resolve the issues being experienced.
A comprehensive site audit was recommended and conducted, allowing us to understand the website and performance. Based on those results, developers and designers were able to make recommendations that would improve site performance and user experience (UX). This would directly impact the results they were getting, aligning with their high-level goals.
The WebOps team worked with Big White on several user experience enhancements and innovations. We created a development road-map that focused on achieving their goals while adhering to their quarterly budget constraints. The roadmap consisted of several projects as well as ongoing improvements and enhancements.
Drupal 8 Enhancements
Big white needed help enhancing their Drupal 8 website through ongoing iterations and security updates. WebOps was the perfect fit to push forward with the website goals while iterating through gradual enhancements. Regular releases of completed development modules worked within Big White’s budget and timelines, allowing the WebOps team to act quickly on smaller improvements while rolling out larger projects.
To begin, the team focused on ensuring that all Drupal core security and module updates were completed in a timely manner. Due to the size and traffic volume of the site, ensuring security and stability was a paramount concern while additional features and improvements were being introduced.
- Implementing a modular page-building system so Big White could quickly and easily create landing pages through a flexible system.
- Refactoring the site search, as the previous search function was returning errors and slowing down site speed.
- Implementing geo-forwarding on the homepage to direct visitors from different parts of the world to more relevant landing pages.
- Improving the responsive design to ensure the site displayed correctly on the right devices.
Managing Robust Improvements
While these enhancements were being developed, we continued to work with Big White on larger improvement projects within their WebOps plan.
Telus Optik Integration
In October 2017, Telus Optik TV was being implemented at the resort. As a bonus, Telus offered to stream resort webcams, weather, and run conditions from the website to a local on-resort channel within Optik TV.
This required our team to work with Telus to set up the data from BigWhite.com in the form of RSS feeds, and converting the data to an appropriate format for Telus to receive the information. Working within an ambitious timeline, we updated and provided feeds for all nine webcams. Content within the feeds refreshed every 5 minutes, ensuring that mountain goers received the latest updated information.
As well as the work done to allow for Optik integration, Big White wanted to update their webcam layout. This update would improve the usability of the webcams on both desktop and mobile.
The update included moving from a single column layout to a two-column layout, and building out a pop-up feature with horizontal scrolling.
Big White wanted to update their website navigation for both summer and winter - the user experience was not intuitive for either season. Big White wanted the new navigation to be more user friendly and include better search functionality.
Cheeky Monkey Media worked with Big White to put together a design and feature list that met all the functional requirements. This included updated logo placements, toggle features, reworking existing navigation items, adding new menu items, and adjusting the search feature’s placement and functionality.
Big White was looking to update the accommodations experience on the website. They wanted to redesign and develop the accommodation filtering systems, add better location information within the system, and implement a favourite list.
Our team worked to create an intuitive experience for both first-time and return visitors. The filter system was updated to allow sorting accommodations by visitor needs. This included the creation of two main filters that visitors could use:
- Room Type
Each filter allowed visitors to customize their results based on their ideal accommodations.
Big White also wanted to see the accommodation information updated and redesigned, so our team added updated maps to show visitors where their accommodations would be located on the mountain. As well, we updated the unit detail page to show other recommended and available units. And finally, we implemented a ‘Favourite’ list that would allow visitors to add a list of preferred units and have quotes provided for their selection.