A visit to a virtual Montreal
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
Tourism-related websites are among the easiest productions to find online. Simply pick a location in Yahoo and you'll be taken to visitor guides, official and unofficial web presences, and even the occasional live webcams.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
So two years ago, there was nothing particularly innovative about the idea of yet another site attempting to present Montreal's best face on the internet. To do it with style, on the other hand, took a little more imagination (and time), and with the cumulative contributions of 50 artists and two production companies, MadeinMTL is a tourism site worthy of its subject. And even if you have no plans to visit Montreal, you'll still want to visit this virtual guide.
Launched in 2004 and a winner at the 2005 South By Southwest festival in the "Art" and "Best of Show" categories, MadeinMTL immediately impresses with its splash page - a striking collage of images with a look reminiscent of Polaroid print transfers. Pick your language of choice to enter the site, and MTL loads the Flash based presentation into a new window, opening with a progress bar that doubles as a personal interests 'slot machine' (which will make sense later) and then moving on to the only page that will be visible for the rest of your stay. (All content is available through drop downs or embedded files that appear on this one page.)
Keeping the same muted color scheme and photographic style as the splash page, the site proper greets visitors with a quick intro to the production, multiple navigational options, and a few direct links to articles - useful for quickly acquainting visitors with the operational design of the site.
For user hints throughout the visit, the top right corner of the browser window allows the surfer to activate or disable floating Help balloons that will appear as the mouse pointer is passed over the site's various features.
The first of the 'front page' articles at the time of writing centered on Romanian-born, Montreal resident architect, Dan S. Hanganu and his impact on the city's landscape. When chosen, this article is accompanied by a video bio and an interactive map with a suggested itinerary of Hanganu-related locations within the city limits. Detailed surveys of each attraction are then accessed by clicking either on a location's map coordinates or through a text index near the top of the browser window.
Each attraction is featured in its own floating display box with various combinations of text, photographs and slideshows, panoramas and even video clips. (The entire production includes some 15,000 photographs, 400 texts, 40 sound bites and 25 short films.) In addition, icons at the upper right of each box reveal such practical site information as business hours, nearby bus routes, and -in the example of a restaurant- menu prices.
At the top of the box, "Other Choices" offers alternate attractions of the same type which can then be added to the existing itinerary as an additional stop or as a replacement for the site's first suggestion. (Such changes will immediately be reflected in suggested routes on the interactive map.)
As well as moving from one tour stop to the next, you can also use the map (which is a sort of an embedded 'Mapquest with flair' creation), to make a side trip to any of the nearby attractions not already on the suggested route. (Every available location is identified by a floating text balloon.) If you like what you find, another click of the mouse adds the new point of interest to the existing itinerary. And if you change your mind, or don't want to bother with one or more of the stops suggested by the site, you can remove them via the universally recognized trash can icon located near the text-based index.