When Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) launched our trail-finder website, TrailLink.com, way back in 2000, its uniqueness was based on a simple premise: Combine our own extensive trail experience with the input, reviews and photos of thousands of trail users around the country-and with all external submissions vetted by RTC's own expert staff. The result was a free trail-finder service unmatched in terms of coverage but also accuracy.
Since then, TrailLink.com has grown remarkably to become one of RTC's signature accomplishments, providing high-quality Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps for 23,000 miles of trails around the country, plus photos and reviews for hundreds more trails still to be mapped.
But things move fast in the high-tech world of trail mapping and data, and RTC is moving fast with them. Last month we launched a major overhaul of TrailLink.com's appearance and functionality, unveiling a new Web service that not only looks very cool but, more importantly, has an emphasis on making the trail-finding experience more personal and interactive.
RTC's Senior Director of TrailLink.com Frederick Schaedtler put it best when he said the primary aim of the new site is to "invoke and resonate a spirit of exploration and interactive inquiry around the world of trails."
After all, exploration and inquiry is what it's all about. RTC's mission is to promote trail use, and TrailLink.com is every American's portal to that. Frederick points out a few key features:
- "We added an interactive search feature that displays results directly on the map. This new hybrid search functionality leverages RTC's spatial data to help users easily search and locate trails visually on the map."
- "A new user profile section allows users to personalize their profiles and organize photo submissions, reviews and star ratings, and save favorite trails on individual trail pages."
- "'Share It' allows users to share trail pages and content with their friends and family using integrated Facebook and Twitter features."
Actually, the new TrailLink.com design is only the first phase of some exciting tech developments we'll be rolling out during the next year. TrailLink.com's new "Take It With You" section hints at our upcoming iPhone and Android mobile apps, which will allow users to take the TrailLink.com experience with them out on the trail using smartphones.
We hope to unveil this exciting new technology next spring. It's a huge step that will allow users to seamlessly sync their favorite trails and utilize routing functionality and interactive map data subscriptions to fully empower the on-the-trail experience.
Of course, in order to make omelets you have to break a few eggs, and the roll-out of the new TrailLink.com last month did come with a few teething problems. We apologize to those users frustrated at a number of glitches that made it hard to sign up, enter passwords and search for trails.
Fingers crossed, we've solved most of the problems. Courtesy of our TrailLink.com staff, here's a list of some of the most common problems experienced by users of the new website, and how to fix 'em.