A faster, easier system to find what you came for.
Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow, so when British Columbia’s historic 2021 wildfire season brought 900% more traffic than usual to FireSmartBC.ca, we resolved to improve the site’s functionality by getting better at directing visitors to their desired destinations.
We started with a statistical analysis of how and why all these people were using our site, identifying what they were interested in, the pathways they used to reach us, and how they navigated the site once they got here. We learned a lot, and that information prompted us to upgrade the navigation system, mainly by tailoring it to the interests and priorities of our audience(s).
FireSmart BC is in the business of raising awareness, initiating action, and empowering others to do the same, so our focus has always been on getting the right information to the right people right away. In some ways, the traffic increase was a product of our success on the awareness front: when the number and scale of BC’s summer wildfires caused more people to research protective measures, many of them already knew where to look. But the growth of our overall audience allowed us to get a much more granular sense of its diversity, and therefore to re-imagine how the site could be more useful to more people in more situations. With an increase in visitors coming to the site to sift through an ever-growing bank of information, tools, and other resources, we wanted to make it faster and easier for anyone and everyone to find what they came for.
We think we have succeeded. Long-time users will note several changes aimed at reducing the number of clicks required to find what they need. The centrepiece of this overhaul is a new navigation bar, which features four core categories defined by different kinds of users and their respective purposes and responsibilities:
- Homeowner Tools, which provides useful resources, including the FireSmart BC Homeowner’s Manual, our just-as-crucial Landscaping Guide, an easy-to-use Home Assessment Score Card, and a highly practical Last-Minute Checklist for wildfire emergencies.
- For Local Governments & First Nations, which caters to anyone whose job or role includes helping to prepare entire communities for wildfire. Here users can (among other things) order valuable planning resources, learn how to obtain various forms of funding under the BC government’s Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) program, or just find out how to get started with the FireSmart Toolkit.
- For Local FireSmart Representatives (LFRs), which offers a comprehensive set of tools designed to help LFRs educate, engage with, and energize people of all ages in the communities they serve. These include education materials, a variety of guides & manuals, information about the FireSmart Canada Neighbourhood Recognition Program, and assessment forms for different kinds of properties. There is even an LFR Den, reserved exclusively for those who spread the principles and practices of FireSmart, providing a virtual space where they can share insights, experiences, and advice with their peers.
- For Fire Departments, which is aimed at those who risk their lives to protect the rest of us against wildfires and other hazards. This section includes Ordering Resources that develop community involvement in preparing for wildfires, how to qualify for provincial CRI funding to help defray the costs, and a sampling of Partner Initiatives carried out under FireSmart guidance. Here, users will find also find a shortcut to Ember’s Den, where they can get to know our mascot, who plays a key role in promoting the FireSmart message to younger audiences.
At FireSmart BC, our experts know what they’re talking about, but it’s also important to account for who you’re talking to. We hope the new navigation system helps the site reach new levels of utility and convenience for all users, and we hope you will share any suggestions you may have to improve it by emailing them to [email protected]. The better we get at reaching our audience(s), the sooner the FireSmart program might achieve the same growth as the website – and that could save an awful lot of people and their properties, including you and yours.