Learning our client’s business through complete immersion, Web Project Manager Polina, travelled to the Northern Territory
A couple of weeks ago I had the unique opportunity to steal away from my desk at Excite and head to the outback for one of my clients. I was invited by the Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation (Laynha) to visit a number of their remote sites in the Northern Territory. To say I jumped at the opportunity is a bit of an understatement!
The type of project Laynha had in mind posed some real challenges and understanding precisely how the group integrated with the local community was critical to fully comprehending what they were trying to achieve.
Sitting beside the pilot as we landed in Laynha, I was struck by the remoteness of the community; the giant windows of the plane allowed me to see in every direction. The natural beauty of Nhulunbuy was breathtaking. More than that, it was difficult to put into words how awestruck I was to be observing a land with such rich heritage and history.
Critical to the mission of Laynha is its integration with the local community. A percentage of the Yolngu people that occupy the region don’t read English and given that Yolngu is not a written language, this made planning a website a little bit tricky. Not to mention the website audience would potentially include tourists and rangers who do speak and communicate in English.
I found it difficult to start thinking about creating a website that was designed for users with widely-varying levels of literacy in English. This was a new challenge for us at Excite. It was apparent that much of the site would need to include auditory aids. On top of that, the experiences of the main users (visitors and Yolgnu people) could vary significantly, which meant it would be hard to predict behavior and interaction with the website. Fortunately, I was afforded the chance to meet and interact with some of the Yolngu people.
“Sitting beside the pilot as we landed in Laynha, I was struck by the remoteness of the community.”
My second day in the region meant catching up with the Laynha management team and visiting some of the homelands they manage. I spent the day observing the communities, learning how they communicate and understanding the subtle complexities of their culture. It goes without saying that much of the Aboriginal culture in these regions is unique to a city slicker like myself. However, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the Aboriginal way of life in Layhna and its mixture of traditional practice and modern amenities. I watched carefully as I tried to store a mental image of the people that would be engaging with Laynha’s site and how we could help them get the most out of their experience.
After a hard days’ work I spent my third and last day exploring the surrounding beaches, although I couldn’t get too far without the right permits! I dropped in on the Buku-Larrngay Mulka Art Centre in Yirrkala and again was struck by the juxtaposition of the traditional and the modern. The studio itself was filled with iMacs (strange to see against the backdrop of traditional art) on which children were mostly watching the footy. I watched as an elderly woman painted a ceremonial pole in a traditional style.
My trip to Nhulunbuy was a brilliant chance to show how far we are willing to go for our clients, because each of our web projects is unique we are more than happy to go the distance to learn more about our clients’ businesses.