Columbus becomes ‘true online publisher’ with new site

Columbus Travel Media has revealed a totally revamped website which it says has transformed the company from a traditional producer of print product to a true online content publisher., which has existed as a hard copy publication for 29 years, has new brand identity, a new look and new functionality.

Prior to the redesign Columbus undertook extensive user research, which revealed the old site needed to be better at tailoring information to users’ demands.

Giving Travolution a sneak preview this week, Jason Trout, chief executive of Columbus Travel Media, said the firm had made an “emotional leap” from the stand point “build it and they will come”.

The new homepage

He said the relaunch had helped the publisher update many of its processes to suit the digital age, and made the site more engaging.

“Where we were with the old site was similar with all old print companies. Our business is based on printed product and our people are used to working on print,” Trout said.

“The old site was literally a book slung into an old content management system and turned into a website. As a consequence what we had was a very data heavy, very intensive user journey.

“As a user we were saying you can have as much information as you want as long as you choose it by guide. And no one made any decision based on the type of guide. They made the decision based on destination.”

Trout said that although work to make the old site more accessible saw unique users grow by 40% this year, it was clear it had gone as far as was possible with the existing site.

Following user research with consultancy Bunnyfoot, Columbus employed agency Start Creative to restructure and redesign the site.

The new site’s homepage, which will go live in beta form, will feature a spinning globe, an enhanced navigation and search facility, more images and maps, and more inspirational content.

Behind the scenes the content has also be configured for various platforms, including mobile, iPad and Kindle, and can be delivered to partners by FTP and XML.

John Finlayson, Columbus commercial director, said: “We know what we are, we are a content publisher. We produce fantastic in-depth travel content but we had to change the back office because part of it is providing content for people to use on their own websites.

“Our new site allows us to deliver that content in a better way, and we also create bespoke content for people. SEO and unique content is very important for our business partners now.”

Further developments to the site will include adding user generated content, social media feeds and free and paid-for mobile apps, starting with one for the new World Travel Atlas.

Trout said the redesign will provide an enhanced platform for commercial partners, offering them new advertising opportunities, better targeting and more page impressions.

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