All aboard: Orla O'Connor and Minister Patrick O'Donovan at the launch Picture: Sean Curtin
IT does seem like many aspects of Limerick’s future strategy are coming together nicely. Along with the Gardens International moving to development stage we also saw the commencement of investigative works for the redevelopment of O’Connell Street.
Just this week we also read of the appointment of David Conway as CEO of the Limerick Twenty Thirty vehicle, the body that will be responsible for the delivery of Limerick’s urban economic redevelopment.
Then on Tuesday morning we saw the launch of the new Limerick.ie. In a rapidly transforming digital world it has been clear for some time that our city and county needed a new digital platform to promote Limerick as well as a solid online portal to access various tools and services.
The process of developing the new Limerick.ie has taken some time and I, for one, am glad for that. We could so easily have tried to satisfy the critics by fast-tracking a new site, perhaps at the risk of the overall quality of this important tool. Instead the local authority took its time.
It engaged with users and ensured that the resulting new portal is one that provides information, is easy to use and, aesthetically, does justice to our city and county.
Limerick.ie feels like it has been around for a long time. However, we only have to look to 2009 to find a time when comprehensive up-to-date information about Limerick could not be found in the one place.
The development of Limerick.ie in 2010 came at a time where there was a deep desire to capture important information on Limerick on a useable platform. More importantly it came at a time when we found ourselves in a place where sending out strong, positive messages about Limerick was crucial.
Limerick.ie was about creating quality content that would enable the site to rank well in terms of search engine results. The resulting site was one that can be described as representative of the Limerick that we are all so proud of.
Fast forward to today and a quick search for Limerick in Google throws up nothing but positive results. This was not the case just seven years ago. The Limerick.ie project played a major role in overcoming the problem of negative search results related to our city.
Much credit is due to Laura Ryan (now Head of Communications and Marketing with the local authority) who was heading what was then the Limerick Co-ordination office. Along with the Council, the team had a deep desire to create a website for Limerick that sent the right message about where we are as a city and county and more importantly, where we are going.
Limerick.ie was born in 2010 and quickly climbed the ranks in Google and it also became the ‘go to’ source for information about Limerick and its local authority. Over time, and as user habits changed, the site perhaps became slightly tired but the overall mission for it never changed.
Over the years the site has evolved to become the integrated digital platform that was launched yesterday. The new-look Limerick.ie is not just about a redesign. What we now have is a state-of-the-art portal delivering a wide range of tailored content and online services for our citizens, our visitors and those who wish to invest here. This process didn’t happen overnight. In fact, as you look at the new site, much of what it is actually designed to do is happening behind the scenes.
The team behind the new site have spent endless hours reviewing and updating over six years of content. Over 800 online surveys and focus groups took place to find out what people really wanted from Limerick.ie.
Thousands of pages had to be rebuilt from scratch and great credit is due to web co-ordinator Orla O’Connor who oversaw this task. The site now promotes over 2,000 attractions and services with over 1,000 Limerick events currently listed.
All of this work will cater for the 800,000 unique visitors who visit Limerick.ie every single year. The Limerick.ie team hope that this will grow to well over 1m visitors a year over the next three years.
Limerick.ie is a tool that we all should take ownership of. The new site is one that has evolved from being a tool to develop a positive Limerick message to one that now provides a service, is a celebration of Limerickness and shares the Limerick story with the world.
I particularly like the new personalised services in 'My Limerick' where you can be inspired through suggested content, itineraries and features as well as providing a facility to log all your Council cases if you want to raise an issue and see how they’re being progressed.
The new Limerick.ie gives us a huge opportunity not just to boast about a new website but to use a digital tool going forward to help plan for the future of the marketing (both internal and external) of our city and county in a smart way. It will also allow us to track so much data that will guide our decision making into the future.
The relaunch of Limerick.ie moves our city forward in terms of how we embrace the digital age. I hope it is used and enjoyed.