The making of a tourist attraction website

This autumn Zeta has had the pleasure to work on a new responsive website for Hampshire’s Top Attractions. HTA is a marketing consortium composed of Hampshire’s leading attractions, such as Beaulieu, Marwell Zoo and Paultons Park and managed by The Marketing Collective. Zeta was appointed their new web agency after an invitation to submit a proposal and progressing to the presentation stage.

The Marketing Collective had a clear vision of what the new website had to deliver with requirements including responsive design, ability to filter attractions and user login to download discount vouchers. It was also important that the site was launched by January 2017 ready for the group’s 10th anniversary. The new website was launched in December; this is a summary of our project story and the making of a tourist attraction website.

Content-First Approach

A typical web project at Zeta follows a content-first approach as it is better to let the content drive the design than trying to fit content into the designs as an afterthought. With the content in focus we design web pages with better purpose and usability.

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As a Project Manager I must admit that I felt a bit uneasy about the prospect of acquiring fresh content from all the attractions in time. As it happened I didn’t need to worry as thanks to good old fashioned planning, Louise at TMC and the Gather Content tool we were provided with ALL the content for the site on time. The content requirements for each attraction included descriptions, imagery, facilities, directions, related attractions, contact details, tripadvisor links, kids activities, long and lat details etc etc.

Zeta loaded all the content to the wordpress CMS to ensure all pages worked and looked as per agreed designs, on desktop and mobile. We provided step by step guides for the client to enable them to add and edit their own content post go-live.

Design Challenges

Even though our main contact throughout the project was the Marketing Collective we never lost sight of the fact that we needed to please over 60 members that are represented on the site with their own page, events and vouchers.

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There were some discrepancies between the points that we took away from the initial meeting with the client web group and the final product. This is rather common scenario as there are issues and questions that come up as the product evolves. Looking back the reasons for this was mainly due to the design challenges we had to overcome collectively:

  • How do we ensure that full members of the consortium have more visibility/ representation than attractions with a lower level of membership?
  • How do we strike a balance between introducing a new fresh design that works with the old logo but still keeps the feel of the established brand?
  • How do we appeal to families with children without the site looking ‘childish’?

As a web agency it is our job to represent the user and ensure that they get the best possible user experience that makes sense, e.g. a website visitor doesn’t know or care if an attraction has full membership or not. We explained and offered solutions which brings us over to the final site features…

Engaging Features

When building most of the features on the site we had to find a balance to ensure that attractions got fair representation throughout and that visitors can still easily find what they need. Applying agile work methods, project progress was regularly shared with the client as new front end features were developed. Getting their feedback throughout the project was important so that issues or queries could be addressed at an early stage. It was also positive for the developers to share their work through regular deliveries and for me to stay in communication with the client throughout.

Attraction filters

Visitors can quickly find suitable attractions and inspiration by filtering by keywords as well as locations. The homepage also features an interactive map with filter for a quick overview of what Hampshire has to offer.

attractionfilter

Featured content

On the homepage the main slider can be updated with images from different attractions and currently these are being updated on a regular basis by the client.

Three attractions are also featured on the homepage, this section will randomly show three new (full member only) attractions on every page visit/ refresh.

featuredattractions

As for featuring upcoming events on the homepage these are also randomised but within a set timeframe and does not take membership level into account.

Other site features include…

  • Voucher Download : After a quick registration users can download discount vouchers in preparation for visiting attractions.
  • Customised Backend : Members will also be able to log in to a locked down version of the admin to publish their own events to the site.
  • The group mascot : Harry Hampshire appears on various pages throughout the site giving families tips on activities suitability for children. Harry has also had a responsive makeover and will appear in different sizes depending on the user’s device.

Marketing & SEO Preparations

The previous website had a strong organic presence in Google which had to be transferred to the new website without losing traffic. Throughout the project including design and development we had digital marketing specialists involved to ensure this went smoothly and there was no positioning lost in Google.

This was almost a mini project in itself as we had to create a redirect matrix of thousands of old pages ensuring that we didn’t have redirects pointing to redirects and redirect rules didn’t conflict with one another. The site was also having a complete content refresh so we had to rework current keyword targets into new pages and content.

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The last stage is to check rankings and traffic on a daily basis once the new website has gone live. You can never ensure that everything you have implemented will be 100% perfect so you need to react quickly when you find an issue to minimise any lost traffic from Google.

Launching

Go live days at Zeta can be rather stressful but having said that it is one of my favorite times of a project. The adrenaline is running high in the office as we make final preparation to unveil a new website to the world. All Zeta hands were on deck as the site was moved to a new server, thousands of redirects were checked and features were tested to ensure that everything happened as smoothly as possible.

Since the launch of the new site we can see that visitors are spending longer time on the site planning their visits. The speed of the site has increased substantially due to the implementation of automatic image optimisation, lazy loading, script and style minification.

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Working with TMC and HTA was a positive experience for all of us at Zeta; we have gained invaluable insight into the tourism industry and aspire to work on more digital solutions for travel and tourism businesses this year.

As our work with HTA and the Marketing Collective continuous in the new year with ongoing marketing initiatives we look forward to joining in the Hampshire’s Top Attractions 10th anniversary celebrations. Do check out the website for some inspiration on places to visit in our neighbouring county.

Anna Lundstrom

With an eye for detail and fantastic website knowledge, Anna keeps our projects organised with precision and expertise.