Case Study: Design from Bureau provides efficient navigation and quick information access for municipal website

Case Study by Frank Chartrand RGD, Founder, Bureau

The Municipality of Central Manitoulin is located on one of Ontario's most pristine pieces of land and Lake Huron's best kept treasure: Manitoulin Island. It is the largest lake island in the world and is home to an abundance of lakes, rivers and beaches. The Municipality includes the villages and hamlets of Mindemoya, Providence Bay, Spring Bay, Sandfield and Big Lake. Central Manitoulin offers diverse attractions and unique landmarks such as the sandy beach in Providence Bay or access to Lake Manitou, the largest lake on the island.


In addition to the historic Anishinaabe and European settlement of the island, archeological discoveries at Sheguiandah have demonstrated Paleo-Indian cultures dating from 10,000 BCE to 2,000 BCE.

Bureau became acquainted with Central Manitoulin through its work with the town of Espanola. Representatives from the municipality attended one of our firm's social media marketing workshops and we remained in touch.

In response to an RFP outlining the scope of the project, Bureau submitted a proposal which included plans for reaching the website audience, planned content for the site including photo galleries, an events calendar and potential map hosting, and the functionality of the site, a timeline for the project and Bureau's experience developing websites for clients with similar goals. Having already developed a relationship with the firm, Central Manitoulin found that we were a good fit for the website's redesign.


The project was a six-month commitment beginning in November, 2012 and finishing on May 20, 2013.

The target audience for this project included residents of Central Manitoulin and surrounding areas who needed information at their fingertips. Tourists with an interest in visiting Central Manitoulin were also identified as a key audience.


The team involved in the project included:

Project Manager: Myself, Frank Chartrand RGD

Creative Director: Nico Taus Provisional RGD

Web Designer: Terrie Barksey Provisional RGD

Web Developer: Adam White

Digital Strategist: Matt Southern


Bureau's work on this project involved designing and developing a new website that was custom built from the ground up. The site is mobile responsive and search engine optimized so residents of Central Manitoulin can use any major search engine to find what they need on any device. The website's emphasis on Central Manitoulin tourism also ensures that visitors can find anything they need while searching on the device of their choice.



Our challenge was to make sure visitors to the site could find exactly what they were looking for as quickly as possible. The navigation was developed using jQuery and greatly influenced by the navigation found on the Boston University ( website. We thought that since the website was so large in size, it made sense to give the user a bird's eye view of all of the content.

We considered it equally  important for our client, municipal staff, to be able to edit and add new sections as needed, regardless of their level of tech-savvy. We built the site using the content management system Drupal because it offers high flexibility, great encryption/security and can be used as-is or hooked up to plugins and APIs very easily. The system is also very user-friendly, meaning that staff with no web experience can update the site with ease.


Before Redesign


After Redesign


One of the key problems with the old site was that important pages were buried as sub-sections of other pages, making them difficult to find. To solve this problem with the new site, we expanded the navigation to show every page of the website, with a complete site map in the footer as well.

Another issue was the old site's lack of visual appeal - there were not nearly enough images. Central Manitoulin is a beautiful location and it deserves a website that reflects that beauty. We had a photographer take gorgeous, high resolution shots of the area to make the website much more appealing for prospective tourists.



After the launch of the new website Central Manitoulin has maintained a consistent increase of 15% more page views when compared to the previous year with their old site.

"Since the launch of our re-designed website, we have received nothing but compliments regarding the eye-catching design and ease of navigation. Frank and Bureau were excellent to work with and exceptional at meeting the distinct needs of a municipal website. I highly recommend their services!" - Amanda Gunner, Economic Development Officer for the Municipality of Central Manitoulin


Designer Takeaways:

  1. Treat every connection you make with the utmost importance. Stay in touch and keep connections strong - you never know where it might lead.
  2. Design is more about creating solutions than creating extravagance. We created a website that is practical and easy to use for both the client and visitors. The result is appreciated by both.
  3. Identify the strengths of your team members and assign them tasks to complement those strengths. This produces the best results.


Client Takeaways:

  1. Budget for custom photography, especially for a tourism-based project
  2. Always be inclusive (there are many micro-communities that would not be pleased if they were not mentioned on the website)
  3. Supplying all text content early on will always ensure a smoother process as the project progresses


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