Building the Southern Destinations website brought up more challenges what is listed below, but this post will cover only the major challenges. They needed:
- A new website with WordPress functionality.
- The ability to showcase accommodation and tours by price – the prices had to be available in different currencies
- A solution for menus – we needed to display many different items inside the menu.
- Display related content
- Blog functionality
- Search functionality
- A way for customers to apply for specials
To give Southern Destinations a website that could be managed effortlessly by site owners, we designed a custom WordPress site using WordPress’s simple content management system (CMS). The old Southern Destinations website had a custom CMS but the company recognised that SEO was a major weakness within their previous custom solution. In light of this we focused on ensuring that SEO was not a weakness in the new website. We used WordPress SEO and the WooCommerce SEO add-on. We also developed custom solutions that would ensure the best breadcrumb structure. Rafiq Phillips, an external person, did all the SEO. Trish Lee and her designer team did all the design work.
Next we will look at Southern Destinations’ need to showcase accommodation and tours by price (and currency). We used the WooCommerce plugin to do this. Currently, “Rooms” and their data are stored as “Product Variations” and we integrated with Travelogic to pull through live pricing for accommodation properties.
In order to incorporate many different items into the menu, we created a mega menu (a dropdown menu that contains images). Visitors can navigate to different destinations, tours and preferred lodges.
To display related content, we used tabs. For example, if visitors view a page about Botswana, they can click on a “Regions” tab to see regions related to Botswana. There is also an “Itinerary” tab which shows related tours and a “News” tab which shows related blog posts.
We also made it possible for the Southern Destinations team to upload client reviews. These reviews can be related to any of the tours, accommodations and destinations on the site. As a result, readers can link directly to related tours, accommodations and destinations from a single “Reviews” page.
We designed a blog that helps Southern Destinations to attract website visitors and create interest in tours. Authors can publish and categorise posts with engaging content such as high-resolution photos and videos. Authors can also link posts to tours and accommodations to posts. When they link a post to a destination, that post will show up in the “News” tab on the page for that destination.
Furthermore, readers can make comment and share posts on social media sites and via email, attracting more visitors to the Southern Destinations website.
Turning to Search Functionality, we developed some of the Elastic Search code and used a plugin called WordPress Fantastic Elastic Search. There were some major hiccups concerning development on this plugin and we ended up using the SherlockPHP elastic search library to develop the custom functionality not supported by Fantastic Elastic. The Elasticsearch server indexes the content, making it faster to run search queries a necessity due to Southern Destinations having large amounts of content. A great feature of the site’s search functionality is that it does not actually show search results: there is an Autocomplete Field that links straight to the posts or tag archives.
Lastly, they had the need to enable and encourage their clients to apply for specials. We did this via a quotation form that pops up when a user clicks to book a special. Users can then submit their details which Southern Destinations use to get back to them.
Southern Destinations is one of our best projects yet. The client was great and easy to work with. We gave them a completely new website that was search engine friendly.