The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA), is responsible for safeguarding the health and welfare of residents and the environment across six Washington state counties. In May of 2022, ORCAA selected Rhizome to upgrade its digital presence and create a better user experience.
ORCAA sought to improve its website after witnessing the success of a similar project undertaken by us for the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency. The Spokane project included the development of an innovative and accessible Air Quality display, setting a high standard among regional air pollution control agencies in Washington.
We gained solid air quality experience through our work with SRCAA and our display of six monitored locations. However, ORCAA’s project presented a different challenge, as it required accommodating one air quality monitoring station per county within their jurisdiction. To address this, Rhizome designed an additional County selection feature for the Air Quality Index, allowing users to access data specific to each county.
Additionally, Rhizome addressed the need for transparency in notifying the public about businesses in the permitting and notification process. We achieved this by creating a Notice Map, complete with detailed information for each company, such as address, Notice Number, Date of the request, and Registered Source. Users could also access custom post-types for notices by clicking the “view details” button.
Another solution involved creating custom forms to automate data transfer to an external database, significantly reducing manual data entry. Improvements were also made to the information architecture, enhanced site accessibility, a new language translation widget, and custom graphics for news posts regarding smoke bans.
Custom burn ban graphics show which County is affected by a burn ban. Three different states were illustrated to help admins post stories with featured images that indicated at-a-glance if a burn was lifted, voluntary or if burning was banned.
The launch of the new site was a dramatic transformation and knowing that you can’t go to the ball without the right gown and shoes, we also provided a much needed update to the ORCAA logo.
In addition to better navigation, the site also introduced an easy-to-find Forms & Documents section that would help alleviate the number of calls received by the ORCAA office. To ensure calls could be measured with real data, ORCAA staff began logging the number of calls they received regarding popular topics on the old site for seven months. These were calls specifically about the inability to find something on their website. After the new site was launched, ORCAA tracked the number of new calls they received. The call volume dropped by 76%—a significant difference.
The project delivered an easy-to-use website that transformed the user experience and expanded ORCAA’s online reach. Previously, many users visited the website directly by typing the URL into their browsers. However, the new website attracted more users through search engines, and better search engine optimization, broadening the audience. The number of mobile users also increased, likely due to improved usability.
Dan Nelson, Communications Manager at ORCAA, expressed his satisfaction with the revamped website:
“I love the new ORCAA site! I have so much information to convey about burn bans and notices and hearings to get out that now it goes like clockwork with no hiccups. I can also now go on vacation and leave things in other people’s hands, and they have no issues making updates to the site.”
ORCAA’s collaboration with Rhizome resulted in the successful launch of their enhanced website in February 2023. This project not only improved both the admin and user experience but also increased the website’s visibility, contributing to a broader user base and a way to communicate with the public to ensure clean air information was accessible to all.
Many thanks to Patty O’Hara our lead developer on this project, Jen Pennington-UX Design & Research, Robert Packer our PM, Megan Durham and Pete Lower for development assistance, and Kym Miller for production help. Many thanks to our clients at ORCAA for their incredible work, organizing their content.