The Data Basis
The design of the interface with its functionalities is one thing, the other is naturally the information sourcing. In terms of content, the system currently covers a good 50 km of coastline along the Bay of Lübeck and several square kilometres inland. The connection of further areas in the course of the 2021 season has already been implemented. In figures, this means 17 Baltic Sea resorts in seven municipalities managed by five municipal tourism organisations – each with its own unique features and numerous different content management systems (CMS). This cooperation alone is an unprecedented success and guarantees an information density that no existing product in print can match.
The guest is presented with a coherent experience as an external image. Therefore, the content should be visually and tonally consistent, with zero latency in loading time since this comes naturally for the user.
The solution: A newly programmed “middleware” between the APIs of the individual CMSs of the locations, various third-party suppliers (e.g. windfinder.com) and the PWA. The system collects all necessary data, unifies them (“matching”), adjusts the cache for the also available offline functionality and the failover of a data source and returns them as bundled information for output to the Bay of Lübeck Guide.
For reasons of time and out of consideration for the structures that have grown over the years, the handling has not yet been adapted further, but it has been ensured that the participating locations can continue to enter their data as usual and that the uniform set of rules for all content managers is minimal. For example, there are now comprehensive mechanisms in the background for reconciling data, which must also be readjusted in the middleware whenever changes are made to the source. The effects of individualisation in the CMS world on the “Bay of Lübeck Guide” must therefore always be considered in advance.
In the long term, the aim is to simplify matching by standardising the content management systems directly in the locations. In addition, the introduction of common standards (e.g. a consistent vocabulary according to Schema.org) will contribute significantly to an increase in quality in the future, while at the same time streamlining the processes.
Looking forward, the middleware was programmed so that a future Open Data Knowledge Graph could replace the numerous individual interfaces.
In any case, the “Bay of Lübeck Guide” is more than the sum of its properties. As a custom solution “by tourism experts for tourism experts”, it has developed into a technology platform of its own due to its modular structure and the use of future-oriented technologies. From the very beginning, the focus was on long-term availability and maintainability of the product. This can only be achieved if there is a core component that is as minimalistic as possible, a central control unit, so to speak, around which self-sufficient extensions are programmed. If an individual element is no longer needed at a later date, it can easily be detached again thanks to the central connectivity to the core and the low level cross-linkages. At the same time, new developments can also be connected easily via this path. Although this increases the effort, since the data may have to take a slight detour, it is well worth it in terms of technical stability and consistent manageability for the programmers. Thereby, an ecosystem for future guest services has already been established that is widely accepted in this region. This means that individual solutions from different providers can be dispensed with. At best, these systems are integrated ‘under the surface’ and thus made accessible to the user within the familiar interface (“one-stop shop”).