A long-awaited new look for www.firmm.org

by Sonja Van Den Bossche

‘A newborn springtime and a newborn sound.’ These are the famous first words of one of the greatest masterpieces of Dutch literature, the very long poem ‘May’, written by Herman Gorter in 1889. Now, more than one hundred years later, the whale watching season in Tarifa is in full swing and firmm’s new website has just been given a boost.

The foundation firmm has grown over 20 years.The first version of firmm's website was already published in 1999. In the meantime, organizing whale watching tours has become more complex. A loyal team has been built around its foundress, Katharina Heyer. Research has revealed many interesting, but also worrying facts about the whales and dolphins in the Strait of Gibraltar and very often inspired action. And last but not least, the digital world has been turned upside down by new technologies. That’s why change was necessary.

However, no drastic alterations in the order of the content took place, so that we don’t ‘experience a culture shock’. Some pages were left untouched, or revised and partly rewritten. Others were added. All texts are fluently written and the authors frequently use interrogative, exclamatory, imperative or key sentences and internal hyperlinks to address the reader politely or arouse his interest.

firmm’s renewed website gives an adequate answer to every question a guest may have before, during or after a trip and clearly shows that the foundation follows the international guidelines to ensure respectful whale watching.

It gives you elaborate information on worthwhile things to do and historical places to visit in and around Tarifa, such as Bolonia, Vejer, Cádiz, Jerez, Gibraltar, etc.

Katharina Heyer, firmm’s foundation council and her team in Spain and abroad are presented. Nothing and no one – on land and at sea – has been forgotten. Every one has his own role, which makes the staff work well together all year round. And striving for sustainability the foundation is cooperating more and more with other worldwide organizations.

In the totally reworked section on ‘Research’ we can feel the presence of firmm’s marine biologist, Jörn Selling. In Tarifa he’s not only ‘father of cats‘, but somehow also of whales and dolphins, as he has a clear view on the sightings per year and knows many things about their habitats and lives and all their joys and sorrows, injuries, diseases, … Moreover, this part of the new site is frequently linked to www.firmm-education.org, firmm’s recently created public information portal for marine and whale conservation, thus strengthening the scientific backbone of the foundation. Here firmm (foundation for information and research on marine mammals) gets closest to its two main goals (giving information and doing research) and embodies its motto ‘Only what we people know, we can appreciate and love – and we’re willing to protect’. Consequently, we should be aware that it’s high time we took massive action to save all marine mammals in the Strait of Gibraltar and everywhere else in the world, as man is responsible for most of the dangers to which they’re exposed…

Concerning the form, firmm’s webmaster chose a contemporary template to meet present-day needs and reach as many people as possible, not only users of communication media that have already existed for a long time (e.g. computers), but also of brand new ones, such as smartphones, tablets and others. He created neat text and image blocks in a draughtboard pattern and full width pages, used a large font size and inserted an eye-catching image slideshow on the homepage, showing once again the majestic beauty of wild whales and dolphins and the values to which firmm is committed.

Representation of site on different screens

Honestly, I’ve only lifted a corner of the veil on the new www.firmm.org. There’s so much more! The firmm-site has been expanded: now it’s about three times more extensive than before. The texts (without pictures and graphics) occupy approximately 100 A4 sheets. That’s almost 70 pages of new content, of which 50 pages about research and descriptions of whales and dolphins. The result of hard work for more than a year.

It’s clear that Katharina Heyer and her team are ready for the future and other challenges. The new version of the website is now available in German, English, Spanish and Dutch. French will follow soon.

Together we stand ‘firmm’ and we’ll move forward!

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