Pitkin Outside - Ecological Information Finder

Main Search Window for EcoFinder
Client:   Pitkin County

Pitkin County, Colorado, is most famous for the town of Aspen which it surrounds. This mountain region is both popular and ecologically rich - and it has a very involved citizenry, even with a population under 30,000.  The county open space and trails department asked GreenInfo to extend earlier work done on a trailfinder application and broaden the site's function to allow searching for studies and data concerning the region's ecology. 

Citizens and officials alike take seriously their stewardship of the Pitkin County landscape. With soaring mountains, rushing streams, a vigorous tourism-driven economy, and an array of natural biodiversity, this area is filled with important natural resources - and with development pressures. The County government has for some time been interested in how it could make the existing resource information about the region more accessible to everyone with an interest.  They imagined having an information finder web application that would complement the trail finder application GreenInfo had developed several years prior. 

GreenInfo began this project by exploring what data was of interest and who the County imagined to be the relevant audiences. As part of this work, we conducted several user interviews to learn how people thought when approaching the question, "where do you go to get natural resource information and what do you then do with it?"  We complemented this user research with several discussions with the project's core stakeholders via web calls, in order to fully understand the needs at hand. 

From seeing initial details of the information types the County sought to make available and from these early discussions, we developed preliminary wireframes that sketched out how a user might use such a site to find what they needed.  We tested these both with the stakeholders and with our interactive staff, checking both usability and technology approaches. 

Rather than build a custom application, we chose to use Wordpress, mostly commonly known as a blogging platform. By treating each item of information as its own "post" (think blog entry), we could use the Wordpress system functions for many aspects of the EcoFinder application, rather than custom coding them. Because the total size of the eventual database is still relatively compact (it's only metadata, not actual documents), we could have the entire database load on in a user's web browser, when they visit the site - this means that searches filter the full list almost instantaneously, as choices are made in the search panel. 

As an additional feature, we inserted a map of the watersheds of the Pitkin region. This allows users to query by general location and to see for any one item the area it applies to. Items in the application don't have consistent locations that are more specific than watersheds. 

Finally, we developed a starting page that allows users to branch to the existing TrailFinder, or to proceed to the EcoFinder from www.PitkinOutside.org.  

Focus:   Conservation, Government Agencies  

Services:  Interactive Solutions, Applications Development, Website Design 

Tags:   Colorado  

Project Years: 2018-2019

GreenInfo Network creates, analyzes, visualizes and communicates information in the public interest. We specialize in mapping and related technology for nonprofits and public agencies, focusing on using it for conservation, social equity, public health, environment and foundation grant making.
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