Open Lab finishes 18 month digital epic with new water website

Open Lab, the specialist studio that brings together professional designers, staff, graduates, interns and students at Massey University’s College of Creative Arts in Wellington, has completed what is says was an epic 18-month project to create a new tool with information about New Zealand waterways.

The Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (LAWA) website combines information from the Ministry for the Environment, 16 regional and unitary councils nationwide, with an initial focus on rivers and data displays for more than 1100 freshwater monitoring sites.

The independent science institute Cawthron validate the data collection and analysis process, while Sir Stephen Tindall’s Tindall Foundation backed the project.

The project’s scale was due largely to the number of personnel involved, from within Open Lab and the collaborating organisations, says director Anna Brown.

She and senior designer Jo Bailey say the studio became the bridge between the site’s future visitors and science-focused individuals involved in the project.

“We said, ‘we think you need to talk to the people who use the site more than scientific peeople and what they want to know about water in New Zealand.’ We did a focus group in the North Island and one in the South Island. People said they wanted to see the science but they also wanted to know what we can do and get immediate data, for example, ‘can I swim in this river?'”

Open Lab created the introductory video for LAWA, with articles, images and event information supplied by councils.

The site was developed by IT Effect in Wellington, using the Umbraco content management system.

A central administrator and councils are able to log in to update news and events. LAWA replaced LAWN, Land, Air, Water New Zealand, an earlier Flash-based site, says Brown.

Lab was originally approached to produce a mobile app, but instead recommended the responsive website. It hopes to add more modules to the site, including coastal water information, quantity and biodiversity.

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