Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture
Need to schedule a guided tour of your favorite Chicago neighborhood? This web-based application Mightybytes built for the city’s Office of Tourism and Culture makes is easy for all parties involved.
The Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture (COTC) markets the city as a leisure travel destination, both domestically and internationally, through advertising, marketing, media relations, and public information services. Chicago Greeter is a free service that matches visitors with enthusiastic, city-wise volunteers for 2-4 hour guided visits of Chicago. The COTC team asked Mightybytes to help them create a web-based software solution to simplify facilitation of these visits.
Greeter staff came to us with documentation of their existing process, a convoluted amalgamation of faxes, emails, and printed forms on clipboards that necessitated an extensive (and iterative) wireframing process and discovery phase that took up the first few months of this year-long project. During this phase, we weighed options for development tools—Drupal vs. CodeIgniter, for instance—and defined the details of each user group and the tasks those groups must accomplish to facilitate a satisfactory experience.
We rolled the application out in three phases, each building on top of the previous.
- Phase One: We used Expression Engine 2.0 to create a new public-facing site that helps market the Greeter program and accepts requests from potential visitors.
- Phase Two: We built a new volunteer application that provides tour givers with a dashboard to manage schedules and find new opportunities.
- Phase Three: We married the input from visitor and volunteer actions to create an application for Greeter staff to administer tour details.
We built this web application using CodeIgniter because of the flexibility it offered and wrote a small framework that allowed porting of data objects between each phase of development. This helped developers integrate the yet-to-be-completed site with existing processes so that the COTC could benefit from the updated public-facing portions of their software.
Chicago Greeter supports the efforts of three different user groups:
Visitors to the city can input data on their upcoming visit and interact with Greeter staff about scheduling their guided tour.
Greeter tour givers can interact with staff to manage availability and schedule tours.
COTC staff can administer numerous processes using this software, including:
- Match volunteers with visitors based on mutual interests
- Facilitate communication between visitors and volunteers
- Schedule and assign additional volunteer opportunities within the COTC
- Generate reports on data collected by the software
With tours being administered in a fraction of previous time, the new Chicago Greeter system has transformed a convoluted process into a streamlined software experience that can be administered from anywhere, saving untold amounts of time and money.